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by Daniel DeGasperi

Mercedes-Benz performance division AMG has outlined a strategy to achieve 30,000 global sales by 2017, “especially through all-wheel drive [products]”.

The plan, called ‘AMG Performance 50’ to commemorate the tuning specialist’s half-century, will see the Mercedes-AMG line-up expand to 30 models within four years, with the addition of front driveshafts a sure thing for all future AMG models, including the next C-Class.

The product expansion, Mercedes-AMG believes, will yield a 10,000-unit sales increase between 2011 (when AMG sold 20,000 cars) and 2017.

AMG’s version of the Mercedes-Benz 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system debuted in the A45 AMG earlier this year and followed in the E63 AMG S-Model this month, while the 4MATIC roll-out will continue with introduction of the CLA45 AMG later in 2013.

“As standalone variants, the S-Models are now a fixed part of the new AMG line-up,” announced Mercedes-AMG powertrain development manager Dr Gerald Thater at the launch of the E63 AMG S-Model.

“We will naturally be offering more AMG cars as S-Models in future, such as the CLS63 AMG in coupe and Shooting Brake formats.”

Thater confirmed the next-generation C-Class AMG would also be available with all-wheel drive. Unlike the left-hand-drive-only E63 AMG S-Model 4MATIC, the new-generation C-Class AMG 4MATIC, due in 2015, will be available in right-hand drive for the Australian market.

In the E63 AMG S-Model AWD, the front driveshaft sprouts out of the dual-clutch gearbox to the right, meaning that the steering hardware for right-hand-drive variants cannot fit next to the all-wheel drive hardware. Thater said this would not be a problem for any future AMG 4MATIC variant – including the next E-Class AMG due in 2016 – all of which will be engineered to accept the steering wheel on either side of the car.

The next-generation C-Class will share its platform with the new GLK-Class, the Mercedes-Benz compact SUV that in its current generation was also built only in left-hand drive. While executives within the company admit that it hugely underestimated the demand for SUVs in right-hand drive, Mercedes-Benz has confirmed the GLK-Class will be produced for right-hand-drive markets in its next generation.

An AMG version of the GLK-Class is a certainty, but Thater wouldn’t be drawn into specifics about what engine the new model would use. Due around the same time as the C-Class AMG, it is likely that both will receive a downsized 4.7-litre twin-turbo V8 to replace the 6.2-litre non-turbo V8 in the current C63 AMG.

Asked whether the AMG version of the new S-Class (spied below) would be available in all-wheel drive, Thater paused, smiled, and told us “I forgot…” Expect the S-Class AMG models to debut in 2014, shortly after the launch of the sixth-generation luxury limo later this year.

Mercedes-AMG is acutely aware that all-wheel drive is not traditionally in keeping with the performance division’s philosophy and heritage, with rear-drive long being an AMG trademark.

Citing the torque split of the E63 AMG S-Model – which sends 67 per cent of drive to the rear wheels, and only 33 per cent to the fronts – Mercedes-AMG claims that “rear-end emphasis delivers classic AMG handling and first-class driving fun”.

Asked whether Thater would prefer to drive a rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive E63 AMG S-Model, the powertrain boss responded unequivacolly. “All-wheel drive … it has all the benefits of rear-wheel drive with extra traction [and] the highest neutrality at the limit.”

Paramount to the addition of all-wheel-drive models, however, is the recognition by Mercedes-AMG that performance cars are getting faster and traction – putting power to the ground via four wheels instead of two – is critical to the company achieving quicker performance figures. “[4MATIC] significantly increases the traction, which is expressed in breathtaking acceleration figures,” the company argues.

It also helps expand the Mercedes-AMG line-up to achieve its target of 30,000 global sales by 2017.

“I am certain this [all-wheel drive] will see us reach new customers and markets, and continue to drive forward the growth of AMG,” Thater said.

Read CarAdvice’s review of the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG.




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