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Everything you need to know about Mercedes-AMG

AMG is today the performance arm of Mercedes-Benz, but how much do you know about its origins and history?

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Anyone with a basic knowledge of car matters might think that AMG is to Mercedes-Benz what GTI is to Volkswagen, RS to Ford – the badge hung on the back of the more potent versions of the cars.

Ask a motorsport fan, however, and you’ll get a very different answer. From its track debut at the end of the 1960s, AMG formed its own fearsome reputation on the motorsport circuit, choosing to work its magic on Mercedes models and engines, and its success encouraging the three-pointed star to first accept AMG, then encourage it and eventually take it over.

Mercedes has since fully incorporated AMG into its mainstream range while ensuring the racing pedigree is not diluted – a pedigree that extends all the way up to the pinnacle of Formula One.

So who or what is Mercedes-AMG?

The three letters that make up AMG refer to “two men and a village”. The company was founded as a racing engine business in 1967 by former Mercedes-Benz engineers Hans Werner Aufrect and Erhard Melcher, and the name represents their surnames plus Großaspach, the town where Aufrecht was born and where the two men began working together. Hence Aufrecht-Melcher-Großaspach, or AMG.

AMG first offered engine upgrades to Mercedes-Benz cars, which quickly expanded to include handling and styling packages and alloy wheels. Over the next 25 years, the firm became renowned as a producer of high-performance versions of Mercedes-Benz product, as well as continuing with racing engine production. In the mid 1980s AMG was credited with offering the fastest saloon car on the road market – its version of the E-Class, known as the Hammer.

In 1993, Mercedes-Benz and AMG signed a formal co-operation agreement which led to AMG cars being officially sold by Mercedes dealers and the two companies producing joint cars, the first of these being the Mercedes-Benz C36 AMG, launched in 1993.

Six years later, Mercedes-AMG was created when DaimlerChrysler (at that time owner of the Mercedes-Benz brand) took a 51% controlling stake in AMG. The racing engine business was hived off to become HWA (after Hans Werner Aufrecht), and in 2005 the takeover was complete when Aufrect sold his remaining shares to DaimlerChrysler.

Since then, AMG has been the performance arm of Mercedes-Benz. Almost every Mercedes model can have styling parts fitted to give it the AMG look, but you will only find the full engine and chassis packages in models designated as Mercedes-AMG.

AMG has also developed its own bespoke models for Mercedes-Benz, rather than just modifying regular models. The SLS (pictured below) was AMG’s first complete car, followed by the SLS’s successor, the AMG GT. There’s also been a GT 4-Door – in reality, a modified E-Class saloon, and the AMG One supercar.

What models does Mercedes-AMG have and what else is coming?

In short, Mercedes-AMG has a high-performance version of almost every Mercedes-Benz model, including the electric EQE and EQS models. Choices range from the little A-Class hatch or saloon right up to the in-your-face G-Class SUV (pictured above) with most models in between, usually with all-wheel drive.

Among the most highly regarded is the Mercedes-AMG SL, as AMG was given the job of developing the latest version of the famous Mercedes roadster and it shares most of its underpinnings with the new Mercedes-AMG GT coupé and roadster, which are due to arrive in UK showrooms shortly. Then there are the ‘core’ AMG variants of the C-Class and E-Class ranges, which are the most common models you’ll see on the streets.

Mercedes-AMG has also produced a very special hypercar. The AMG One (pictured below) is a sports car with a dual plug-in hybrid powertrain and is designed to showcase the brand’s Formula One technology, with the Mercedes F1 team contributing to the car’s development. The first of just 275 planned production cars was delivered in January 2023.

Next on the agenda for Mercedes-AMG are expected to be potent versions of the CLE coupe – the CLE 53 has more than 450hp while the output of the CLE 63 is yet to be revealed but expected, with the aid of a plug-in hybrid powertrain, to close in on 700hp. Plug-in hybrids are also set to be the power behind new AMG variants of the GLC and E-Class.

Current Mercedes-AMG range on our Expert Rating Index

Mercedes-AMG EQE saloon

Mercedes-AMG EQE saloon

Mercedes-AMG CLA 45

Mercedes-AMG CLA 45

Mercedes-AMG SL

Mercedes-AMG SL

Mercedes-AMG GLB 35

Mercedes-AMG GLB 35

Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster

Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster

Mercedes-AMG GT 4 Door

Mercedes-AMG GT 4 Door

Mercedes-AMG GT Coupé

Mercedes-AMG GT Coupé

Mercedes-AMG A 45

Mercedes-AMG A 45

Mercedes-AMG A 35

Mercedes-AMG A 35

Where can I try a Mercedes-AMG car?

AMG is these days fully integrated into the Mercedes-Benz line-up and therefore you don’t need to seek out specialist dealers – any one of the brand’s close to 140 UK outlets will gladly sell you an AMG model, directing you to their ‘AMG Performance Centre’.

The flagship location is Mercedes-Benz World, opened in 2006 on the famed pre-war banked race track of Brooklands in Surrey.

The centre is designed to appeal to the whole family but a core element of it is to let potential owners experience the performance and handling of Mercedes-AMG in the relatively safe surroundings of a closed circuit.

What makes Mercedes-AMG different to the rest?

AMG certainly has a unique heritage – two former Mercedes employees starting their race shop, leading to a privateer vehicle modification business for Mercedes-Benz cars that ultimately ended up being bought by the company to become its official performance and racing division.

While most of the models in the AMG range have little real motorsport pedigree, the company focuses very keenly on giving its cars plenty of emotion and feeling – far in excess of any regular Mercedes-Benz model. Whether it can continue to achieve the same results with its all-electric models remains to be seen, although the AMG EQE and EQS models have been praised by the motoring media.

A Mercedes-AMG fact to impress your friends

AMG might be considered a totally Mercedes-Benz operation but you will find its badge in cars of other marques.

The Lotus Emira uses an AMG four-cylinder engine, while Mercedes has been steadily increasing its stake in Aston Martin, with the British sports car maker using AMG engines and other Mercedes technology. And you can find AMG engines in a real supercar – the Pagani models (Zonda, Huayra and Utopia all feature Mercedes-AMG V8 motors).

Summary 

Manufacturers like to designate their performance models with bespoke badges and try to build some kudos around them, but Mercedes doesn’t have to work at it with AMG as the racing reputation came with the brand.

You can buy AMG parts to add to your Mercedes, but only if it is a proper performance model will that car wear on its boot  the much-desired and hugely regarded three letters of AMG.  

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.