At this year’s New York motor show, Australian media spent time with Tobias Moers, the head of Mercedes-AMG – and chief among the topics discussed was performance, specifically how best to achieve it.
In recent times, petrol engines have become so efficient, so technologically adept and so clean-running, that there is hope we may one day return to the glory days of naturally-aspirated petrol engines, even if they do run an electric motor of some sort to help things along.
But, according to Tobias Moers, those glory days are well and truly behind us, regardless of whether a complex petrol-electric hybrid can work.
“We can’t go back to naturally-aspirated, even once electric technology is sorted,” Moers said. “We will never again be able to go back to natural aspiration.”
It’s a definitive stance on where future technology will lead for AMG, a brand renowned for pushing the performance envelope.
Moers is willing to admit there are numerous issues to work closely on, before hybrid technology provides the answers engineers are looking for in the long term.
“Range is an issue yes, definitely,” he said. “At AMG we focus on having a performance battery, we want a system that is always on, that we can draw heavily from.”
In regards to a ‘performance battery’, Moers means a power cell that can be used heavily under sustained load like a racetrack, even for road cars, which in his opinion must be able to be used at their limit on the track as well as tackle the daily grind.
Think of it like the difference between Comfort and Sport+ modes. In Sport+, at full load on a racetrack, AMG wants a battery that can stand up to the torture.
“We are working together with other companies,” Moers said. “The Mercedes-Benz hybrids are more about long range, at AMG we can use smaller companies because we don’t mass produce our cars. We have a clear understanding on Mercedes-Benz hybrids obviously, but we are the spearhead with performance batteries.”
Competitors like BMW and Audi have, for some time now, focused engineering efforts on something that was previously an anomaly: the performance diesel engine. Think X5 M50d and SQ7. Could Mercedes-AMG head down that same path?
“You know my opinion about performance diesels and I’ve always had that opinion,” Moers said with a laugh. “You get more efficiency out of petrol now anyway, in a total sense, and the future is in hybrid petrol engines.
“Everyday driveability is an advantage and there is still room for doing more with petrol engines. If you combine that technology with electric technology like the GT Concept you’ve just seen outside, I think that is going to be the future for performance.”
The GT Concept is a stunning four-door example of the performance future Moers talks about, but as is customary, the road-going version we will eventually see might not take every cue from the prototype, certainly not in the beginning anyway.
“At the first beginning when we bring the GT Concept to the market, the electric engine is not first and foremost, but beyond 2020, it will be an absolute need for us,” Moers said.
“We see a lot of countries moving forward with emissions targets and electric is the future of performance, with more efficient cars, more power and longer battery range.”