We are entering a new era of performance sedans

Super sedans are set to become faster than ever before, but unlike anything we currently know and love

Mercedes AMG badge C63 S

Talking Points

  • Iconic performance brands turning electric
  • Big power for future four door models
  • Tesla Model S Plaid+ boasts crazy performance figures

A new era of performance sedans is about to begin, with the three German powerhouses of Mercedes-AMG, Audi RS, and BMW M moving into the full-electric segment, and using hybrid power to offset dwindling cylinder counts.

AMG is a perfect encapsulation of this inevitable change. Previously a key accelerator of the power wars amongst the German manufacturers (and the remaining V8 hold-out in the mid-size performance sedan segment), the in-house tuners for Mercedes-Benz are about to ditch one of its most popular engines and also build its first performance EV.

We now know the entire C-Class family of models will be powered by four-cylinder engines exclusively. Yes, even those with AMG badges on the boot. That means no more 4.0-litre twin-turbo M177 powerhouse. Instead, a potent four-cylinder engine will be paired with a battery pack for combined total system outputs in excess of 480kW at the apex of the range. For reference, the current-gen C63 S is rated at 375kW/700Nm. It is unclear what this shift means for the future of the M177/178 in other AMG products.

Taking one of its most popular models, removing its bent-eight USP, and going hybrid is just the beginning, AMG preparing its first fully electric models at the same time. Mercedes-Benz COO and R&D boss Markus Schäfer confirmed recently that AMG will be developing and launching performance variants for a number of the company’s fully electric EQ models (like the forthcoming EQA).

“An electrical platform in the direction of AMG is coming,” he confirmed, adding “there will be performance variants of the EQA, B, S, E.” The last two will be electric performance siblings to the S63 and E63, while the EQB is based on the GLB seven-seat SUV.

In Munich, BMW has its M division working on the fully electric i4. Despite packing 390kW and a 4 sec 0-100km/h sprint, CEO Markus Flasch has downplayed the outright performance credentials of the first M car to be produced sans internal combustion. “It’s not just about power output and longitudinal performance,” he said last year.

While AMG and M are yet to reveal its first EV performance sedan, their native rivals at Audi have already stolen a march with the RS e-tron GT, which uses motors on the front and rear axles for a total system output of 440kW/830Nm, power peaking to 475kW during what Audi calls ‘overboost’. This equates to a claimed 0-100km/h of 3.3 seconds and 0-200km/h of 11.8 seconds.

The AMG, RS, and M EVs will all have a single American benchmark to beat, the Tesla Model S Plaid+, which was recently revealed, with production set to begin imminently (though right-hand drive production could be a while away).

The fastest Tesla to date uses three electric motors for a total system output of 820kW with Tesla claiming a 0-100km/h time of less than two seconds, and quarter mile timeslip of 9.23 seconds. That’d get you kicked out of your local drag strip in short order. Top speed is claimed to be 320km/h.

Note that Tesla’s figures subtract a 1-foot rollout from its 0-100km/h claim. Add a couple tenths at least for the full-fat figure. In its release, Tesla has attempted to return fire at Porsche by stating the new powertrain is “capable of back-to-back, consistent 1/4 mile runs” which seems a tacit admission that the old Tesla powertrain wasn’t capable of the same feat.

The Tesla Model S Plaid+ already has local pricing of $237,970.

It’s an intriguing time. Some manufacturers are hedging while others are pushing all the chips in on EVs. The winners are car buyers who, in the medium term at least, will be offered a level of choice we’ve never seen before.

 

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