AMG has grown from performance and cosmetic upgrades to existing Mercedes-Benz models to an actual division with its own unique product portfolio and as usual, performance models of existing Mercedes-Benz vehicles. With AMG you get handcrafted engines and different body panels and interior materials and the results of recent have been nothing short of remarkable. With a wide range of engines with 2.0L turbos on 4 cylinders to 4.0L V-8’s along with the V-12, one can now get the pure AMG experience in the widest range of Mercedes-Benz vehicles. I have driven the GLA45 and GTS and in this issue, I have written about them, but I thought it valuable to speak with someone at AMG about the variety and the vision. Brandon T. Coté, Manager, Exclusive Vehicles, AMG, Designo for MBUSA was kind enough to give us his time. Our dialogue follows.
Damola: …Introduce yourself - what you do with AMG and then we could talk about the one man, one engine...
Coté: So I’m Branden Coté, head of AMG product management for MBUSA.
Damola: So talk about this new GLE AMG and is this the S or just the regular 63?
Coté: So this is the all-new GLE63 S model. So historically, this vehicle was called the ML. In the USA there was only the 63. We now have an S model variant. So now with the facelift we changed the nomenclature from ML to GLE and now this is also the S model…this has 577 horsepower in it…0 to 60 in about 4.2 seconds.
Damola: So talk about what you guys added. Obviously, adding that amount of power, how did you change the rigidity, the engineering, architecture, frames?
Coté: So what’s really, really unique about AMG is that, you know, we don’t just go in and put a new engine in the vehicle, we actually completely re-design the vehicle. So the engine, the suspension, the transmission, the brakes, the wheels, we go in and re-engineer the vehicle so that it can be capable to handle this amount of power and be able to perform the way you expect an AMG to as well. This also has active sway bars in it, for instance, with our active curve system. So as you go around a corner, the natural incline of the vehicle is to kind of sway out or have a little bit of body roll. Well, this actually has motors on our sway bars which twist the vehicle back upright...the vehicle stays completely flat…
Damola: So speak about the one man, one engine…
Coté: This is really, really one of the biggest claims here. So AMG is a design engineering firm and we build our engines by the philosophy of one man, one engine. None of our competitors can claim this. So what’s really unique about that is our engine builders take an engine block and put every wiring harness on it, all the cylinders, the cam, chassis, build the entire engine to a test running motor and then they put their signature nameplate on the top, attesting to the quality and craftsmanship that go into that motor.
Damola: So with this 577, wheel size.
Coté: So we have a couple different wheel sizes on this vehicle. This here is the S model which offers a 21-inch wheel and we also have our coupe variant of this model, which has a 22-inch wheel as well.
Damola: And we’ll see that too. So what are some of the other things…
Coté: …AMG C63 - this vehicle features an all-new motor for us that we just designed, the 4-liter biturbo V-8 motor. It features hot inside V, so you put the turbos inside the V of the engine, which allows us to have the exhaust portion of the cylinders go directly into the turbine so you have zero turbo lag in the vehicle. It also allows us to situate the engine a little lower and further back in the chassis both to give better handling and performance. [The] vehicle goes on sale actually in about 2 weeks. So by the time the auto show is over you can go into the dealerships and purchase one.
Damola: So tell us about the performance on this model.
Coté: So we offer two variants of this, we have the C63 and then we also have the C63 S model. So the differences are 462 horsepower versus 503 horsepower on the two vehicles and 0 to 60 time for the S model is about 3.8 seconds with about a .15 second in 0 to 60 differences between the two vehicles
Damola: So how much of a premium…is the pricing between the S and the regular C63?
Coté: Base price of the C63 is [$63,900], S model is [$8000] more at [$71,900].
Damola: So [$71,900], 503 horsepower.
Coté: Can’t beat it.
Damola: …And then let’s go to see the GT S…So tell us about the GLE AMG coupe.
Coté: So this is GLE63 S coupe, we debuted this vehicle a couple of months ago in the Detroit auto show and now we bring it here to the New York auto show. The vehicle will go on sale, end of summer, early Fall, but really this is the coupe variant of the GLE SUV which we just took a look at and as you can see from the lines it’s a very, very sexy vehicle, very sporty, extremely nimble and really is for that person that wants an SUV, wants to be a little bit higher off the ground but doesn’t want to sacrifice the attractiveness of what a beautiful coupe line gives you as well.
Damola: So show us what’s inside, though, because the interior package looks markedly different from what we just saw.
Coté: Yes. So we offer a variety of interiors on all of our vehicles. This particular one has [a] beautiful Nappa interior with the brown leather, with the black upper dash, the brown seats and inserts. We have a natural finish wood so you don’t have that high-gloss coating. So you have a nice natural finish there. All-new interior, completely redesigned for this year and of course running boards on the vehicle, AMG, door seals, 22-inch wheels. This vehicle is just an absolute monster not only from a performance standpoint but from a statement standpoint in design. There is not a better-looking SUV in the market right now.
Damola: So this actually has a bigger wheel package.
Coté: Than those on the regular SUV...This vehicle has the largest wheels in the entire Mercedes fleet with 22-inch wheel options.
Damola: And it looks like it even has a bigger panoramic roof set.
Coté: It does. It also features the panoramic roof on it and the storage space back here is actually quite large as well. It’s very deep, very wide, so you don’t really sacrifice a lot of storage with that sloped roof on.
Damola: So [are] the performance figures the same as what’s on the other SUV?
Coté: It is. Yes, the same 577 horsepower, 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds, features AMG performance 4MATIC in the vehicle so it propels the same active curve system that we discussed on the other vehicle, very, very [impressive].
Damola: So let’s go to see the C-Class AMG
Coté: Yeah, let’s go check it out.
Damola: So now this is the crown jewel of them all, the AMG GT, so tell us about this because there was obviously a whole new direction from the SLS, no gullwings, different powertrains, different engines. Kind of give us an overview.
Coté: Yeah, this is the all-new AMG GT S and it really allows us to enter a segment of the market we’ve never competed in before. So the SLS which was the previous two-door supercar from AMG really competed at a different level than what this vehicle does. This vehicle is coming in at a price point of almost 50% of what the SLS was, completely different vehicle. 503 horsepower here. It features the 4-liter biturbo V-8, which combines both the hot inside V and dry-sump lubrication. So, it’s really allowed us to enter the segment of the sports car that we have never competed in before and we really think it’s a winner.
Damola: So would the 577-horsepower engine make its way here?
Coté: No, definitely not, so the engine that you have in the GLE is [an] older engine that we have that we’ve been using for a very long time, the tried and true and tested engine - the 5.5-liter. This is the new engine for AMG - the 4-liter and this is really what you’re going to get to see across many other vehicles. So this is the engine you’ll start to see that gets perpetuated in the other models, not the other way around.
Damola: So this engine is also in the C-Class AMG?
Coté: It’s very similar, not the exact same so this engine features the dry-sump lubrication. C63 does not have dry-sump lubrication so what that allows us to do is situate the motor much lower in the vehicle. It’s also a front mid-engine design so the engine sits behind the front axle but in front of the cabin of the vehicle. So, while both engines are based off the same block, both the 4-liter V-8, the hot inside V, slightly different in the way they work…so we have the dry-sump lubrication also to get better performance and it’s situated lower in the chassis.
Damola: So how about the weight to horsepower ratio for this versus the SLS?
Coté: Great question. So the SLS has a greater horsepower to weight ratio, but this vehicle actually weighs about 200 pounds less than the SLS did. So in many ways this is a very nimble vehicle. The SLS is a phenomenal vehicle, obviously the gullwings – it’s iconic. It’s done very, very well in motorsports, but we really see this as the next phase and evolution of the brand.
Damola: So would this also have the 4MATIC all-wheel drive system?
Coté: Now you get it, my friend, so this is rearwheel drive as a true sports car should.
Damola: So no all-wheel drive here?
Coté: Negative. No.
Damola: So this has the 4…
Coté: The 4-liter and 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds.
Damola: …[the] 4-liter turbo that would be carried over. So would that now be the base 4-liter in all the 63’s?
Coté: So over time you will see that this engine gets utilized in many of our other variants, but we’re always looking at how do we improve our engine efficiency? How do we get more power out of the engine? How do we get less emissions out of the motor, make it more efficient? So you will see this get used in other models as well. Which models this engine will come to next? Stay tuned.
Damola: I guess another question one would have is that at the top of the engine, AMG engine strata, is the S65. Is that something that possibly could be a version, a black series, for example, that would have that S65 that is in the S-Class or even the SL AMG S?
Coté: So the S65, all of our 65’s are our V-12 motor and it’s a very, very exclusive engine and line-up for us. We will not be putting a V-12 into this vehicle for a couple of reasons. One, is space constraints. We don’t space for a V-12. The other thing is the V-12 has a lot of weight to the vehicle…When you want a very nimble and agile sports car, weight is your enemy. So we can actually get so much more horsepower out of the V-8 motor that we really don’t need to go to the V-12, given the added weight that it gives you. We get better performance out of the V-8 motor so do not expect a 12-cylinder in this vehicle.
Damola: So the SL, though, has the 12-cylinder?
Coté: Correct. The SL is much more of a grand tourer, though, where this is a purebred sports car.
Damola: And that’s really what I was getting at. So for the SL moving forward - that would kind of be the differentiation. The SL would be the grand tourer. This would be more of the performance sports car in the line-up.
Coté: The other thing too is this is a coupe where the SL is a roadster, so if somebody wants to be able to put the top down on the vehicle, have the great performance, we have the SL63 right and we also have the SL65. This is the 100% sports car, though, coupe only.
Damola: So…could it still serve as a daily driver?
Coté: Absolutely. Absolutely. So I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to be able to drive this vehicle on a regular basis and this is a fantastic vehicle. We have something called…DYNAMIC SELECT, where we have five different drive modes in the vehicle which allow us to completely change the dynamics of the vehicle from the chassis set-up, the suspension, the transmission settings, the throttle input and response, the intake and exhaust of the engine and it really allows you to have a very comfortable ride when you just want to go around town. But when you want to take the car to the track, you throw it into race mode and you rock and roll.
Damola: So can you re-introduce yourself again for the record.
Coté: My name is Branden Coté, head of AMG product management for MBUSA.
Damola: Thank you very much.