The GT 73e represents quite a bold technical move by Mercedes-AMG. The firm’s long-standing clientele will be attracted for the obvious horsepower-related reasons – and not least because the firm has seen fit to keep its 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 in the car, unlike in the forthcoming C63 replacement. And while the idea of an eight-hundred horsepower pseudo super saloon does seem somewhat excessive in prospect, at least it’s not coming at the expense of a V8 combustion engine that, for me, remains absolutely at the core of the appeal of a modern AMG performance car – and should continue to.
What interests me more than that headline power claim, though, is what the car might gain by having a rear-mounted electric drive motor. AMG has previous with moving major drivetrain masses rearwards for the benefit of weight distribution: the GT two-door sports car has a rear-mounted transaxle twin-clutch gearbox, don’t forget, just as the SLS did before it. Now, by taking weight that might otherwise be born by the front wheels and mounting it over the rear ones, Affalterbach is at least adding mass to its big four-door GT in the most intelligent way it can. It’s probably bringing the car much closer to a 50:50 weight distribution in the process; might even be going beyond that, actually.
The GT 73e’s electric drive motor has a two-speed transmission of its own, and drives directly into the car’s active locking rear differential. It sounds like it can also use the car’s mechanical four-wheel drive system to drive the front wheels for short periods, too, when the combustion engine and primary nine-speed gearbox are effectively shut down.
So this isn’t a combustion-powered front axle and an electrified rear one, such as the Polestar 1 had. Rather, it sounds like a way to put the torque of that electric motor right where it might have the greatest influence on the GT 73e’s handling, but also to allow a rearward primary torque bias from the V8 simultaneously. It also promises to put the associated weight of all that in the place where it might best be carried without adversely affecting the handling of the car too much.
Suddenly, then, I’m a lot more interested to drive this car than I was about half an hour ago. Moreover, that this same plug-in hybrid drive concept – which AMG is calling a ‘P3’ hybrid – will also serve under the electrified replacement for the C63 seems to me at least some reason to be cheerful about that car.
Quite clearly it’ll still be nothing like the V8 bruiser we’ve come to love over the last decade or so; and I sincerely hope AMG doesn’t try to paper over the cracks, and to synthesize a V8 audible character for the car that simply isn’t there. That would be a real error of judgement. AMG customers should not be treated like idiots.
But if they can create an appealing character of its own for the next C63’s hot four-pot engine, and couple it to the handling advantages of this new rear-biased hybrid setup, who knows what kind of new-age super saloon they might make.