Recent Intel Points to Yes.
It was less than a year ago when I asked AMG’s CEO Tobias Moers point-blank if his team was cooking up a response to the Porsche 918, McLaren P1, and/or Ferrari LaFerrari . His laconic answer: “No.” Times change, it would seem. At this past week’s Detroit auto show I once again sat down with Herr Moers and posed the same question. His answer this time wasn’t his patented short, sharp no. Instead he said, “We want to be seen by the public on the same level as the other sports car maker in Germany.”
You don’t have to even read between the lines to grok that one — you can gleam the meaning from the space between the letters. Tobias dropped a few other clues that I think, taken as a whole, point even more clearly to a future badass, gas-electric, world-on-fire AMG megacar. When discussing the purpose of AMG in light of parent company Daimler’s decision to dust off the ultra-lux Maybach nameplate, his brand’s mission now is to “Make race car technology street-legal.” Seems as if the return of Maybach is relieving pressure from AMG, freeing Affalterbach’s finest to favor sport over luxury, like it used to.
Since Tobias all but mentioned the 918 Spyder by name, I asked about AWD. If you forgot, the 918 is not only AWD (electric propulsion in the front, flat-plane V-8 fury driving the rear wheels) but also is the quickest car we’ve ever tested to 60 mph, accomplishing the deed in a breathtaking 2.4 seconds. Presumably, AMG would at least be exploring such a solution, if not working on something similar. But when asked about an AWD GT, Moers said, “We have a little disadvantage with our layout.” Meaning that it’s difficult to make a front-engine car with a transaxle AWD. Not impossible, as the Nissan GT-R manages to do so. Of course Godzilla was engineered to have drive shafts flying in multiple directions from day one. Not so with the GT. Raw speculation here, but for packaging reasons a future AMG hyper-hybrid would need to be mid-engine. Of course, Mercedes’ head of design, Gordon Wagner, has gone on record claiming they don’t do mid-engine cars. Still, AMG isn’t precisely Mercedes-Benz these days.
There’s one final piece of the puzzle. Months ago I got a top-secret ride and drive in a heavily camouflaged AMG GT-S with Tobias. (That sucker’s rock-solid at 190 mph if you’re wondering.) He explained to me that in order to get the GT past Daimler’s board, there was much chassis commonality with the deceased SLS Gullwing. Aside from width, the door openings are actually the same size. Moers also told me that “the AMG GT story is just beginning” and that we can expect to see a proliferation of models not dissimilar to the iconic, multifaceted Porsche 911. Stewing on that info for the past half-year, I asked Tobias if in fact there wouldn’t be a gullwing version of the GT — a pinnacle, halo model. He said, “No Gullwing out of the GT. That’s for sure.” Sad news for a moment, but then he continued that he was “protecting the Gullwing for the future.” If you’re going to go above the rim of the eventual top dog AMG GT, you’re standing firmly on Mount Hypercar.
Time frame for such a beast? None, of course, but I’d guess we’ll see a heavily camoed mule on the Nurburgring within a few years. Aside from gullwing doors I’ll wager you’ll see a mid-mounted, stratospheric output version of the new 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V-8. Six hundred and fifty to 700 horsepower seems reasonable, especially since the 2.0-liter AMG I-4 is capable of 355 hp, and Tobias said there’s a “close relationship” between the 2.0-liter and the 4.0-liter AMG engines. Also remember that AMG learned a great deal about electric sports cars with the 740 hp SLS Electric drive. That car featured 4 wheel motors. Assume that two such motors on the front wheels of a new Gullwing would be good for 370 hp, and add that to another 700 gas hp driving the rear wheels and you’re easily in the 4-digit horsepower realm. A very nice place to be. Time, of course, will tell.
Other AMG Tidbits:
As the AMG GT and GT-S are just the beginning of the GT story, we can expect to see many more models. When asked if the GT line will follow the 911’s path, he said, “[The 911’s] a good role model. Those guys know how the segment works.” We know there’s a GT3 race car version coming, for privateer racers. I asked Tobias if there will be a street version of the GT3, and he flashed me a smile. We also know a Black Series version is coming, as a few dealers have already taken deposits from wealthy customers. When asked if AMG will do a roadster, Tobias fired back, “Should we?” He was almost winking when he asked. Stay tuned for many more models.
Remember the Green Monster? You know, that jacked-up G-Wagen painted in a very loud green color riding around on portal axles? The same portal axles found under the ridiculous 6×6 AMG? I asked Tobias if he knew about the beast, and he said, “Yes! I saw one in my parking lot.” I then asked if it was happening as a production G-Wagen. “It wouldn’t be in my parking lot if it wasn’t happening.” Is it coming to the U.S.? “No.” Is the 6×6 coming to the U.S.? “No.” Seems like the complete and total failure of the Unimog to excite American buyers has AMG thinking that Americans hate portal axles. Shame. That said, a non-Tobias source explained that the G-Wagen is safe through 2030. This makes sense, as AMG sold more than 3,000 G63s in 2014. That said, big changes are coming to the G within a few years.
AMG Sport Models
Aside from the debut of the X6-looking GLE models, the other big Mercedes Detroit show news was the launch of AMG Sport models. Unabashedly — and one might say slavishly — similar to Audi’s S Line and BMW’s M Performance packages. You’re not getting a full S, M, or AMG, but there’s more sport to it than a standard vehicle. AMG being AMG, the Sport cars get power bumps. In the case of the C450 AMG Sport, power goes up by 33 horses compared to the C400, whereas torque increases by 30 lb-ft, from 354 lb-ft to 384. While good, those numbers are way off the 469 hp, 479 lb-ft of torque that the upcoming C63 AMG will launch with. Mercedes also showed the GLE450 Coupe AMG Sport with the same engine.
How many AMG Sport models are we talking about? Mercedes says six initially, and Tobias adds, “Long-term, comparable to current AMG models.” There are currently more than 20 AMG models on the road. But don’t the AMG Sport models dilute the AMG brand? “No.” Classic Tobias answer. He then went on to add, “The AMG Sport models bring in new customers.” Hard to argue with that.