Awesome Mercedes-Benz Cars That Didn't Need Help From AMG

Car Culture / Comments

You don't need an AMG badge to be cool.

Nothing grabs a reader's eye like the latest and greatest fire-breathing lunatic-grade AMG-badged Mercedes model. However, cars from the speed-freaks at AMG are just a slither of what Mercedes brings to the table. Most importantly, here, and what often gets forgotten, is that Mercedes doesn't need AMG to turn out fantastic cars. It's not just slick sedans either, although Mercedes will happily sell you some of the slickest sedans money can buy. The Mercedes range covers everything from hardcore off-road models to roofless cruisers with a sporty edge.

These are the ones we adore, and we're going to concentrate on the ones that Mercedes built from around the time it acquired AMG to become its in house tuning arm.

Canepa

1991-1994 Mercedes-Benz 500E

While the Mercedes AMG E60 was built using this chassis, the Mercedes-Benz 500E was something incredibly special in its own right. Mercedes commissioned Porsche to redesign the legendary W124 chassis to accommodate the 5.0-liter V8 engine used in the Mercedes SL. When the car was ready to go into production, Mercedes learned it was too wide to produce on its assembly line. To solve that problem, Mercedes contracted Porsche to build the car, which was done by hand in Stuttgart. However, once they had a rolling chassis, the car had to be trucked over to the Mercedes plant in Sindelfingen to be painted before going back to Stuttgart for the engine to be fitted. The result was worth the effort, though. The 500E was an aggressive performance sedan with a brutal V8 under the hood making 320 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque.

It wasn't overt though, and can legitimately be called a sleeper. In fact, the automotive press called it the "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing." More cynical, the 500E has also been described as the first Porsche sedan.

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Canepa
Canepa
Canepa

Mercedes W221 S-Class

If you could call any generation of the Mercedes S-Class weak, it's the W220 model that ran through the 1999-2005 model years. Mercedes righted that ship with the next generation, bringing bold and aggressive styling that would set a new bar for the S-Class. The interior followed the same path with a new level of luxury and a less cluttered cabin.

The W221 generation also got a long list of engine options. Those included a 5.5-liter V8 making 380 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque for the S500 model, and a twin-turbo V12 for the S600 making 510 hp and 612 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes could have coasted on the S-Class's reputation, but instead doubled down to create the near-perfect executive luxury sedan.

Mercedes
Mercedes
Mercedes

Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren

Technically, you could argue this shouldn't be on the list what with its hand-built and supercharged AMG 5.4-liter engine under the hood. It also uses a AMG SPEEDSHIFT R automatic transmission, but Mercedes-Benz and McLaren Group created the end product. The Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren was first shown in 2003 and was inspired by the iconic Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR race car of the 1950s. Even though McLaren used carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic for the bodywork, it weighs 3,858 lbs. However, the front-mid mounted 617-hp supercharged V8 propels the SLR McLaren to 60 mph in just under 3.5 seconds. Add active aerodynamics to the mix, and you have one of the most epic grand touring cars ever built.

Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz
2008-2009 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Badge Mercedes-Benz
2008-2009 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Engine Bay Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz G-Class G550

When it comes to military-derived off-road machines, the Mercedes G-Wagen is an elegant brute. Production started in 1979 with a civilian version, which is today rightfully revered. The current generation improves on the utility and off-road prowess and looks of the original but adds a whole new layer of luxury and technology. Under the hood, it uses a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 produces 416 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. It'll sprint to 60 mph in just over 5.0 seconds and provide a smooth ride around town and on the freeway. That's what it will mainly be used for, but its off-road capability is what separates it from anything else. Three locking diffs make it as close to unstoppable through the slipperiest of conditions, while the suspension provides the kind of articulation Jeep owners like to show off about on Instagram.

2019-2020 Mercedes-Benz G-Class G550 Front View Driving Mercedes-Benz
2019-2020 Mercedes-Benz G-Class G550 Front View Driving Mercedes-Benz
2019-2020 Mercedes-Benz G-Class G550 Side View Driving Mercedes-Benz
2019-2020 Mercedes-Benz G-Class G550 Front View Driving Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Roadster

Back in the 1950s, California-based car importer, Max Hoffman, had a suggestion for Mercedes-Benz. He believed that a sport-based grand tourer built and marketed to well-heeled performance enthusiasts would be just the ticket for post-war America. The current R231 remains true to its demographic and shed a lot of weight compared to its preceding generation. It can be bought with a 362-hp V6 engine, but the SL 550 comes with a beast of a twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V8. As a sports car, we prefer its BMW equivalent, but a topless SL is impossible to beat as a sporty luxury cruiser.

Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes Sprinter

It's easy to forget that Mercedes builds vans and great ones at that. Many delivery drivers owe a lack of back problems, including this writer, to how comfortable and ergonomically designed they are. The Sprinter is surprisingly frugal for something with a Mercedes badge on the grill, but it's still a smooth ride and relentlessly reliable. The Sprinter first showed up on Europe's roads in 1995 and appeared in the US in the early 2000s with Mercedes, Dodge, or Freightliner badging. The current version comes standard with Mercedes' MBUX infotainment system and a four-cylinder diesel engine, while a V6 diesel engine and a host of driver assistance tech can be optioned.

2019-2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Cargo Van Front View Driving Mercedes-Benz
2019-2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Cargo Van Rear View Driving Mercedes-Benz
2019-2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Crew Van Front Angle View Mercedes-Benz
2019-2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Crew Van Rear Angle View Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes E-Class Wagon

Unfortunately, it's time to pour one out for the regular E-Class Wagon. Despite it being one of the most pleasant ways to cart a family around God's green earth, Americans aren't buying it. It's a shame because the E-Class Wagon has all the sleek sophistication, gorgeous interior, high-end tech, and feisty twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 of the standard E-Class, but with enough cargo space for a big dog or a week's worth of family luggage. Instead of a sleek road-hugging wagon, we'll get the E-Class All-Terrain, which is a lifted version with standard all-wheel-drive. In other words, a Subaru Crosstrek people won't want risk getting dinged by rock chips or have a muddy dog in the back of.

Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Maybach S

If you want the absolute pinnacle of Mercedes engineering, refinement, and luxury, then you buy a Mercedes Maybach S650. Granted, you'll need at least $173,000, but what you get is the level of luxury that hotels and private jet airplanes aspire towards. Of course, one simply doesn't buy a Maybach and drive it oneself, but it's good to know the twin-turbo V12 makes an eye-popping 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque, so you should never be late for a meeting or a flight.

It's the interior you really care about with an S-Class, and the Maybach S is dripping with style, comfort, and attention to detail. Nappa leather covers everything, including the ceiling, The standard feature list is exceptionally long, but then you can start ticking boxes for things like a refrigerator in the back, heated and cooled rear cupholders, folding tables, and silver champagne flutes.

Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz

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