What Is The Secret Ingredient That Turns A Mercedes-Benz Into An AMG?


These unique traits make AMGs special.

Everyone knows that the most hardcore models from Mercedes-Benz are affixed with an AMG badge. Today, AMG's performance cars rival competing cars from BMW's M division and Audi's Quattro GmbH. However, AMG wasn't always the high-volume performance arm of Mercedes-Benz. It actually started out as an independent engineering firm that specialized in improving the automaker's cars, much like Brabus today. In 1999, Daimler-Benz bought a controlling interest in AMG and became the sole owner of the tuning house in 2005.

AMG and Mercedes have teamed up to build incredible road cars as well as winning race cars, turning the brand into a household name.

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Like M and Quattro, AMG started off only building very special models based on a select few models from the Mercedes lineup. Now, the AMG brand has grown to encompass basically every car in the automaker's lineup and you can now buy an AMG version of every car that the Tri-Star makes. You might think that offering every single Mercedes model as an AMG would make the badge a little less special, but the German automaker continues to find ways to make these vehicles appealing. Over the years, the German tuners have utilized many great engines, including the 55 V8 Kompressor, and the 63 V8 M156. All AMG engines are unique because the company sticks to its "one man, one engine" mantra.

Look under the hood of an AMG car, and you'll find a plaque with the name of the builder who put your engine together by hand. This is a time-consuming and expensive process, but it's a great way to show off to friends that you bought a car with a hand-built engine. Mercedes could sell its cars with a much larger profit margin, but it keeps the one man, one engine philosophy because it helps to keep the cars special. So what else does Mercedes do to make AMG cars unique? Unlike BMW's M models, most of these cars are not meant for race track use. There are some exceptions, but most of these Stuttgart beasts are monsters of the street.

The AMG division is unique because it makes such a wide variety of vehicles. As such it is very difficult to compare one model to another. The CLA 45 is very different than the S63, which in turn is very different from the AMG GT. However, when you look at the entire range, there's a common theme. The current range of Mercedes cars have very elegant and slightly understated exteriors. On the inside, new models are supple and filled with technology. When a base Mercedes makes the jump to an AMG model, it doesn't go through a huge change on the exterior. Unless you have a keen knowledge of cars, you may not even be able to tell an AMG from a normal Mercedes.

Occasionally there will be a hardcore Black Series model with an outrageous body kit, but for the most part AMG cars blend in pretty well. Where these vehicles stand out is when you pin the throttle down. They are arguably the best sounding cars from the big three German luxury automakers. Even after AMG made the shift to turbocharged engines it managed to keep the amazing soundtrack. BMW M cars may have slightly more direct steering and better handling on the track, but on the road the more powerful AMG cars will thrill you in a straight line, and hold up with impressive handling. If you never plan on going to the track, an AMG car does make a lot more sense than a BMW M car.

Not all AMG cars are created equal. There are a few models that we highly recommend, and a few that are completely unnecessary. However, if you have the money, we don't think that there are many cars that can match the cool factor of an AMG.