The question of how to adapt performance vehicles to an electrified future is already being answered, thanks to cars like the Ford Mustang Mach-E and the Porsche Taycan. But often, the focus is on pure EVs, with little attention paid to the hybrids that act as a bridge between combustion engines and more future-forward tech. Thankfully, Mercedes-AMG has not forgotten about this segment, and its new E Performance hybrids aim to make electrified vehicles plenty exciting on their own.
Mercedes-AMG on Tuesday unveiled its E Performance hybrid powertrains, which will mark one part of a two-prong strategy for developing electrified performance vehicles. Mercedes-AMG does intend to dive into fully electric vehicles, too, but the focus is currently on its hopped-up future hybrids.
Electric motors and drive modes
AMG's E Performance strategy is a modular one, and at its core, it's pretty straightforward. Available in both I4 and V8 flavors, the E Performance powertrain takes the traditional internal combustion engine and adds an electric drive unit on the rear axle, comprising an electric motor and a two-speed transmission, with the battery nestled just above the rest.
AMG's E Performance electric motor is capable of producing up to 201 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque on its own, although output will depend on model. It can deliver this power straight to the wheels, bypassing the internal combustion engine's nine-speed automatic transmission in favor of its own electrically controlled two-speed. When the vehicle reaches roughly 87 mph, it'll switch over to that second gear to slow down the motor's rotation and increase its efficiency. When traction becomes an issue, the mechanical connection between the axles can temporarily divert some of that motive force up front.
Six vehicle modes will be on offer: Electric, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus, Race and Individual. Electric mode will, as you may guess, enable fully electric vehicle operation at speeds up to 81 mph, with power defaulting to the rear axle alone. Comfort aims for smoothness, with the electrified bits taking over at lower speeds but offering proper hybrid operation in all other situations. Sport mode tightens throttle response and lets the electric motor have fun a little earlier, and Sport Plus ramps things up even further. Race, as you might expect, is a full-fat mode that tweaks the gas engine and electric motor to deliver full performance at all possible moments.
Chassis dynamics can be altered separately from the powertrain settings, too. Using a litany of sensors, the AMG Dynamics system can tailor itself to, as the press release says, "the dynamic driving competence of the driver." Keep it in Basic and all the electronic nannies will run at full clip, with modes beyond that relaxing things like vehicle yaw and steering response for a little extra fun on backroads.
So what does a proper AMG E Performance vehicle look like on paper? Damned impressive, that's what. In conjunction with its V8 engine, AMG believes its hybrids will be capable of net output in excess of 804 hp and 738 lb-ft, getting to 60 mph in less than 3 seconds.
Of course, the electric motor is no good without something to give it juice, which is where the battery comes in. AMG's E Performance hybrids will launch with a 400-volt, 6.1-kWh lithium-ion battery that weighs 196 pounds and lives above the electric motor and rear axle. Once again, Formula 1 comes into play here, with many tricks for this battery coming directly from the automaker's efforts in building hybrid F1 cars.
Each of the battery's 560 cells have individual cooling. An electric pump pushes about 3.5 gallons of coolant through modules that are millimeters thin, then running to an oil/water heat exchanger that dumps the excess heat energy to keep the battery at its ideal operating temperature, which in this case is about 113 degrees Fahrenheit. No matter how much charging or discharging is going on, the battery's systems are engineered to maintain this ideal temperature to deliver peak performance. This clever direct-cooling system allows the battery to keep weight low and power density high -- Mercedes-AMG says the battery's density of 1.7 kW/kg is roughly double that of a conventional setup.
Delivering power is only half of the equation. Regenerative braking helps recoup some of that energy, and on AMG E Performance models, there are four levels of assisted braking, ranging from barely noticeable (Level 0) to more of a one-pedal driving style (Level 4).
Four-cylinder E Performance: More F1 tech
Mercedes-AMG designed its E Performance system to work with more than V8 gas engines. The automaker also created a version meant to pair with the M139 four-cylinder engine seen in smaller AMG vehicles like the GLA45. Unlike the M139's current applications, the E Performance version will mount the engine longitudinally.
Another piece of F1 tech lives here: an electric exhaust-gas turbocharger, or if you're down with F1 parlance, an MGU-H. Also found in the upcoming Project One hypercar, the MGU-H consists of an electric motor sandwiched into the engine's turbocharger, allowing its turbine to spin and generate boost before the exhaust gas can fully spool it up. This means better throttle response and power that comes on earlier.
While specific figures are not yet available, Mercedes-AMG promises that a four-cylinder E Performance powertrain will be capable of output in excess of current nonhybrid V8 AMG models. We'll see the first application of this tech in the next-generation C-Class.
EVs on the horizon
E Performance might be the new hotness, but Mercedes-AMG is also looking beyond performance hybrids. Later this year, AMG will unveil its first battery-electric performance vehicle. Based on upcoming Mercedes-EQ models, just as current AMGs are derived from Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, the cars will pack the usual AMG modifications that focus on increasing the sportiness while ramping up aggressive aesthetics inside and out. AMG's first BEV will sport an electric motor on each axle and will, according to the automaker, offer performance on par with current V8 AMGs. And yes, there'll be a special soundtrack piped through the speakers.
Mercedes-AMG has quite the year ahead.