Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher had a fight the first day they ever met, but that did not prevent them from recognizing each other’s talents. They began working together at Daimler-Benz in the early 1960s and built a strong relationship engineering and developing racing engines. But after a new homologation rule requiring race cars to be sourced from production models steered Benz away from motorsports at the end of 1965, the pair struck off to start their own tuning and engineering office. In 1967, they repurposed an old mill in Burgstall, Germany, and named the business Aufrecht Melcher Großaspach Ingenieurbüro, Konstruktion und Versuch zur Entwicklung von Rennmotoren. That translates to “Aufrecht, Melcher, Großaspach engineering firm, design and testing for the development of racing engines.” (Großaspach is the German town where Aufrecht was born.) You can see why the far shorter initialism AMG stuck.
Starting with the 1971 300SEL 6.8, AMG quickly earned a reputation as the place to go for advanced performance development for Mercedes-Benz products (although, curiously, AMG also worked with Mitsubishi on multiple projects in the 1980s and ’90s). Over the decades, AMG and Mercedes-Benz had various contracts and partnership arrangements before the former finally became a fully integrated in-house tuner for the latter. Here are 13 of the most important offspring from that entanglement
Mercedes-Benz unveiled the 300SEL 6.3 at the 1968 Geneva auto show. Its 247-hp 6.3-liter V-8 helped make it one of the quickest production sedans in the world at the time. In “racing trim,” which meant lacking bumpers and extraneous chrome, the SEL 6.3 won a six-hour race at Macao in 1969 with Erich Waxenberger behind the wheel. The four-door’s impressive performance spurred Aufrecht and Melcher to milk the engine for even more power in preparation to race at the 24 Hours of Spa. AMG increased displacement from 6330 cubic centimeters to 6835, upping the output to 422 horsepower and boosting torque from 369 lb-ft to 448. At Spa the big SEL 6.8 took a class victory and placed second in the overall classification behind a Ford Capri.
Numerous changes were made during development for the racetrack. Melcher used modified rocker arms, lighter connecting rods, Mahle pistons, and bigger intake valves. He modified the combustion chambers, polished the intake and exhaust ducts, incorporated two throttle flaps within the intake tract, added an extra oil cooler, and topped it off with a racing exhaust. Weight was dropped from 4035 pounds to 3605, thanks in part to new aluminum doors and 10- and 12-inch-wide magnesium wheels adapted from those on the wild C111 test car. Handling was improved with bigger front wishbones, a bulked-up rear axle with a heavy-duty differential, and a more stiffly tuned air suspension. The 6.8 excelled on the straights, outrunning nearly everything else, but poor braking hurt it in other parts of the track. The big Benz stuck out in a field of much smaller vehicles such as the Chevrolet Camaro, and it earned the nickname Red Sow or Red Pig. The original race car no longer exists, but in 2006, Mercedes-AMG built a replica to honor the legend.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOWCAR AND DRIVER2 of 141988 Mercedes-Benz 300CE 6.0 AMG Hammer
The AMG brand first began gaining serious steam in the mid-’80s. Global attention grew surrounding a series of vehicles that came to share the now highly regarded Hammer nickname. It all started with the W124-generation E-class. AMG replaced the standard W124’s engine with a highly modified version of the bigger W126 S-class’s 5.6-liter V-8. This 355-hp, 32-valve, DOHC engine put the world on notice, and later AMG would enlarge the V-8 to a 6.0-liter displacement. All Hammers are legendary, but the rare 375-hp six-point-oh coupes are probably the most memorable. Combined with the Hammers’ aggressive body kit, AMG wheels, custom exhaust, and lowered suspension, its engine helped birth one of the greatest sports sedans ever.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOWCAR AND DRIVER3 of 141993–1997 Mercedes-Benz C36 AMG
The C36 AMG was the first car born after AMG signed a contract to collaborate with Daimler in an official capacity in 1990. Strong sales dovetailed with positive reception from the public, and roughly 5200 units were sold worldwide between 1993 and 1997. Although the first C36 didn’t make its way to the United States until 1995, it was the first AMG to be sold here officially. Design-wise, the classic chunky five-spoke AMG wheels, small rear spoiler, and subtle body kit and badging set the tone for future AMG models’ under-the-radar look. From a distance, the C36 AMG looks like any other W202-generation C-class.
Beneath the C36’s hood sat a 276-hp inline-six, its 3.6-liter displacement being larger than that of workaday Benz inline-sixes. A four-speed automatic transmission directed power to the rear wheels, enabling a zero-to-60-mph sprint of 6.0 seconds in our testing, which found that the car’s top speed was limited to 152 mph. Nearly outstripping the C36’s performance? The available black-on-black checkered interior upholstery. Oh, and the car’s enduring legacy as a cornerstone of the modern AMG era counts for something, too, right?ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOWCAR AND DRIVER4 of 141997 Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR
In the first year of the then new FIA GT Championship (1997), the competition version of the W208 Mercedes-Benz CLK dominated its opponents with six victories in 11 races. Developed in only 128 days, the CLK-GTR boasted a carbon-fiber and Kevlar monocoque stuffed with a mid-mounted 622-hp 6.0-liter V-12 engine; the only bits shared with the CLK road car were the lights. It was the first time Aufrecht and his AMG team had designed an entire car, from the body to the suspension (until then, other AMG creations had been spun off existing Mercedes models), and it was a resounding success. The following season, Mercedes-Benz and AMG started the first two races with the GTR, then switched to a modified version called the CLK LM (for Le Mans) that used a V-8. Combined, these CLKs won all 10 races they entered; six of those victories were one-two finishes for Mercedes.
In order to meet homologation regulations, Mercedes-Benz and AMG were forced to build a version of the GTR for road use. Only 26 were created (20 coupes and 6 roadsters), each using a 604-hp 6.9-liter version of the M120 V-12. The exterior design was largely kept the same, including the eye-bulging roof scoop, but some aerodynamic components were changed, such as the racing model’s tall rear wing, which on the production car came integrated with the car’s rear end. Today, these rare GTRs are valued in the millions.ADVERTISEMENT -W
Those familiar with AMG nomenclature (at least, old-school, reality-based AMG nomenclature tied to engine displacement) know that the 73 in SL73 stands for 7.3 liters. As in, the massive 7.3-liter V-12 engine lurking beneath the roadster’s hood. The mighty twelve was rated at 518 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque, and AMG claimed it could punt the SL73 to 62 mph in 4.8 seconds. (Keep in mind that, at a claimed 4519 pounds, the most extreme R129-generation SL wasn’t exactly light.) It should shock precisely no one that some time later, when supercar startup Pagani went shopping for engines to power its Zonda models, it gravitated to the AMG-tuned M120 engine. Around the turn of the century, converting a V-12–powered SL600 into a full-blown 73 cost 99,180 deutsche marks—roughly $62,000 by the most recent conversion rate. An estimated 85 units were b
After watching competitors surpass the naturally aspirated V-8–powered W210 E55 and its 349 horsepower, Mercedes-Benz and AMG said screw it and dropped a supercharged bomb on the segment in the form of the W211-generation E55. The forced-induction 5.4-liter Kompressor V-8 was sourced from the SL55, although it had a lower output than the convertible. On the E55, it made 469 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque and was linked to a five-speed automatic transmission. At the time, it was the fastest Mercedes-Benz sedan available, and it hauled. We tested a wagon variant (did we mention there was a wagon?!), and even carrying the extra weight, it scooted from zero to 60 in 4.1 seconds—quicker than the sedan! With much more sedate styling than today’s AMG models, the E55 was the ultimate sleeper, and it was a pioneer for introducing a Lysholm-type twin-screw supercharger to the world of large luxury family four-doors.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOWCAR AND DRIVER7 of 142004 Mercedes-Benz CLK DTM AMG
Since joining DTM competition in 1988, when the carmaker partnered with AMG’s team that had been racing since 1986, Mercedes-Benz has been the most successful manufacturer in the series with double-digit overall championships. One of the brand’s most significant DTM vehicles is the W209 CLK AMG that Bernd Schneider piloted to a championship in 2003. Mercedes-Benz built 180 road cars inspired by the winning racer—100 coupes and 80 convertibles—all of which were officially sold only in Europe. With a 574-hp supercharged 5.5-liter V-8, the wicked CLK DTM was claimed to reach 62 mph in 3.9 seconds, and given the room to stretch its legs, it could attain 199 mph. Of course, race-car-for-adults styling was part of the package and included an angry front end, bulging fender flares with integrated side scoops, and a tall rear wing.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOWCAR AND DRIVER8 of 142008 Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG Black Series
The Formula 1 tradition of using Mercedes-Benz products as the official safety vehicles started with the aforementioned C36 and continues to this day. For 2008, the relationship reversed, as the CLK63 Black Series was derived from the F1 Safety Car instead of the other way around. AMG tacked on peacocking carbon-fiber fender flares, extra aero bits, and staggered-width forged-aluminum 19-inch wheels. Oh, and it removed the back seats. The Black Series, a label that has come to be used for the most extreme AMG variants, received the first engine designed wholly by AMG. The incredible naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 made 500 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque, thanks to larger intake ducts, a retuned ECU, and “twin-wire-arc-sprayed” coating in the cylinders. In our testing, it chucked the Black Series to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds.
Additional sporting measures included an AMG exhaust, a limited-slip rear differential, an extra air cooler for the rear end, oversize composite brake rotors, adjustable-height suspension and dampers, and extra bracing in the engine compartment and trunk.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOWCAR AND DRIVER9 of 142011–2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
In 2005, Mercedes-AMG became a subsidiary of Daimler during the DaimlerChrysler years, which shifted the sub-brand’s thinking for a while. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing: The SLS AMG sports car was the first product developed from the ground up by Mercedes-AMG, and its splashy gullwing-door design made it an instant classic. Besides harking back to Mercedes-Benz’s 300SL racing cars from the late 1950s, the SLS delivered an impressive driving experience. SL, by the way, stands for Sport Leicht (German for Sport Lightweight), and the SLS lived up to that part of its name with an aluminum spaceframe and a weight of 3748 pounds, with 47.5 percent of that on the front axle and 52.5 percent on the rear. The 563-hp naturally aspirated 6.2-liter engine sat nearly in the middle of the car (although ahead of the passenger compartment) and could deliver 3.5-second sprints to 60 mph and a 197-mph top speed.
AMG wasted no time sending the SLS racing in the form of the SLS AMG GT3. In 2013, that car won the Dubai, Nürburgring, and Spa-Francorchamps 24-hour races. The SLS also spawned an electric model called the Electric Drive and a devious Black Series variant for hyper-focused track driving.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOWCAR AND DRIVER10 of 142012–2013 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series
For 2012, the C-class received a mid-cycle refresh, and Mercedes-Benz offered numerous AMG flavors. The sedan could be ordered with the “normal” 451-hp V-8, while a $6050 AMG Development package boosted output to 481 horsepower. For the maniacal coupe-only Black Series, AMG finessed the engine to produce 510 horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque. Better! The sound from the naturally aspirated powerhouse was evil, and the stiff track-tuned suspension made for a rough ride. But that’s the point. Everything on the Black Series cars had been dialed in for high performance, from the 1.6-inch-wider front track and 3.1-inch-wider rear track to the adjustable springs and dampers, limited-slip diff, deleted rear seat, and optional carbon-fiber aero package with a big adjustable wing. The looks, acceleration, ride quality, noise, and capability conspire to make this one of the most visceral cars to ever come from the Mercedes-AMG camp.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOWCAR AND DRIVER11 of 142013–2015 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6×6
The long-serving Mercedes-Benz G-class, only recently replaced after being built in essentially the same form for 40 years, lived the mantra “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Throughout the years, the boxy, brawny SUV has given Mercedes-Benz an avenue to absurdity few other manufacturers could replicate. The AMG-ified G65 and G63 offers gobs of power, the Maybach G650 Landaulet is a full-blown luxury toy, and the G550 4×4 Squared expounds on the base G-wagen’s already rugged capability. Still, none of those multi-hundred-thousand-dollar concoctions came close to the absurdity of the six-wheeled G63 AMG 6×6.
Even up against the other legends on this list, the 6×6 has one of wildest stat sheets ever assembled. This G-class is about 19 feet long, seven-and-a-half feet tall, nearly seven feet wide, and weighs approximately 8500 pounds. It has six wheels with 37-inch tires, three portal axles, five locking differentials, and a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V-8 that makes 536 horsepower and 561 lb-ft of torque. It even has onboard air compressors that can allow drivers to set and change tire pressures. Oh, and did we mention it was priced at more than $500,000 when new?CAR AND DRIVER12 of 142017– Mercedes-AMG GT R
With a lap time of 2:43.4 around Virginia International Raceway in 2017, the Mercedes-AMG GT R was (briefly) the second-fastest car to ever run at our annual Lightning Lap event. The Ford GT hustled into the mix after the main event and swiped the crown by running a 2:43.0 lap (the 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder ran 2:43.1), pushing the Mercedes to third place. But calling the GT R a bronze medalist nearly feels dirty, because it’s such an absurdly impressive machine. The GT R is motivated by a twin-turbo V-8 that produces 577 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, 62 horses and 22 lb-ft more than the GT S. In our testing, a 2018 model achieved 60 mph in 3.2 seconds and conquered the quarter-mile in 11.1 seconds. Even more impressive is that the GT R registered 1.21 g of cornering forces in Turn 1 at VIR. It might not have the flash of the SLS and its gullwing doors, but this is a serious performance car.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOWSTEVE SILERCAR AND DRIVER13 of 142018– Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon
Mercedes-Benz makes a variety of E-class wagons, and we think every one is special in its own way—mostly because we get only a few longroof Benzes here in the States. (Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that.) But clearly the best E-class wagon is the wild AMG version, known as the E63 S. Packing the same 603-hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8, nine-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel-drive system (with a rear-drive-only Drift mode) as the Lightning Lap–dominating E63 S sedan but in a seductive, practical body, how could it not be the best E-class? And we haven’t even mentioned yet that the E63 S wagon’s acceleration matches that of a McLaren 570GT. Blending luxury, practicality, power, agility, and brand recognition, the E63 S wagon is one of the most well-rounded vehicles ever crafted, at least by our slanted standards.