Shame the business case sucks. AMG boss talks Black Series and Project One
In the world of AMG, power is king. V12, V8, inline-six, highly-turbocharged four or hybrid, who cares how you get there, so long as it trounces the competition with brute force. And yet the boss of Mercedes’ performance arm, Tobias Moers, daydreams about something daintier.
We asked him if you took board approval and bean counters out of the equation, and had the opportunity to build anything under the AMG brand, what would it be? “My personal perspective, although there would never be a business case for it, would be a small, tiny, fast, agile, two-seater, that sets a new benchmark in that segment. A track car,” he replied. “It would be easily done, but it’ll never happen.” Hear that? That’s Caterham, Ariel and Lotus breathing a sigh of relief.
He went on: “From a business perspective it would be perfect if there was a dedicated AMG SUV because it’s the growing segment. But our SUV derivatives are already really competitive – the GLC 63 is already only five tenths slower than a C63 around Hockenheim. It would make the AMG balance sheet look better but in an overall business perspective it’s not the way to go.”
Shame on both counts, but an interesting insight into the mind of a man pulling the strings on a rapidly-expanding empire. Back in the real world, he’s got plenty to be getting on with, not least the new AMG GT four-door coupe launched at the Geneva show. A car he points out is something altogether different to the CLS… or the E63 it’s based on.
“The fact that they are four-door coupes is the one and only similarity to be honest. Our task was to bring the dynamics from the two-door GT into this segment, but also take care of passengers and headroom and rear seats and provide an outstanding level of comfort for everyday driving. If you drive an E63 and then one of these, in every perspective it’s a step up. It’s a different level.”
Speaking of different levels, the Black Series brand – AMG at its deranged, track-biased best - has been awfully quiet of late. Fear not, it hasn’t been put to sleep. “It’s still alive, the Black Series journey is ongoing,” Moers explains. “The expectation of our customers is different to what it was in the past. If you had to see your chiropractor after driving a car on the road it was fine, but they don’t accept that anymore so we have to take care to make it useable. Still, maybe it won’t be the best on B-roads in the UK.”
And can we expect the GT four-door coupe to get the Black Series treatment?: “No it wouldn’t work.”
What that new GT will get is a range topping hybrid variant with as much as 800bhp, using tech gleaned from the Project One. “There’s some technology that we’ll prove with the Project One that we’ll transfer to our overall portfolio. For example, the battery we use in F1 and Project One is a flooded battery, we’re in the middle of developing that. Our path is really clear, we’re going to chase hybridisation, electrification in the performance segment for sure, beyond 2020. Expect a lot from us.”
Speaking specifically about the development of Project One (AMG’s 1,000bhp+ hybrid hypercar using a powertrain lifted from F1, in case you forgot), Moers explained: “The challenges are still the same. Getting the powertrain road legal, emissions, NVH, weight. We have two dedicated dynos, one full dyno where we can run the full powertrain with front and rear axles in combination and run Nürburgring laps. We’re proving the durability of the engine.
“It’s mid-2019 for first deliveries but that has to be adjustable, I expect things to come up during the development, that happens, and every day we will learn a little bit more about everything.”