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Ballistic new AMG Benzes head for SA

By: Denis Droppa

It’s raining AMGs, and by the end of the year fans of high-performance Benzes will have a choice of no less than 26 models (up from the current 22) wearing the coveted Aufrecht, Melcher and Großaspach badge.

The A45 AMG, shown here as a disguised prototype, will arrive in SA around mid-year.The CLA 45 AMG, which shares its inner workings with the A45, is also due this year.SLS AMG Black Series.GL 63 AMG

With a selection of sedans, coupés, roadsters and SUVs, and power outputs ranging from about 260kW to an eye-popping 552kW, there will be an AMG car to suit just about every high-adrenalin taste.

NEW TERRITORY

Of these, four new AMG cars will land in South Africa during the course of the year, including all-new territory for the brand when the A45 AMG arrives around mid-year. It will be the flagship of the new A-class range being launched in April, and will follow a few months after the bread-and-butter A-class models.

The first AMG car to feature a four-cylinder engine, this little dynamo will wield a 2-litre turbocharged power unit producing about 260kW (the exact output will be revealed at the car’s Geneva motor show debut in March).

Also this year we’ll see an AMG version of the new Mercedes CLA compact sedan that was revealed at the Detroit motor show earlier this month. The CLA is touted as the little brother of the CLS four-door coupé, and the AMG version will use the same turbo 2-litre as the aforementioned A45 – the two cars also sharing the same platform.

There will also for the first time be an AMG version of the GL large SUV, and the GL 63 will employ the familiar 5.5-litre turbo V8 used in most AMG fire-breathers. Expect it here in April.

BIG DADDY

The big-daddy AMG Benz will be the SLS AMG Black Series, one of the highlights on Merc’s stand at the upcoming Johannesburg International Motor Show in October. To be available in extremely limited numbers, it wields a modified version of the regular SLS’s naturally-aspirated 6.2 V8, boosted to produce a hearty 464kW.

And the 552kW version? That’s the SLS AMG Electric Drive that debuted at last year’s Paris Motor Show, which will be the world’s first series production super sports car with electric drive. It’s moved along by four electric motors – one at each wheel – which in addition to the whopping kilowatt count combine to produce a stupendous 1000Nm of torque. It’s good enough for a claimed 0-100km/h sprint in just 3.9 seconds and, if much more conservatively driven, a range of 250km. Who would have thought the most powerful AMG car of all time would be electrically powered?

No SLS Electric Drives are headed this way, as SA doesn’t have a charging infrastructure.

KYALAMI FLING

As a way of reminding us what ballistic Benzes are all about, Mercedes-Benz SA set motoring journalists loose around Kyalami last week in a mouth-watering array of AMG-badged cars. I took turns at the wheel of the new CLS Shooting Brake, the E-class, the SL63 and SL65, and the SLS AMG roadster.

All displayed quite brutal acceleration and an emotive noise, but my favourites were the SL versions and the SLS. The SLs surprised me with their quick, direct steering and surefootetness. They felt much more like nimble sports cars than the two-ton grand tourers they’re supposed to be.

A bit of tail-twitching fun could be had, with a fair bit of sideways action available from the rear-wheel-drive car before the electronic nanny kicked in. Nice, but an electronic nanny that wasn’t particularly welcome was the “limp mode” most of the AMG cars went into. It’s a mechanical-sympathy feature that kicks in when the cars are pushed hard, and it drastically reduces engine power until the car cools down. Understandable, though the fact that it usually kicked in after less than one lap was completed doesn’t make your average AMG a track-day car.

TAMING THE BEAST

The one car that didn’t go into “limp mode” was the SLS roadster, and I could thrash the living daylights out of it for a couple of uninterrupted laps. With a hearty 420kW and 650Nm on board, it’s a capricious beast to tame. The throttle needs to be treated gingerly – simply floor it out of a corner and you’ll probably end up pointing the wrong way, stability control or not. But treat her right and the SLS AMG hustles around a racetrack with a sharp-steering agility far removed from the “old men’s cars” reputation of bygone Benzes.

One thing in common to all current AMGs is a chest-thumping roar. We keenly wait to find out whether the new four-cylinder versions will have similarly charismatic acoustics.

Trivia: The letters in AMG denote the surnames of the former Mercedes engineers, Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher, who founded the company in 1967, while the G stands for Großaspach, Aufrecht’s birthplace. -Star Motoring

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