As AMG Continues Development, Is M Resting on its Laurels?

Something hit me the other day as I was watching Chris Harris drift an AMG E63 around a corner. Mercedes AMG has a history of following up the standard Merc production cars with an AMG version mere months afterwards. But they don ‘t stop there. They continue to develop each model and release an thorough update when the standard car goes through the typical mid-model refresh (again just months afterwards). What it allows AMG to do is wait for the release of the corresponding M car, evaluate it and then attempt to trump it with the refresh. What does BMW M do? Nothing.


Granted we ‘ve never drive an AMG product we ‘ve have over the corresponding M car. But This constant refinement is an approach that has to be applauded. In adding power, refining software and even offering all wheel drive AMG has seriously upped the ante in the high power performance sedan segment with the E63. And that ‘s not to mention the “S ” model (which turns it all up to 11) that is rumored to be coming to all AMG models. One has to wonder if M have plans to do anything similar?

There ‘s rumor the CSL returning to the next generation M3/M4 and potentially even a faster and more performance oriented F10 M5. But how will they be marketed and priced if they make it to market? And will BMW start working in LCI updates as well?

BMW M has all the heritage and prestige on their side along with a key former AMG employee. But Mercedes AMG is clearly determined to win the hearts, minds and (most importantly) wallets of the enthusiast consumer.

(Watch Chris Harris drive the E63 at around the 5:50 mark)

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  • Roland Renno

    Difference between AMG and BMW M is simple:

    AMG develops while BMW builds.

    What does that mean?

    It means AMG develops cars already built by Mercedes-Benz, modifies them to a certain extent, and sells them with a special signature.

    BMW M builds cars from scratch with most parts built specifically to fit the M model’s needs.

    And now to put it into an example, take the AMG C63 and the M3, and ask yourself a question: is the engine (core of each car) of the C63 shared with other models? The answer is known by everyone and that is a YES. Is the engine of the M3 shared with other models? NO. Same thing goes with other parts, except the differential and gearbox which is shared among M models.

    • Very well said. And that’s part of the mystic of M – I couldn’t agree more. However one issue M will having in the turbo era is the loss of bespoke power plants. As the engines become more closely tied to series production will that hurt the mystic a bit?

      • Adam

        I’m kind of wondering if maybe the reason AMG are getting so close is because in the past (until maybe 5 years ago) their cars were such crap. They could do a lot to improve them while BMW… There isn’t a ton of things they can or need to change for an LCI. That’s my analysis, I do feel that some of the passion and energy in M’s engineering has calmed a bit, that’s the best way I can word it.

      • johnparke

        I think you are forgetting that this past generation of M-engines (S85 and S65) are a fluke. The S14, S50, S52, S54, S62, S70 were all motorsports engines that were based off of the standard M-Series blocks. The M88 (and S38), S65, and S85 were the only bespoke engines fitted to M cars.

      • Dylan

        Maybe. But the 1M has its own mystic and critics seldom picked holes in the engine. I don’t think cars such as the Lotus Elise are less special because of their shared engines. I think it’s undeniable that M cars lose a little something with a shared engine platform, but the car is ultimately the sum of its parts and there are plenty of other components that can be worked on. And it’s not like the series engines are a poor starting point. They are amazing in their own right, which is why they can work so well in an M product. Surely?

    • Jb

      I’m a little confused with this analogy — the C63 doesn’t share its engine with any normal AMG spec cars — and in fact, the only car that it currently shares a “related” engine with is the SLS AMG. I don’t think any auto enthusiast would mind that. Just like the e90/2/3, the C63 gets special seats, interior bits, wheels, suspension — and a transmission shared with some other AMG models. Granted, there is no double clutch or “old school” manual — which is obviously more engaging than the C63’s multi-clutch – torque converterless box, but I’m not sure what the difference is with development. Both are manufactured on their more sedate counterpart’s construction lines as well.

  • Dr Obnxs

    I just spent some seat time in the C65 MAB Black Edition at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The car is so seriously capable that only a real race driver could take it far enough to show any weakness in the car other than the (in)competence of the driver! The production philosophies of the two companies may be different, but the products that they are putting out are seriously capable. So much so, that one has to really amplify small issues in order to really call one “better” than the other.

    Personally, I think that MB had given up some of the harder performance edge into luxury/GT territory for too long, and it’s been coming back to hard core performance with a vengence!

    The M6 was seriously fast at the track as well. Yet another car that has capabilities way beyond my abillities to reach. But the product evolution of BMWs has been different. They never really gave up on the performance edge, but have played “keeping up with the Joneses” to the MB luxury game. I think the most honest criticism isn’t that BMWs aren’t competitive from a performance perspective, but rather that one can’t as easily as get pure performance versions of it’s cars as easily as with MB. Seems like there is a Black Edition pretty much everything out there! (anyone for a Smart AMG Black Edition with the CLA450 AMG motor in it? 😉 )

    Since so few drivers can really get to the performance envelope where an AMG this or M that are really a “better” performance car, the debates are fodder for many words in both print and on line that rather pointless excersizes in brand loyalty.

    Now, back to the performance devisions. They both make great cars. They both make very capable cars. But I have to think that BMW could be making more money and more drivers happy, if they peppered more special versions about like AMG does with Black Series cars and the like. Maybe the new 1 series M would have been less “special” if there had been more CSLs and the like running around, maybe not because it’s a seriously fun car. But there sure would be a lot more happy BMW track rats if they could get a more true sporting car out of M without having to buy a full on race chassis!