Tesla Roadster Versus Mercedes Project One –Who Wins?

The car mags love to do side by side comparisons  — Mustang versus Camaro, Bolt versus Model 3, Trabant versus Borgward Isabella. Those stories often wax eloquent about the goodness of each. Then at the end, the testers get to vote which car they would prefer if they were paying for it out of their own pocket. What would happen in a head to head comparison between the second generation Tesla Roadster and the mighty Mercedes Project One, we wondered? Which is the better car? Which one would we spend our own money on, assuming we had any?

Mercedes Project One

The Mercedes Project One is as close as you can get to a street legal Formula One car. Like the Mercedes F1 car, it has a 1.6 liter V-6 engine coupled to an electric motor. It also has a version of the paddle controlled transmission built by Xtrac for the race car. Car and Driver estimates the engine in road trim will put out about 520 horsepower.  According to Car and Driver, the electric motor, which doubles as a generator during deceleration, adds another 161 horsepower to the mix.

The Project One also has two 161 horsepower electric motors up front — one for each front wheel. They can be individually controlled to provide torque vectoring during cornering. Add it all up and it comes to over 1000 horsepower in a lightweight carbon fiber chassis. Scintillating performance should be expected, should it not?

Tesla Roadster 2.0

Let’s do the numbers. Mercedes claims the Project One storms from 0 to 60 in 2.6 seconds, gets to 124 mph from a dead stop in under 6 seconds and has a top speed of 217 miles per hour. The Tesla Roadster blasts to 60 in 1.9 seconds and that’s in standard trim. A high performance package is in the works. It needs only 4.2 seconds to touch 100 miles per hour and has a top speed in excess of 250 miles per hour.

Advantage: Tesla

The Mercedes Project One has an all electric, zero emissions range of about 14 miles. The Tesla Roadster? 620 miles.

Advantage: Tesla

The Mercedes Project One seats two people. The Tesla Roadster is a 2+2 with occasional seating for 4, although the rear seat passengers won’t want to ride the whole length of the Alcan Highway back there.

Advantage: Tesla

The Mercedes Project One has three electric motors and a gasoline engine. The Tesla Roadster has three electric motors.

Advantage: Tesla

Then there is the subject of money. The Mercedes sells for about $2.7 million. The Tesla Roadster begins at $200,000, although the Founders Edition goes for $50,000 more.

Advantage: Tesla

Mercedes has pumped close to a billion dollars into its Formula One campaign since the current rules package went into effect at the beginning of the 2014 season. You would like to think it could leverage that investment to sell a few road cars. It must be discouraging for Dieter Zetsche and his minions at Mercedes headquarters to put out all that dough only to realize that when it comes to a head to head comparison, the verdict is — Advantage: Tesla. 

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.