There have been many big-displacement AMGs over the years, but these are the most special.
AMG is synonymous with big V8 engines and smoking tires, having produced some of the best sounding, most hooliganistic performance cars the world has known. But before establishing itself as a semi-standalone performance division responsible for the development of current Mercedes-AMG models, AMG was once an independent tuning house that dabbled with a range of vehicles, even including Hondas in their repertoire.
Founded by 2 ex-Mercedes engineers – men by the name of (A)ufrecht and (M)elcher, the former hailing from (G)roßaspach – it was always Mercedes-Benz that the tuner would specialize in; and the two brands have collaborated on some truly special models throughout the years. Though there are many big-displacement AMGs that have won our hearts over the years, we decided to pick just 10 that we thought were the most special. So here they are – in order of age…
Before Mercedes-Benz and AMG got together as a business acquisition, AMG took a 1971 300SEL 6.3 luxury sedan and turned it into a fearsome race car, sparking the beginning of the insanity that would continue for more than 50 years. AMG enlarged the 6.3-liter V8 engine to 6834 cc in displacement with a 420 hp output. To reduce weight, AMG replaced the doors with aluminum ones, but retained the rear seats and wooden trim panels inside.
They then equipped racing suspension, a roll cage, and a unique red livery and went racing at the 24 Hours of Spa, where laughing spectators dubbed it the ‘Red Pig’ amongst its lightweight paddock-mates. The joke was on everyone else though as the first AMG-badged racecar won its class and finished second overall, establishing the AMG name for all to see.
Though there was a factory-equipped AMG power package for the Mercedes-Benz 190E Evo II – famed for its big wing – it wasn’t a full AMG model. However, the 190E 3.2 AMG was. It was the first AMG model to be sold through Mercedes’ dealerships with a Mercedes warranty, though only about 200 cars were actually made and sold. It was dubbed the ‘Baby Hammer’ and featured a 3.2-liter inline 6 cylinder with 231 hp and 234 lb-ft. Those unlucky not to purchase one of the 200 could buy the engines and body kit from AMG for retrofitted upgrades to their own 190Es.
The Mercedes-Benz 300CE 6.0 AMG wasn’t the first to be dubbed ‘The Hammer’, but it was the hardest hitting of all that were. Based on the W124 300CE Coupe, AMG shoehorned a revised W126 S-Class V8, enlarging it to 6.0 liters and upping outputs to 380 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque. The heavy hitting coupe cracked 0-60 mph in less than 5 seconds and went beyond the 186 mph mark – well into supercar performance territory. Equipped with a wide body kit, AMG exhaust, and famous ducktail spoiler, the 300CE 6.0 AMG Hammer was unmistakable – and arguably the car that sparked negotiations for exclusivity between AMG and Mercedes.
Shortly before Mercedes-Benz officially acquired AMG in 1999, the pair worked on an FIA GT1 racecar – the CLK GTR. Using a rival McLaren F1 GTR for developmental purposes, the CLK GTR never quite reached its full on-track potential. But in 1999 when the FIA GT1 classes were cancelled, AMG followed through on homologation promises and built 26 road-legal specimens, including 6 roadsters. They featured a mid-mounted 6.9-liter V12 developing 612 hp and 572 lb-ft, a 6-speed sequential transmission, and carbon fiber bodywork, and they’re seen as the predecessor to the upcoming Mercedes-AMG Project One.
One of the rarest and largest displacement AMGs ever built is next on our list. Only 85 of them were produced, from 1997 to 2001, the Mercedes-Benz SL73 AMG was equipped with a 7.3-liter V12 engine that developed 518 hp and 553 lb-ft. It carried the SL73 to 186 mph after a 0-60 mph sprint of 4.8 seconds – rapid for its time. Although provided by AMG and Mercedes, you had to buy an SL600 first, and then hand the car to AMG for the upgrade. The upgraded engine famously lived on for many years as the driving force behind the much-loved Pagani Zonda.
The second generation Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG debuted in 2002 at the Paris Motor Show for a 2003 launch. Powered by a 5.4-liter supercharged V8, it supposedly produced a hefty 469 hp and 520 lb-ft of torque, though in reality it actually produced an extra 21 hp to match the S55 AMG. It was mated to a 5-speed automatic gearbox as it was the only one Mercedes had that could handle all that torque; torque which made the E55 AMG famous as one of the most brutal in-gear accelerating cars of its era.
The second SL on our list is the Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series. It was known for its horrible turning circle amongst detractors, but the coupe was an exercise in weight savings (550 pounds lighter than a regular 65) and power gains – trading out a convertible soft-top for a lighter fixed carbon fiber roof, while the 6.0-liter bi-turbo V12 developed 661 hp and monster torque of 740 lb-ft, all delivered through the rear wheels. A wide body kit and retractable spoiler completed a look that can only be described as completely badass!
The return of the gullwing Mercedes! 2010’s Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG brought with it the iconic gullwing doors made famous by the 300SL, and it was the first car to be engineered and built entirely by AMG. At the time, it featured the world’s most powerful naturally aspirated series production engine, the 6.2-liter M159 V8 that started with 563 hp, but would end up developing 622 hp in the Black Series model. Though it was more of a super-GT than outright supercar, the SLS AMG’s iconic styling and characterful V8 are unforgettable.
Available only in a coupe body style, the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series featured flared arches, an in-your-face rear spoiler, and a tire-shredding 6.2-liter M156 engine that heralded the end of an era for AMG’s naturally aspirated V8s. It may have been dynamically shown up by the BMW M3 GTS, but its over-the-top styling, incredible hot-rod noise, and 510-hp engine tune meant that nobody cared about any BMW after having a go in the C63 Black Series. With the new W205 C63 featuring a downsized, turbocharged V8, the C63 Black Series remains a legend for the AMG brand.
A precursor to the facelift of the Mercedes-AMG GT range, the AMG GT R debuted wearing a Panamericana grille and AMG Green Hell Magno paint. Dubbed ‘The Beast of the Green Hell’, it lapped the Nurburgring in 7:10.92 and heralded an era for Mercedes-AMG where control and poise matter more than smoky drifts. Built to directly rival the Porsche 911 GT3, the AMG GT R is the most composed AMG ever, featuring advanced technology like rear-wheel steering and a 9-stage traction control system. The 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 may not sound as soulful as the SLS AMG’s did, but with 577 hp and 520 lb-ft, it certainly has more muscle.