Mercedes-Benz wants to fight Ferrari and Lamborghini at their own game, with plans to build a mid-engined supercar to take on the 360 Modena and recently launched Gallardo.
Rather than opting for another front-engined, rear-drive supercar -- such as the 460kW SLR -- for the second stage of the duo's road car partnership, Mercedes-Benz and McLaren are seeking to deliver a smaller, lighter, more focused mid-engined model to slot between the $370,000 SL 55 AMG and the $1 million SLR in performance and price.
Known as the P8, the new Benz supercar is officially a concept, which means styling, engineering, logistic, production and cost proposals for the two-seater are under way.
But it is already clear that both Mercedes-Benz and McLaren management are desperate to put it into production. And the word is that as well as a regular coupe, there will also be a convertible.
"Yes, we are looking at a mid-engined road car," Mercedes boss Jurgen Hubbert told ÚS publication AutoWeek. "But there is no decision on production."
The P8's two-seater body is expected to use a mixture of carbon fibre, thermoplastics and aluminium to keep weight down. And its slinky shape is tipped to largely be driven by the wind tunnel, with aerodynamic efficiency high on the agenda to ensure adequate downforce, as well as the need to feed air to vital components.
The P8's engine is believed to be a new 6.3-litre naturally aspirated V8 that will also be used in future AMG models, expected to deliver about 400kW. A 530kW-plus twin-turbocharged version is also in the pipeline. The top speed of the P8 is believed to be more than 320kmh.
The P8 is expected to cost more than the Ferrari 360 and Lamborghini Gallardo with which it will compete, meaning something in the order of $450,000 seems likely.
As well as generous equipment levels, the Benz/McLaren supercar has many safety features, starting with front, side and curtain airbags. Benz's Pre-Safe system, which "prepares" the car for a crash while helping avoid it in the first place, will be included.
Engine : 6.3 L., 8-cylinder
Power: 500 hp
Torque: 516 ft-lbs
The rear-wheel-drive supercar is planned to be built alongside the gullwing-doored SLR at the McLaren Technology Centre in England from late 2007. However, the car is still awaiting approval from Mercedes and McLaren board members.
Even if it gets the go-ahead, there is no word yet on whether the P8 would be built in right-hand drive. Given Benz's move to make the SLR only in left-hand drive, it appears unlikely. So the P8 may be confined to Australian race tracks and motor shows.Source - Greg Kable
McLaren and Mercedes-Benz have put plans for a mid-engined Ferrari F430 rival on hold amid a shake-up of the German company's forthcoming model line-up.
New Mercedes boss Eckhard Cordes has ordered a full review of the company's future product strategy as it bids to improve quality and drive down costs. Every all-new car is said to be under scrutiny and the ‘baby' McLaren, codenamed P8, has been affected because it is seen as a niche car compared to its stablemates.
The P8 was conceived as a mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive sister to the £313,000 Mercedes SLR McLaren coupé (right), powered by a new 6.3-litre V8 engine developed by Merc's performance arm AMG. Aimed squarely at the F430 and Lamborghini Gallardo, the two-seater was expected to cost around £150,000 and to feature advanced carbonfibre monocoque construction.
Although some sources have suggested that the project has been shelved altogether, McLaren insists that the car has merely been delayed beyond its anticipated 2007 launch date.
‘We can confirm that Mercedes-Benz and McLaren have jointly taken the difficult decision to freeze the development of P8,' said a company spokesperson. ‘After successful completion of the concept development, both companies felt it was prudent to put the project on hold due to the challenges currently faced by the global automotive industry.'
Production of the SLR – currently running 50 per cent higher than planned, according to McLaren – will not be affected by the move.