The recently debuted Mercedes-Benz GLS SUV is an important car for AMG, even though it doesn't (yet) wear an AMG badge. The GLS580 marries an AMG-designed 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 with a 48-volt electric motor on the crankshaft, creating a mild-hybrid system. We spoke with AMG boss Tobias Moers at the 2019 New York International Auto Show, and he told us this electrified V-8 drivetrain previews the future for AMG.
"The development was done by us, including the 48-volt system. We're going to use that as well," Moers said. "Initially, we kicked it off for the 63 engines for the GLE and GLS, and now we've brought it to [the GLS 580]. It's part of the future. At the beginning of 2021, there will be no car launched without an electrified powertrain. We're heading fast in that direction ... I think the share of electrified powertrains is going to be higher in the performance segments than in other segments in 2025. It's the key to bringing that segment to the future."
Mercedes-AMG's first hybrid powertrains arrived last year in the new 53-series cars. Those models pair a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six with a 48-volt-driven Integrated Starter Generator (ISG) and what the brand calls an Electric Auxiliary Compressor, which you can think of as an electric supercharger. The GLS 580 pairs a V-8 with the ISG, though it does without the electric compressor.
In the 53-series cars, the ISG and electric compressor help mitigate turbo lag, and Moers says AMG is working on additional ways to improve response in turbocharged engines.
Of course, AMG is also working on a crazy hybrid system for the One hypercar, which will use an electric turbocharger, a crankshaft-mounted electric motor and an electric motor driving each front wheel, all enhancing the output of its Formula 1-derived 1.6-liter V-6. The AMG GT Four-Door had an electric motor driving the front axle when it debuted as a concept back in 2017, and Moers said this setup will be offered on the production car in the coming years. He also noted that the hybrid V-8 electric front axle could become the drivetrain of choice for future 65-series AMG models, replacing the soon-departing 6.0-liter V-12. The 420-hp turbo four-cylinder in AMG's upcoming 45-series cars won't have any hybrid elements.
It's challenging to add electrified elements to performance-car drivetrains, mainly because of the weight gain that comes with added batteries. AMG's strategy so far, as seen in the 53-series cars, has been to add electrified elements that boost power without including a battery pack (and thus, without the ability to drive in EV-only mode). Based on our recent experience in an E53, the system works well. We're curious to see what the next-generation of 63-series cars look like.