AMG chief says rear-wheel drive is on the way out

2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT R 3/4 driving front

Will rear-wheel drive follow manual transmissions on the slow path to doom? AMG chief Tobias Moers suggested to the UK's Autocar that from now on, every new vehicle that the Mercedes-AMG sub-brand introduces will be driven by all four wheels, including the AMG GT supercar.

Pointing to the new E63, which comes with all-wheel drive as standard, Moers said that over 90 percent of buyers of the earlier E63 with available rear-wheel drive opted for the 4Matic system. “Customers have given us the answer, and most want four-wheel drive,” he said.

Moers told Autocar that even potential customers of the flagship AMG GT want the perceived security of all-wheel drive, due to concerns about safety and stability.

Tobias Moers, CEO & Chairman, AMG; Steve Cannon, President & CEO, MBUSA and Jon Hamm, Mad Men Star at the world premiere of the 2014 S63 AMG Coupe.
Mercedes-Benz
Tobias Moers, CEO & Chairman, AMG; Steve Cannon, President & CEO, MBUSA and Jon Hamm, Mad Men Star at the world premiere of the 2014 S63 AMG Coupe.

Going forward, AMG's signature V-8-powered vehicles will likely use a plug-in hybrid system with an electric motor on the rear axle. The big AMG V-8 won’t exceed 630 horsepower, and any power increases will come from electric assist, according to Moers.

That electric motor won’t be paired with a V-12, either. The S65 Final Edition, recently introduced at the Geneva International Motor Show, will be the last AMG product with a V-12. Moers said that AMG will continue to assemble V-12s for Mercedes-Benz, perhaps for Maybach-trimmed S-Class cars, but an all-new AMG V-12 is not in the cards. Times have changed—the V-8 is the better performer, after all, and the prestige value of the V-12 isn’t as much of a factor as it once was.

Some AMG models may lose their V-8s, as well, thanks to changing emissions standards. Moers, when asked if the next-generation C63 would have an eight- or six-cylinder engine, didn’t dismiss the idea of a downsized powerplant for the BMW M3 competitor. “There is room for speculation there,” Moers said.

2020 Mercedes-Benz C63 S AMG 3/4 front on track
2020 Mercedes-Benz C63 S AMG  emblem
2020 Mercedes-Benz C63 S AMG side rear
Mercedes-Benz
2020 Mercedes-Benz C63 S AMG

Moers went beyond speculation and did confirm that the next AMG GT 4-Door, scheduled to launch next year, will be offered as a hybrid with an electrified rear axle, similar to the competing Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid. Moers also indicated that the next-generation AMG GT coupe/convertible will be a hybrid, and it will have a common platform with the next-generation SL, which promises to be more of a sports car than at present.

Purists may feel that rear-wheel drive is essential, but consumer demand for all-wheel drive is so high that offering it as standard equipment makes sense in today's market.