The BMW / Mercedes performance parts and engineering departments have a lot to be proud of.
As if their standard vehicles weren’t good enough, M and AMG took these brilliant products as a foundation for building some of the most exciting sports and performance cars the world had ever seen. For American customers, their first taste of a Mercedes-Benz AMG model was the C36 in 1993. Other than the low-volume BMW M1, it was the M535i and e28 M5 that saw the M division really take flight in the 1980’s.
Fast forward to today, and the AMG and M line of performance models have morphed into an entire range of performance cars sitting atop almost every model line produced by each manufacturer. The biggest step taken by these brands over the last 12 or so months has been the commitment to ‘light’ versions of the full-power AMG and M models. This has allowed BMW and Mercedes to go lights out at the top of the range, but to expand their performance offerings to a wider market.
An example of this new strategy is the recently introduced Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupé. Powered by a 362-hp, twin-turbo V6 motor, it’ll still get you to 60 mph in a quick 4.6 seconds. It also comes with a quick-shifting 9G-TRONIC transmission with a double-declutching function. With its diamond radiator grille, big wheels, and prominent AMG badging, you’d struggle to tell this car apart from its more rebellious C63 sibling. In the eyes of many, the C43 is said to be the better overall car. Why? Well, with the vast hikes in power of Merc’s top AMG models, the ‘second-tier’ AMG models – like the C43 – take things down a notch, and it’s just enough to realize a more balanced, controllable machine, and certainly one that’s better suited to everyday driving conditions.
Over at BMW, ‘M-light’ has spawned the M550i xDrive and M760Li xDrive. Judging by the performance figures of these beasts, one does wonder if the upcoming M5 might be able to launch itself to the moon. Consider that the M550i is said to haul itself to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, which makes it faster than the outgoing M5. Thanks to better traction from the four-wheel drive system and reduced weight, this is possible. The M760Li, despite its heftier bulk, shaves 0.2 seconds off that time to earn it the distinction of being BMW’s fastest car – ever. That’s hard to believe considering it’s also the biggest and most luxurious. Still, despite their outrageous on-paper performance, these models remain as cossetting as ever and, from the outside, provide few signs that point to their performance potential. It’s a prospect that has our performance and styling department salivating, so if you are the lucky owner of one of these gems, we’d love to show you what’s possible in terms of customization. Still, customized or not, BMW has beautifully set the scene for the arrival of the new M5.
M and AMG: Growth or Dilution?
While the cars covered in this piece are undoubtedly great machines, many enthusiasts have questioned whether the widening of the M and AMG brands will dilute rather than strengthen them. After all, these badges were once only fitted to the most exclusive and revered of BMW and Mercedes cars. Our opinion? The wizards at M and AMG are seasoned enough to have imbued even these secondary sports models with enough magic to make them successful in their own right. We believe there is a strong market for these offerings, and can’t wait to see what these German giants come up with next!