You know those laurels trimming AMG’s logo? No one at the company is resting on them. There’s a flurry of activity underway in Affalterbach, with efforts focused on bringing range-topping and all-new vehicles to the road. That’s what we learned in our interview with Michael Knöller, AMG’s head of product management and sales, at this year’s L.A. Auto Show. Spoiler alert: Electrification is a theme.
48-volt power systems and hybrid batteries will allow AMG to do more with smaller engines, and more still with bigger engines. To that end, an even more powerful plug-in hybrid version of the GT 4-Door is nearly complete. It’s set to sit above the 63 S variant which recently set a Laguna Seca lap record. Although it’s unknown what numbers will designate this vehicle, it should use some form of the familiar 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8, supplemented by electric motors to increase output beyond the current 630 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque. While more power is always welcome, the downside to this is that it will officially mark the end of AMG’s use of V-12 engines.
The next-generation C 63 will likely receive a similar hybrid powertrain revamp, although potentially with a reduced-displacement engine—fleet emissions are a concern, even for AMG. When asked how much smaller its engine could become and still be worthy of the 63 badge, Knöller was open-minded. “At the end of the day it’s about performance, acceleration, and how the car feels,” he said, adding that it’s an “open path” to achieving those qualities. Regardless of how much smaller the engine might become, he recognizes the strength of the 63 badge as an AMG sub-brand. Rest assured his company “will take good care that whatever cars wear those numbers on the boot lid will be deserving of them. “
As the current SL-Class steers toward the sunset, Knöller confirmed that the next-generation grand touring roadster will ride on a platform designed from the ground up by AMG. This platform will also provide the basis of the upcoming revision for the AMG GT. Knöller was mum on what other components might be shared between the two, noting the proximity of the SL’s debut—that’s set to happen within the next year. Given the AMG DNA the SL will carry, it’s likely to be sharper and more dynamic than any iteration before. However, Knöller brushed off a query that the upgrades might make AMG versions of the SL redundant, making it clear that it will have its own distinct character compared to the AMG GT.
The $2.7 million AMG One hypercar is also back on track. The vehicle’s intent to adapt a Formula 1 engine for the road was always ambitious, but resulted in delays due to numerous complexities. Exhaust sound was the area highlighted by Knöller, but he said the team reached a “tipping point” which will allow AMG to make the first customer deliveries of the One in 2021.
More significant, however, is the trickle-down of learnings derived from the AMG One program in engine downsizing, hybrid integration, lightweighting, and aerodynamics. “When we open up the next chapter to develop something very new, it’s always challenging but gives us high motivation to find things that are good to take to our next projects,” said Knöller. It seems clear that AMG is intent on shaking its Teutonic muscle car stigma with vehicles that are lighter, smarter, and sharper than ever before. We’ll find out more in the next few months.