It’s 15 years since AMG became a wholly owned subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz. Daimler’s controlling interest in the firm dates back to 1999, but on January 1st 2005 it acquired the remaining shares from Hans Werner Aufrecht (the A in AMG) and set about remaking the engine tuner as a manufacturer in its own right.
It has come an impressively long way in a comparatively short amount of time. At the turn of the millennium AMG had not been long established as a proper constituent of the Mercedes range - the C-Class only got a proper BMW M3 rival in the mid nineties. Daimler-owned AMG countered this slow start with a production blitzkrieg that included its first all-new engine - the stupendous M156 V8 - and, in 2010, its first all-new car, the stupefying SLS.
So despite not rivalling the lengthy motorsport heritage of either BMW M GmbH or Audi Sport GmbH, Mercedes-AMG has well earned its own contemplative Six of the Best - not least because its parent wisely built on the brand’s early reputation for unfeasibly large engine outputs, cheerily applying them to every body shape imaginable. Here are half dozen have-a-go heroes from the last 15 years…
By rights I should’ve put the SLS in here. It’s easy to forget quite how seismic the car’s impact was in 2009. What better way to announce you arrival as a standalone firm than with a two-door super-tourer that seemed to be mostly bonnet and gull-wing doors? But the one you really want is the 631hp Black Series, and alas there are none in the classifieds.
Of course there is now a Black Series version of the GT, too - but AMG’s second in-house model spawned another frighteningly good variant before the 720hp car arrived. The GT R Pro may produce ‘only’ 585hp, but the manufacturer overhauled the car’s chassis to devastating effect. Any trace of aloofness was swept away by manually adjustable coilovers and fully rose-jointed rear wishbones.
You may remember that we drove the car against the McLaren 600LT in Wales last winter. The idea that the face-off was even close tells you just how good the GT R Pro really is. The fact that Matt B ultimately picked the AMG over one of the best road cars McLaren has made, is reason enough to seriously consider spending £159k on a barely used example currently on sale in a Lamborghini dealership.
In a former life I was based in Surrey near Woking, a setting that let me make lots of impromptu visits to Brooklands and Mercedes-Benz World. As you’ll likely know, the main building always has exotica in the foyer, each car seemingly more capable than the last. But the one I remember poring over the most was a CLK DTM Coupe. Its combination of aggressive looks, wide wheel arches and purposeful aerodynamics instantly took me back to watching a round of the DTM at Donnington in 2003, a race that was conveniently dominated by the Mercs.
The price of CLK DTMs has sky rocketed since, and I would agree this is not in the same bracket as the other choices here – but then again, the car is not in the same bracket when it comes to availability. This example is one of the 100 coupes that were built, and is a favoured car of some top racing drivers like Jensen and Kimi.
The simplicity of this AMG is also something to be admired – the gear stick states Reverse, Neutral and D, spelled out simply next to some heavy duty toggle switches in the centre console. Racing harnesses, bucket seats, arches filled with rubber and a functional rear wing screams track rather than show. As far as AMGs from the Mercedes era go, this 2005 halo has to be one of the best ever.
Everyone has a car that makes them go “phwoah”. For me, an all-black AMG C63 S Coupe is that knee-weakening machine. The rumble of its 4.0-litre V8, the way a black-on-black theme adds further drama to its muscular two-door shape – it’s all so menacing. But not in a shouty, ostentatious way; it’s discreet - think nocturnal predator. Which is what you feel like when driving AMG’s 510hp coupe.
I found that out early last year for our UK test of the C63 S Coupe, during which time I enjoyed burbling through London as much as I did roaring along country roads. The C63 S is brilliant at everything you could want: it’s comfortable, effortless to drive and feels special in any circumstance. And it absolutely goes like the knackers, that glorious AMG twin-turbo M178 – essentially the same lump you get in a GT, barring the wet sump – exploding through the rev band with a raucous blare.
The motor is as elastic as they come, and the car handles and steers (and oversteers) with fingertip precision. AMG has certainly come a long way from the days of making blunt, engine-centred machines, and the C63 S Coupe perfectly illustrates its more rounded character. But what makes it so special to me is it retains all of that AMG specialness. It’s an authentic product of the marque that leaves its rivals looking soft. As should always be the case with a true product of Affalterbach.
Remember how many eyebrows were raised when AMG first entered the hot hatch segment with the A45? I went to a presentation a couple of years prior to its launch, where Mercedes personnel admitted the brand was concerned with its slightly aging customer base. A hot hatch seemed natural to them, but I wasn’t sold by the early sketches and suggested they would be better sticking at what they are good at: big, powerful coupes, saloons and wagons. Unsurprisingly (and luckily for them), they didn't listen to me. The new A-Class arrived to the soundtrack of a Kano rap song, and while the standard hatch was met with a mixed response, the AMG version soon put things right.
The £38k asking price for the A45 felt ridiculous at the time, but so was the performance on offer. It landed with 360hp from a turbocharged 2.0-litre, which, twinned with all-wheel drive, gave the five-door hatch performance to worry proper sports cars on virtually any given road. The note of the M133 motor has never had anything on a proper AMG eight, obviously, but it doesn’t half walk the walk. It had the exhaust burbles, pops and bangs to shame its lesser rivals.
The one I've chosen here appeals due to its decent spec, including a panoramic roof, Parktronic (a novelty that soon wears off) command nav unit (a £2k upgrade when new) and a very understated black exterior. There’s no big aero bits or wings for me, thank you, and bar a turbo badge on each wing it would get away with looking like any other A-class. Especially given how many boggo A-Classes come dressed in AMG-line trim these days. So while an A45 is perhaps not the first choice for the Affalterbach aficionado, it is fully deserving of its AMG badges.
If you asked me which super-estate was the one to have for any amount of money, I'd say Audi RS6. The thought of a big Mercedes hadn't really occurred to me before - partly because the brand has typically been out of my price range, and partly because Audi has done a much better job on the marketing front.
But as a recent father, I find myself spending more and more time researching fast estates. And according to our very own Matt Bird, the E63 is the car to have over an RS6, so consider me intrigued. Especially as I’m not a massive fan of the sharp edges and huge grills that adorn the current line of Audis and BMWs; Mercedes designs are turning my head with their well-proportioned curves.
Moreover there's PH's requirement for a new tow car and general all-rounder, especially when we return to Sunday Services in 2021. AMG’s V8 wagon has all the makings of a perfect candidate. The cavernous boot would be ideal for getting some shuteye during an EnduroKa race weekend, and the 612hp, all-wheel drive setup should be plenty grunty enough to tow Matt Dell out of the gravel trap at Paddock Hill (more on that in tomorrow's race report). My pre-conceptions of Mercedes-AMG are powerful, elegant and luxurious, and this E63 S 4MATIC+ is the perfect combination of them all. It’ll do me quite nicely.
The AMG formula is traditionally quite simple: take a normal Mercedes and then give it an engine with a ludicrous amount of horsepower. In this case they’ve started with the most ludicrous Mercedes in the family - the love-it-or-hate-it G-Wagen. Personally, I’m in the ‘love it’ camp. I already own a Defender, so I’ve clearly got a thing for metal boxes on wheels. And though my TD5 serves me well, it does not have anywhere near 585hp or a 4.5 second 0-62 time. In fact, 70 on the motorway is often a challenge.
Much like my Defender, though, the G-Wagen has a respectable off-roading pedigree. It’s been used by 63 armies in its history and Mercedes has had to promise NATO it’ll continue producing it. Although I’ve never seen one on the Salisbury Plain, it wouldn’t be out of place with the civilian Defenders off-roading on the weekend when the red flags are down. You might want to downgrade to the ‘smaller’ 20-inch wheels on the German car. But what it loses to the Landy in pure ruggedness, it makes up for in power and civility.
I’m never too keen on taking my Defender on long drives because the panel gaps from the door blast cold air onto my armpits and the road noise is louder than the radio can blare. A G63 can get you through Imber whilst you enjoy the orchestral arrangement of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto and your torso (and bum) are warmed by heated seats. There is the minor issue of the price, but to quote Ferris Bueller: “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”
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