But will this be a bad thing?
There was a time when a vast majority of high-performance cars were rear-wheel-drive only. Audi was one of the sole exceptions with its Quattro all-wheel-drive system. But times change and so do buyers’ tastes. Autocar has confirmed with Mercedes-AMG boss Tobias Moers that the next-generation vehicles will feature standard AWD. "Customers have given us the answer, and most want four-wheel drive,” he said. "Back in the days when we had an AMG E-Class as rear-wheel drive and with four-wheel drive as an option, over 90 percent chose 4WD. In the new E63 with drift mode, you have a real rear-wheel-drive car but with four-wheel drive also.”
Fortunately, AMG developed a clutch-based four-wheel drive system that sends up to 100 percent of engine torque to either the front or rear axle. Engaging Drift Mode simply shuts off power to the front axle for a full-on RWD experience.
And yes, the next AMG GT supercar will have a likely updated version of this technology as standard. "When I ask customers about the GT, they ask me about all-wheel drive. Regarding our competition, this is the downside of the AMG in terms of usability. People in Munich, for example, always, always ask for four-wheel drive – I think it’s for safety and stability.”
North American customers are not only looking at Audi’s acclaimed AWD system but also BMW’s own shift towards AWD.
Like Moers implied, AMG needs to respond to its competitors. And if you think you’ll miss traditional RWD, then also be prepared for yet another significant AMG change: its famed V8 engine is going hybrid. Can’t say we’re in the least bit surprised as there have been plenty of well-sourced rumors claiming this was going to happen. But the combination of hybrid V8s and standard AWD will certainly change AMG as we currently know it.
Question is, will those changes ultimately be for the best in terms of improved emissions, performance, and handling? We’ll see.
Oh, and one more thing: no more V12s. The S65 Final Edition shown at Geneva last month has the last V12 in the AMG range. "We’re still responsible for V12s – maybe Maybach is going to use them in the next-generation S-Class, but not AMG,” Tobias added. "Having a high-powered competitive V12 would be a new engine, and in the new times there is no room to do that.” Could AMG’s engine downsizing go even smaller than V8s like, say, a turbocharged six-cylinder? "There is room for speculation there,” Moers said.