AMG says its next step is a hybrid, hinting that it will produce a smaller, less expensive sports coupe than the SLS.
The all-wheel drive SLS electric coupe, based loosely on a petrol-fuelled SLS, is the company's most powerful production car, silently spooling up 552kW/1000Nm for a 0-100km/h time of 3.9 seconds - the same acceleration as next year's SLS Black Series.
But though AMG has admitted an all-electric car isn't in its future, it has yet to even start production of its coupe. It doesn't become available to customers until June next year. “Zero emissions doesn't mean zero fun,” says AMG drivetrain boss Fritz Eichler.
“Pure electric cars are for enthusiasts. It is a completely new driving experience. But I see this as a limited edition model. “It is very expensive to make and buy. For us, it is not a profitable experience.” He says AMG will build be “about 200'' of the electric coupe before turning off the switch. But it will use the experience to then develop a hybrid coupe and other hybrids, likely to be based on the Mercedes A-Class platform.
“The sports car family will grow,” he says. “Maybe a smaller sports car in the future. Our e-cell knowledge will be used in the future sports cars.” Mr Eichler says AMG - which builds the SLS and the Electric Drive Coupe - had “the same idea as Audi - pure electric.” But the wheels of the concept fell off when Eichler learnt that Audi's R8 e-tron couldn't complete more than 1.5 laps of the 20km Nurburgring circuit.
“We have a much better range but still we are limited,” he says. “We can do a bit more than two laps. A 250km range is normal but not under race conditions. “We can do five to six laps at Hockenheim (circuit, with a 4.6km lap), at the moment - then we have five to eight hours of waiting,” he says in relation to the battery recharging time.
Despite the lightweight construction of the SLS Electric Drive Coupe - previously dubbed e-cell - the coupe is more than 2000kg. Mr Eichler says that an electric motor is much more efficient that a petrol engine but the weight of its components, mainly the batteries, slows it down. The AMG Coupe Electric Drive has four electric motors each coupled to a wheel. Eichler describes it as “an F1 car for the road”.
“It develops 552kW/1000Nm - the torque at just over zero revs – to make it the most powerful AMG powerplant ever,” he says. “It has the next generation electronic stability control system that has torque vectoring to each wheel. “It's possible you wouldn't need steering, merely apply different torque to each wheel - and even reverse wheels to make it turn on the spot.”
But though technically alluring, Mercedes-Benz Australia won't import the exclusive left-hand drive coupe - estimated to cost about $1 million when production starts mid-2013 - though admits “one or two'' may be privately imported. “It won't be made in right-hand drive,” says the company's Australian spokesman Jerry Stamoulis.
“One, maybe two cars may come into Australia. But they'd be private imports as we aren't selling the car here. “The car is a test bed for the future. In Europe, for its customers there, it's effectively a trial of the technology by the owners who report to AMG. “There's no price list but in Europe the car would be about the equivalent of $1 million.”