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Miami Nice: 115 MPH Feels Like Nothing in Mercedes-AMG’s Project One-Inspired Cigarette Boat

It may lack AMG power beneath the transom, but this oceangoing rocket has the speed to do justice to the name.

To start with the obvious question: No, the Cigarette Racing 515 Project One speedboat doesn’t use Mercedes-AMG engines. While it’d be easy to assume as much from the massive AMG logos smeared across its flanks, this manned warhead of a motorboat is driven through the water by a pair of 9.0-liter Mercury Racing V8s that each generate 1,350 horsepower on 91-octane gasoline and 1,550 ponies on race fuel. That’s around 30 percent more power than the upcoming Mercedes-AMG Project One hypercar it shares part of its name with…though the super-limited-run sports car’s Formula One-derived turbocharged 1.6-liter V6 hybrid will make its output a bit more efficiently than the boat’s giant engines. (Fun fact: At a combined 3,440 pounds, the twin Mercury motors alone weigh roughly a quarter-ton more than the entire Project One hypercar is expected to tip the scales at.)

As with all Mercedes-Benz’s high-performance division’s input into its ninth collaboration with Miami-based speedboat builder Cigarette Racing, AMG’s involvement is largely limited to the design and branding of the boat. Daimler’s chief design officer Gordon Wagener worked on the design on the 2018 boat himself—and as if a Mercedes-Benz USA spokesperson’s declaration of the design boss’s enthusiasm for the project weren’t proof enough of his belief in the AMG/Cigarette partnership, his decision to fly over to the Miami Boat Show to take a ride on the boat along with a gaggle of assembled journalists was a pretty strong testament to it. 

Still, the tweaks made to the AMG Cigarette boat amount to more than a snazzy paint job and the occasional on-board German. At 51 feet, 5 inches long, the 515 Project One is 17 inches longer than the Marauder SS that formerly took the spot of largest boat in the regular Cigarette Racing performance lineup—yet at 112 pounds, it’s slightly lighter, thanks to greater use of lightweight materials like Kevlar and carbon fiber. (Second fun fact: The carbon fiber engine air intakes each stretch seven feet long and 14 inches wide, but weigh less than four and a half pounds a pop.)

A 9-foot-6-inch beam—a full foot and a half greater than the Marauder SS—makes it wide enough for four people to sit abreast in the back of the open cabin, while the pilot and his shotgun rider both benefit from captain’s chairs mounted in front of 24-inch Garmin-made digital dashboards that make a Tesla’s gauge clusters and infotainment system look like iPhones by comparison. There’s also a tiny enclosed space with a pair of beds inside the lengthy prow, which one of the journalists* on the trip took to crassly describing as a “bang chamber.”

*It was me.

The Cigarette Racing 515 Project One, in all its 51.417 feet of glory. , Will Sabel Courtney

As you’d expect from a 3,100-horsepower speedboat with a hull shaped like a Ka-Bar knife…the Mercedes-AMG Cigarette boat is fast. Brutally fast. The top speed comes in at a quoted 140 miles per hour; sadly, during our brief ride out of Miami harbor and into the ocean, we only saw speeds as high as 115. Veteran Cigarette Racing test driver Bud Lorow credited the gap to a number of factors, such as the weight of the nearly-full fuel load and the five full-grown men aboard. (He also suggested he may have been going easy to keep the GoPro from being ripped from yours truly’s hand.)

Yet, somehow, that sort of speed doesn’t feel nearly as wild as you might expect. At triple-digit velocities, the Cigarette’s nose—which rises higher and higher as it accelerates onto plane—drops back closer to the water, as if the boat were somehow managing to outrun physics itself. And while the speedster-style windshield may look insubstantial, it does a shockingly good job at bending the slipstream above the occupants’ heads. Even at those speeds, the wind on my outstretched hand was several times greater than the wind on my head just a couple feet below. I’d still suggest putting a Croakie on your shades if you’re gonna be making a lot of high-speed runs, though. 

And at flank speed, the 515 Project One will burn through roughly 160 gallons of fuel per hour—but considering the boat has a 278-gallon fuel tank, that means this speed machine can run at full throttle for nearly an hour and 45 minutes before running out of gas. Assuming your average speed clocks in at 115 mph, that’s 200 miles of high-speed action—enough to sprint from Miami to Nassau with a skosh of gas to spare. 

Of course, you’ll need a pair of huevos grandes to do that, because in a boat like this, there’s even less room for error at those speeds than there is in the jankiest sports car. One unexpected broadside from a wave, one unseen floating log, or half-submerged SpaceX rocket ahead of you, and any speedboat doing 100 knots seems liable to flip. I don’t know whether it’d go stern-over-teakettle, do a barrel roll, or simply fly apart, but at those speeds, it doesn’t matter—you slap the water at that velocity, nothing short of those all-enveloping impact airbags NASA made for the Mars Exploration Rover will save you. We put on life vests before pulling out of the dock, but it seemed rather like the nautical equivalent of those duck-and-cover drills from the ’50s. Yeah, this’ll help.

Mercedes-Benz also brought the Project: One to the Miami Boat Show. It looked good. , Will Sabel Courtney

Then to answer the final question likely popping around your mind at this point: How much does this sucker cost? Officially, Mercedes-AMG suggests you contact Cigarette Racing for a quote, but the scuttlebutt at the launch event suggested each of the 515 Project Ones (no more than six will be built) will carry a price of about $2 million. Not cheap, sure—but it means that this year’s joint Mercedes/Cigarette’s venture is actually cheaper than the car that inspired it. The Project One hypercar may be available in greater numbers, but at $2.4 million per car, it’ll make a bigger dent in your bank account. Not that you’re likely to care if you’re the type who can afford these sorts of toys.