Mercedes-AMG, the official, in-house monkey-house that is the performance arm of Stuttgart, has given us a few more details of how it sees its future in an increasingly electric world. Rather obviously, that means more plug-in hybrids in the immediate term, and AMG's first all-electric models to come, but the good news for power-hogs is that the mighty 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 will live on for a while yet.
Performance luxury in the 21st century
"With our new drive strategy, we are transporting our hallmark DNA into an electrified future. Our performance hybrids, developed entirely in Affalterbach, will even surpass the driving dynamics of our current models and thus absolutely do justice to our new technology label E Performance. With the all-electric derivatives based on the Mercedes-EQ models, we as Mercedes-AMG are also continuing to take off with the electrification of the portfolio. We are thus opening ourselves up to new target groups who can experience Mercedes-AMG as the performance luxury brand of the 21st century," said Philipp Schiemer, AMG's chairman of the board.
So how is that going to play out? Well, the whole point of E Performance, says AMG, is to develop "an electrified drivetrain that further enhances the brand's signature driving performance and driving dynamics, while also being highly efficient. With the increase in performance due to the additional electric motor, the development team was also able to improve the efficiency of the entire vehicle in parallel - and achieve lower emissions as well as lower consumption."
Sounds good, right? So, the new AMG plug-in hybrid system, which AMG calls its 'P3 Hybrid', will be modular and will work with either the big-banger 4.0-litre V8 engine, or the hardly-a-small-banger four-cylinder turbo motor. The electric motor, depending on which model you're looking at, will have as much as 150kW of power (that's 204hp) and with 320Nm of torque. It comes with its own gearbox too, a two-speed unit to balance the ultimate in low-down acceleration with some improvements in high-speed touring economy.
Mercedes says that the P3 Hybrid's battery is both light, and mounted above the rear axle for optimum weight distribution. It can drive the rear wheels directly, bypassing the usual nine-speed automatic gearbox, but it also works with the usual Mercedes 4MATIC+ four-wheel drive setup, and can send power to the front wheels to help with traction and handling balance when things get really slippy.
Formula One influence
Needless to remark, given the whole Lewis Hamilton thing, AMG says that the system is inspired by its experience with making hybrid powertrains for Formula One and that there was "a lively exchange of expert knowledge between the High Performance Powertrains (HPP) Formula 1 engine forge in Brixworth and Mercedes-AMG in Affalterbach."
Thanks to that F1 expertise, the battery cooling is very high tech - AMG says that all of the battery's 560 power cells are individually liquid-cooled. Around 14 litres of coolant circulate from top to bottom through the entire battery past each cell with the help of a specially developed high-performance electric pump. That, says Merc, keeps the battery in its optimal working temperature window of 45 degrees Celsius, no matter how often it is charged or discharged.
The first production battery to come from this design will have a relatively small 6.1kWh capacity, so don't go expecting long-legged electric-only range. Then again, it only weighs 89kg, so the penalty on a large-ish performance saloon will be minimal. Merc says that bigger, more powerful versions will follow.
The idea is that the electric system is 'always on' and the battery will be constantly recharged through both brake recuperation and power from the engine, ensuring that maximum acceleration is ready as soon as you need it. The six AMG Dynamic Select drive programs - "Electric", "Comfort", "Sport", "Sport+", "RACE" and "Individual" - have been specially setup for the new hybrid system. As a default, the cars will start silently in Comfort mode, running on just the hybrid module. Handy for early-morning getaways without disturbing the neighbours, that. While Mercedes doesn't quote an electric-only driving range for the system as yet, it does say that the cars it's fitted to should be able to cruise at 130km/h on electric power. As you dial your way up the performance settings, the engine and the electrics start to work more and more closely together.
Interestingly, because the rear-axle is now electric, it doesn't need a conventional ESC stability system - instead, the electric motor can regulate traction as soon as a wheel signals too much slip. The usual ESC setup can kick in later, if needed (by later, we mean within milliseconds if necessary). The vehicle's electronics also watch carefully what you're up to behind the wheel, constantly adapting the various driver aids - traction control, damping adjustments, steering weight and response - and tries to predict what you want now, and what you're going to need in a minute, fiddling the car's setup as you drive. It's like having a race engineer, sat in the back seat, constantly twiddling the car's settings, to extract the best possible performance.
The brake energy recuperation system is also adjustable by the driver, from a '0' setting which basically freewheels when you lift off the gas, to a '3' setting which can recuperate up to 90kW of energy at a go, and which can give you a 'one-pedal' driving experience.
So, strap all of that to the back of the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 AMG petrol engine, and you end up with a total drivetrain output of 600kW - that's 815hp *gulp* - and 1,000Nm of torque. That's enough, says AMG, for a 0-100km/h time of around three seconds. A version of AMG's four-door coupe, the AMG GT, will be the first to get this powertrain and will be badged AMG GT73e. It'll be a rival to Porsche's Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid.
Four-cylinder turbo AMG C-Class hybrid
After that, the P3 Hybrid system will form the basis of the new C63 AMG high-performance C-Class, which will abandon its totemic V8 engine in favour of the M139 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo from the A45 AMG hatchback. In the A-Class, that engine develops a whopping 421hp, so combined with the hybrid module, we're probably looking at knocking on for 600hp in the new C63. Indeed, it might even be higher than that, thanks to a new electrically-driven turbocharger, another bit of F1-derived tech. The idea is to give the engine lighting-fast throttle responses at low revs, before the exhaust back-pressure builds up, and a conventional turbocharger system can take over for higher rpm.
There's even more potential for efficiency, too, thanks to a mild-hybrid system (for the V8 engine, too) that uses a 10kW belt-driven starter up front to assist the petrol engine, and to allow for elongated shut-down in traffic, as well as coasting at higher speeds.
That's the hybrid end of things taken care of. What about full-electric cars? Well, AMG is working on them too, taking the new Mercedes-EQ architecture (which will be first seen under the new EQS luxury electric saloon, which launches in April) as its basis. AMG says that these new EV models: "are ambassadors for a new era in the performance segment of the 43 and 53 series AMG models, for target groups who place high value on innovative electric mobility but do not want to forego sportiness and agile driving dynamics."
These high-performance electric cars will get AMG-specific styling, as well as extra AMG interior functions and systems. These include the specific radiator grille with vertical louvres, the redesigned front apron, the side sill panels, the independent rear with spoiler lip and diffuser, and AMG wheels in Aero or Heritage design, and inside, exclusive AMG seats with individual graphics, AMG-specific functions and displays for the MBUX displays or the AMG Performance steering wheel with integrated buttons and two round AMG steering wheel buttons.
AMG reckons that, thanks to the massive torque of electric motors, performance of these new electric cars can be akin to that of the existing 4.0-litre V8 models, with 0-100km/h acceleration in around 4.0 seconds, and a top speed of 250km/h.
AMG electric models will get air suspension, a bespoke charging system designed around the high-drain requirements of the battery, and an "AMG Sound Experience" that will try to replace some of the old V8 musical magic.
Frankly, we can't wait.