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First look: Chrysler's supercar rocket!

Now you see me: But will we see a production version? Business case is pending on the ME Four-Twelve.

Chrysler weighs into the supercar wars with a quad-turbo V12 slingshot

6 Jan 2004

CHRYSLER has stunned the Detroit auto show by revealing the spectacular ME Four-Twelve concept – a mid-engined, quad-turbo, V12 supercar.

Chrysler claims ME will establish a real-world performance record for a rear-wheel drive, mid-engined supercar and may also set a record for lightening-quick vehicle development, taking less than one year to complete from start to finish.

It is the first supercar the company has ever built and is undoubtedly intended as a statement of its ability and ambition at a time when it is struggling financially.

At the launch, Chrysler Group’s chief operating officer Wolfgang Bernhard confirmed the answer to the most obvious question about the two-seater: "It’s everything we’ve learned about creating exciting, desirable automobiles. And, as such, it’s not really a concept car but is, in fact, a prototype that will be road-ready by summer." That prototype will be built for US media testing, but reports out of Detroit indicate that a run of production cars has yet to be signed off. Certainly, there is no definitive announcements on pricing either, Bernhard only suggesting the ME could sit above the $US139,995 Ford GT and below the $US1 million Bugatti Veyron.

Chrysler executives were also quick to point out that the ME shared very little in common with the Mercedes-McLaren SLR supercar that goes on sale next April.

There were even suggestions the ME could trigger some ill-feeling from Mercedes-Benz, a fellow member of the DaimlerChrysler conglomerate, because it intrudes on the SLR’s space.

No doubt the fact Benz’s performance division, AMG, developed the engine for the ME won’t help matters. Bernhard's former position at the head of AMG probably helped make the tuner's involvement possible.

And what an engine it is. The heart of the ME is its all-aluminium, quad-turbo, 6.0-litre V12. With electronic sequential multi-point fuel-injection and a 9.0:1 compression ratio, it delivers 634kW at 5750rpm, with 1150Nm of torque between 2500 and 4500rpm on premium unleaded fuel.

Mated to the engine is a seven-speed Ricardo "Double Clutch Transmission" that changes gear in just 200 milliseconds.

Combined with a kerb weight of just 1310kg, performance is blistering. Chrysler claims 0-60mp/h in 2.9 seconds, 0-100mp/h in 6.2 seconds and the quarter-mile in 10.6 seconds at 228km/h. The estimated top speed of the ME is 400km/h.

The ME’s bodywork is made from carbon-fibre, while the monocoque tub is constructed from carbon-fibre and aluminium. Chrysler says the car complies with all US federal regulations related to impact testing.

Shaped at Chrysler’s Auburn Hills headquarters, the ME stands a mere 1140mm tall, but a broad 1998mm and a lengthy 4542mm.

The suspension is by double wishbones all-round, the steering by power-assisted rack-and-pinion and braking via massive 381mm ventilated carbon-ceramic composite disc brake rotors with six-piston aluminium monobloc callipers.

ME Four-Twelve's wheels are cast aluminium: 19x10-inch front and 20x12.5-inch rear. Michelin high-performance radials are 265/35 ZR19 at the front and 335/30 ZR20 in the rear.

Aerodynamic aids to keep the car on the ground at high speed include a computer controlled active rear spoiler a front fascia splitter for increased frontal downforce a fully developed underbody with integral rear diffuser formations in the bellypan forward of each wheel a decklid rear "ski-slope" formation and a cubic section at the leading edge of the front fascia to help air attach to the underbody.

Inside, Chrysler claims the ME breaks the supercar mould by being comfortable for drivers widely ranging in height. The seats are made of carbon-fibre and weigh just 12.3kg, while a large glass panel extends from the windshield to the rear header.

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