We've seen this concept before, but nobody has openly suggested applying it to production cars.
Affalterbach's finest proudly revealed the 2024 Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance this week with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder hybrid powertrain. Yes, it's a tragedy that the V8 is dead. But take in all the upgrades for a second.
You have rear-axle steering - a first for the segment - and 671 horsepower at your disposal. 671! Sadly, you're stuck with all-wheel-drive and an automatic transmission in a bid to rein in 752 lb-ft of torque, but you do get the now-common Drift Mode, which allows you to slip the rears at will.
For those who can perform smoky (or snowy) powerslides with aplomb, this is great, giving them the ability to both launch hard for great 0-60-mph runs and let loose when the course is twisty. But what if Mercedes allows you to slide a car that you're not even seated in? That may be in the cards, according to a report from Down Under.
Australian site Carsales reports that Mercedes boss of global vehicle development Joerg Bartels, after being asked if autonomous drifting is technically possible and could be added to future high-performance offerings from AMG, replied, "An automatic drift mode? Yes." The boss reportedly also noted that dual- and quad-motor EVs would be ideal for such a feature.
We've already seen this concept on numerous occasions, most recently in a video from Toyota in which a driverless GR Supra slid its way to supervised stardom. And while Toyota claimed safety research for the project, it didn't close the door on a future Gazoo Racing being developed with the feature.
We love the idea of an automaker taking banal technology that would bore most enthusiasts to sleep and turning it into something that makes them sit up and pay attention - the McLaren P1's performance-focused approach to hybridization is a great example. But how would it work safely?
Road crashes are shockingly high already, and at the lowlife car meets where people drink and show off with no regard for the safety of themselves or others - who often step in harm's way for a sick angle on their TikTok video anyway - is a driverless drift missile a good idea? When some moron in oversized Jordans runs in front of a sliding C63 without warning and slips, who's to blame? Where does the car go? Toward the crowd standing too close or the solitary nincompoop?
Mercedes has previously said that it will take the blame for a crash that takes place while its industry-leading Drive Pilot is engaged, but we're sure there would be a disclaimer specifically excluding the drift function. The whole concept seems silly unless GPS-locked to the confines of a racetrack, which is where you may as well learn to do it yourself in the first place.
Fortunately, Bartels isn't confirming such a thing just yet and is also aware of the dangers. "You need to have a lot of space for something like this, and the only thing is, besides the torque vectoring, you would need drive-by-wire because you may need to take the steering away [from the driver]. Maybe it's coming," shrugged Bartels.
But let's ignore the safety aspect for a moment and assume the function is only deployed in a truly safe environment. There's nothing wrong with that - it just seems like cheating. The existing assistance from drift mode offerings across the spectrum was already a step too far in making heroes out of halfwits. Remotely activatable, they become genuinely obscene to the classical motoring enthusiast.
Bartels goes on to say that many of the features we're seeing lately are no more than novelties. The EQG Concept's G-Turn is nothing more than a party trick, and the bouncing Free Driving Mode in the Mercedes-Maybach GLS and other similar products is proof that pointless features attract viral attention.
Bartels admits that the G-Turn "is something you would do and show your neighbor, but it's not very helpful on rough conditions or during dynamic driving." So why add the feature? What's the point?
We've all been wowed by the flashing lights and flapping falcon-wing doors of the Tesla Model X, and some musicians have even used it in music videos as a flex to show how much money they have. Cars are no longer about engagement in the way that those who grew up on gasoline and carburetors understand it. The times are changing, and the youth of tomorrow don't care about developing driving skills as much as they do about developing a social media following. Novelty features that require little more than a button press on a glass screen are the future because carmakers are businesses that follow trends and money.
At least the money generated means that every now and then, something like the AMG One comes along to get the hands-on performance enthusiast's blood pumping again.