AMG is in the fast lane for half a century. Building cars that give you goose bumps. Bridging the gap between road legal and race track. There is only one place on earth, where to celebrate those achievements in style. Yes, in the green hell of Nürburgring. Coincidentally the most infamous and demanding race track in the world is turning 90 this year. I joined the birthday celebrations.
Entering the green hell with the bright yellow SLS Black Series brings back some of my finest motoring memories. Exactly nine years ago I was here with a SL 63 AMG, taking part in a four-day AMG Pro Driver training. It was an epic experience with the added advantage of driving the car for a couple of days in the Alps afterwards.
I remember the famous bends: Hatzenbach, Adenauer Forest, Bergwerk, Flugplatz, where I lifted off and deployed my roll bar with a frightening bang, and my favourite, the bone shattering Karussel. The inside half of the corner is steeply banked with a concrete surface. It’s actually a hairpin turn, but the banking allows for a much higher cornering speed.
Though this time around I am not allowed to beat the bends in anger. Albeit the SLS Black Series would the perfect tool for the job. But I am taking part in a sort of birthday parade around the ring, with some other AMG milestones thrown into the party, just prior to the start of the famous 24h Nurburgring race.
AMG has never been more successful in its 50-year-history. It all started in 1967 with two motoring enthusiasts, Hans-Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher, in a workshop in an old mill. Initially Mercedes-Benz wasn’t happy with those grease monkeys fiddling with a ‘perfect product’. They even refused to let the former Daimler mechanics use the three-pointed star on their creations. And even after the surprising and unexpected racing success with the red pig in 1971, official collaboration with Mercedes-Benz only started in 1990. The C36 AMG, launched in 1993, was the first result of this cooperation. In 2005 Mercedes-AMG became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Daimler AG.
And in 2009 the SLS was the first vehicle entirely developed by Mercedes-AMG. The company now has 1600 employees and stands synonymous for emotionally appealing sports cars and driving performance. Almost 100 000 AMG cars were sold in 2016. Since January 2017 there are 50 different models available - from the entry-level A45 to the 12-cylinder monster G65 (currently the most expensive Mercedes model). And since 2013, with the introduction of the world’s most powerful series-production four-cylinder, AMG is now present in the compact segment as well. The entry-level 45/43 AMGs are attracting new and younger customers.
And while I am only allowed one (rather slow) lap through the green hell this time, AMG development engineers spend about 17 weeks each year in the Eifel. As the stress profile of the 20.8km long track reflects every possible driving state of a car. And the ring time will most probably increase in the future, as the development site at the Nürburgring is expanding further.
Most probably because of Project One, the highly anticipated Mercedes-AMG hypercar. It is not just inspired by F1 technology, it is actually going to be the first ever roadworthy F1 car. A high-performance plug-in hybrid with a 1.6-l. V6 engine, plus four electric motors and an output of about a 1000hp. Bringing AMG firmly back to the future. Happy birthday and cheers to many more years of thunder. Keep on roaring.
1971 The Red Pig – 300 SEL 6.8-l.
The Porsche race car drivers laughed at the huge four-door limousine, standing next to them at the start to the 24h race at the Circuit de Spa Francorchamps in 1971. Not for long. The affectionately dubbed ‘red pig’ (‘rote Sau’) claimed not only victory in its class, but second place overall. Featuring the engine from the luxurious 600 Pullman limousine, tuned to 428hp. It was as if a muscle-packed wrestler did gymnastics. And it worked. AMG became world-famous overnight.
1988 The Hammer – 300 CE 6.0-l.
The wide Coupe version of ‘The Hammer’, the 300 CE 6.0-l. AMG, had a striking presence. With four-valve technology, 283kW output and 566Nm of torque it simply annihilated it’s competition.
1995 The Modern Gullwing – 300 SL
When the car-crazy Sultan of Brunei wanted a couple of modern touches on his 1954 SL 300 Gullwing, he approached HWA (Hans Werner Aufrecht). Yes, the ‘A’ in AMG. Hans replaced the vintage inline-six with an AMG 6.0-l. V8 engine, paired with a 4-speed auto, independent suspension, disc brakes and an all-new interior. Subsequently ten more 300 SL HWA were commissioned. Nowadays those converted classics are highly sought after (and priced) collector’s items.
2013 The Road Racer – SLS Black Series
Inspired by the AMG GT3 racing car, the Black Series offered not only a breathtaking design, but the 6.3-l. V8 powerplant delivered 464kW, accelerating this SLS from 0 to 100km/h in 3.6 seconds and reaching a top speed of 315 km/h. Its a modern and highly-priced classic already.
2013 The Electrifying Ride – SLS Electric Drive
In 2013 it was the fastest electric car in the world and the first sound-less AMG ever. Experiencing the sound of silence at 200km/h on a German autobahn was a rather eerie experience. Four water-cooled electric motors, one at each wheel, resulted in a total output of 552kW and 1000Nm of torque. The top speed was governed at 250km/h, the acceleration from 0 to 100km/h 3.9 seconds. And the Nurburgring lap time was 7.56min. Now I know why they did it. In preparation of the 2018 Mercedes-AMG hyper car, which was presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2017.
More AMG GTs - GTR & GTC convertible
The Beast or nothing
After adding an ‘R’ to the GT by introducing the green monster, Mercedes-Benz has to rethink their catchy slogan ‘Best or nothing’. ‘Beast or nothing’ would be more appropriate from now on. And there is finally a topless AMG GT version available as well.
The second vehicle entirely developed by AMG, after the SLS, the AMG GT is now a family of seven. The GT was followed by the GTS, the GTC, the GTR, the race car GT3 and two new roadsters. And it doesn’t stop there. The four-door GT is planned and a Black Series is already on its way. What they all have in common, well besides enormous power, is the new grille, named Panamericana. It looks like Hannibal Lecter’s mask, a muzzle to contain the green hulk and its brethren.
At the moment the GTR is the most pointed silver arrow ever. It’s very much a reflection of the changed times at Mercedes-Benz, where CEO Dieter Zetsche is consequently making appearances in jeans and sneakers. Impossible a couple of years ago. It did beat Porsche’s super sportscar 918 with a lap time of 07:11:00 in the green hell. Only to be dethroned by the Lamborghini Huracan Performante, which recently did a 06:52:01 there. Let’s wait for the Black Series then. Or to make absolutely sure, the Mercedes-AMG hyper car.
4.0-l. V8, 430kW and 700Nm, 0 to 100km/h 3.6 seconds, top speed 318km/h
AMG GTC convertible
4.0-l. V8, 410kW and 680Nm, 0 to 100km/h 3.7 seconds, top speed 316km/h