The science and silence of AMG

Future AMGs could be much quieter, but just as exciting. Company chief Tobias Moers tells us why

ALEX INWOOD

Road racer: GT R

The test bed for much of AMG’s nextgen tech will be a hotter, track-focused version of the AMG GT, called GT R.

Caught here by our spy photographers during the final stages of development, the GT R draws inspiration from the GT3 racer (above) and is tipped to be 100kg lighter than the current AMG GT. There’ll be more grunt too; however, the GT R is unlikely to be the fastest AMG GT you can buy. Moers hinted an even quicker Black Series variant is in the pipeline.

AMG chairman Tobias Moers has revealed to Wheels that AMG is shifting its focus away from power and on to sharper dynamics for its future models.

This means the introduction of high-tech systems such as active aerodynamics, four-wheel steering and even a Drift Mode function as AMG moves into a new battleground in the war for performance car ascendency.

AMG has long held a power advantage over its rivals at BMW’s M Division and Audi RS, and Moers says the focus is now on finessing how that prodigious grunt is sent to the road.

“It’s not my target to be the most powerful car,” he said. “The target is to be the best driving car. The next step is to be more active, with more active systems like active aero, and to be more active with kinematics.”

Moers revealed AMG is well advanced in developing a range of active systems, most of which will debut on the much-hyped road-legal version of the AMG GT3 racing car due later this year.

Expected to be badged as the GT R, Moers says the Porsche 911 GT3 rival “will signal the next step for AMG.” It’s also likely to be the first AMG to utilise four-wheel steering.

“We discussed active technology earlier, and this will be one of those systems,” Moers told us. “It will help to increase high-speed stability, yaw damping at high speed, and you can increase agility in the car as well. It’s good technology.”

The GT R, which is in the final stages of development, takes heavy inspiration from the GT3 racer (pictured) and will include a more aggressive, track-inspired body kit, dominated by a larger rear spoiler and front splitter. Moers hinted this makes the GT R the ideal model to debut active aerodynamic components to improve dynamics.

“We will still be able to drift an all-wheeldrive E63, which is very important”

The GT R will also be lighter than the 1570kg AMG GT S, boast wider tracks front and rear, and could produce as much as 415kW from its 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8.

Moers wouldn’t be drawn on the GT R’s potential power output, but did say “we have plenty of room to grow [with the 4.0-litre engine].”

Currently the 4.0-litre V8 produces 375kW/750Nm in the AMG GT S.

Future models will see AMG step even further along the hightech route. Moers revealed he sees a future where AMG models are powered purely by electricity and confirmed his engineers are already developing electric drivetrains that could manifest in a number of different forms.

“Electrification makes more sense to me than performance diesels,” he said. “We are looking at everything from plug-in hybrids to pure electric and electric turbos because we are not in position to exclude something from our portfolio. So we’ll do work on several programs at once to find our own path on electrification for the future.”

But while Moers sees electrification as inevitable, he’s quick to assure AMG fans that future electric models will retain the brand’s character.

“Sound is crucial to AMG, so we will find a solution,” he said. “We found one with the SLS Electric Drive and we know it’s important.”

The 552kW SLS AMG Electric Drive, which in 2013 claimed the title as the world’s quickest production electric car with a 0-100km/h sprint of 3.9sec, pumped artificial noise into the cabin during acceleration via its audio system.

What’s unlikely to have a long future is AMG’s mighty 12-cylinder engine. Moers confirmed that AMG’s iconic 6.0-litre twin-turbo V12 is under threat due to evertightening emission laws.

“We do have V12 aficionados worldwide who want us to keep it, but the V12 segment no longer represents AMG as a brand.

There are customers that are very interested in that engine in that exclusive segment, so we are responsible for engineering a V12 and it’s up to us to give the V12 a future. But that’s not decided.”

Moers said recent changes to China’s emissions rules have placed the V12’s future in jeopardy.

“That’s giving us a big headache with the V12, so it’s a question of how we proceed. That’s what we’re discussing in the company now.”

Badge changes

AFTER introducing a family of AMG Sport models to rival BMW M Performance and Audi S line, AMG is dropping the badge.

Future models will instead wear a 43 AMG moniker, to bring the halfway-house models into line with the rest of its nomenclature.

Current AMG Sport variants have names such as GLE450 AMG and C450 AMG.

“It’s a new approach for the Sport models,” Moers said. “We needed more acceptance for those cars. It’s important we bring them into our family; the cars stand for AMG.”

The first model to wear the new badge is the V6-powered Mercedes-AMG SLC43, shown at Detroit, with the E43 to follow later this year. The 43 models fill the gap between the regular Benz range and AMG’s harder, balls-out performance variants.

“There is no dilution in technology and dynamics,” Moers said. “A lot of technology is the same between the performance cars and the sport models. It’s another entrance store into the AMG brand; less price but still really good performance.”

Next please

THE next Mercedes to receive the AMG treatment – and to utilise elements of AMG’s latest cuttingedge tech – will be the new E-Class that debuted at Detroit.

The new Mercedes-AMG E63 should hit Australia in early 2017 and Moers says it will be a 430kW-plus drift monster. “It will be the biggest step forward we’ve ever made from generation to generation,” he promised.

Power will come from a modified version of AMG’s new 4.0 twin-turbo V8. Moers says it should surpass the current E63’s 430kW/800Nm 5.5-litre unit for grunt. “But the 4.0-litre will be a different layout in the E-Class [to the AMG GT],” Moers said. “It’s the same crankshaft and block, but the cylinder head is different and so is everything else around the engine, like the intake, manifold and intercooler.”

A big change is that all that grunt won’t be sent to the rear wheels only. Unlike current Aussie-spec E63s, Moers revealed the new car is likely to be offered solely with all-wheel drive. “Nobody is looking for rear-drive in that segment,” he said. “We will still be able to drift that car, which is very important from my perspective.”

Automatic choice

SPENDING big bucks on a performance car that drives itself sounds odd, but AMG sees potential in the next-generation of Mercedes’ autonomous technology.

Debuted on the new W213 E-Class, the latest Drive Pilot system can follow another car at speeds up to 210km/h and will change lanes autonomously. It will even park itself with no one aboard and can drive itself on roads without clear lane markings at speeds up to 130km/h.

“It depends on the model and the segment,” Moers says. “These [systems] aren’t very important on the GT, but in the E-Class our model will have all the technology as the regular car. If the car drives by itself, why not? Then when you reach a race track, you just push a button and you drive by yourself.”