Mercedes-AMG is known for its rumbling V8s, but like every brand it'll soon need to make at least some electric cars to meet emissions targets.
CEO Tobias Moers is confident not only can the performance meet expectations, but so can the artificially created interior and exterior noise.
For an idea of where his mind is, Moers said this week that the new Porsche Taycan has “raised the bar”, but also pointed out how quickly things can change in this space.
The timeline on Mercedes-AMG’s first modern electric car (unless you count the briefly offered SLS Electric Drive from 2013) isn’t quite clear, though we know it’ll launch a plug-in hybrid GT 4-Door in 2020 that dashes to 100km/h in 2.7 seconds.
A car based on the new Mercedes mid- and large-sized dedicated EV platform (which will spawn the EQS In 2022/23 and be modular enough to spin off many more) will follow within a brief window of time, either a derivative or a standalone model.
“The customers are the customers, they are going to buy the car if the performance is there. That's my attitude, that's my thinking,” Moers told us.
“We've had a lot of discussions with customers. But if you deliver the performance which is expected in our segment - and this is different between an A45, C63, or an S-Class - but if you deliver an AMG-typical performance in combination with a certain range of an electric drive, instant power output of the powertrain, capable on a race track as well, with everyday usability, there's nothing wrong with that... the world is changing rapidly now.”
Moers said Affalterbach’s approach would be to develop and test things internally as much as possible, citing Mercedes’ development in Formula 1 with hybrid technology and now Formula E. Daimler AG also owns a battery supplier, called Accumotive.
“I think it's like doing a combustion engine. The design, the layout, engineering is done by us. So with the battery [cars] as well for the hybrids. The design, the engineering, everything is done by us,” he said.
“Our electric drive unit, we have a lot of people now working on things like that. We are not going to establish a factory for electric motors, but we have a lot of knowledge. For example, the Project One [hypercar, delayed for two years]. But the driving dynamics, the behavior, the interaction between the driver and the car, that makes the difference in my perspective, in our perspective.”
Also very important is the sound, as flagged above. “So you have to establish a kind of easy-to-identify AMG sound in the development of electric driving,” Moers said.
“You can do everything. It could sound like a V8. But this feels very strange,” he added, referring to artificially created noise, which to some degree is being mandated at low speeds in Europe to reduce the risk of inattentive pedestrians being run over. For precedent he cited the fact the new A45 has a partially-assisted sound map.
“You know, let me take the A45 as an example. So it's not all natural what you're going to hear in that car. Regulations are coming up, and they're more important everywhere in the world. And they are getting more and more ambitious. So in the A45 for example, we measure the frequency and the pulsation in the exhaust system. There's a sender in the exhaust system that's an input for a control unit. And that control unit transfers that into the interior. We use the speakers.
“But I drove that car now, since two months, and if you put it to Sports Plus or Race, it sounds really cool. You know, so long as everything that you hear feels natural to what you apply to the car, regarding throttle, and you push the throttle, and the sound behavior is totally in line with that...”
So when a future electric AMG with hypercar acceleration has a fake noise in the cabin and emits a programmable sound from outside mimicking a V8 or more, will you care?