Is the world ready for a grand touring performance saloon, powered by a hybrid powertrain and from Mercedes-AMG?
Perhaps it would be better to ask if there is another performance car maker whose emergence has depended more squarely on the raw, unreconstructed allure of the V8? It’s doubtable. Ten years ago, the idea would have been laughable. Plenty might still laugh at it today.
And yet it’s happening. Mercedes’ in-house performance marque, right now in 2018, is in the final stages of preparing to launch a ‘halo’ hybrid hypercar with more than 1000bhp while already filtering a new breed of petrol-electric options into several strata of its showroom range that’s probably even more relevant and interesting to the majority of AMG owners than its incredible range-topping One will be.
Affalterbach’s first petrol-electric powertrain has, in fact, been squeezed snugly under the bonnet of this week’s road test contestant: the ‘C257’, third-generation Mercedes CLS, here to bid for your interest in new and intriguing ‘AMG 53’ suffixed form. So now we find out if Mercedes’ hybrid technology is mature enough to stand up to the kind of examination through which the Autocar road test team expects to put a proper super-saloon.
The CLS isn’t the only Mercedes-AMG model into which this hybrid powertrain – consisting of a 3.0-litre straight six with an intriguing system of forced induction and an electric motor hooked up to it – is being squeezed. There’s an E53 coupé and convertible, too, with most of the same vital statistics on power, performance, economy and emissions – although, for the moment, no other 53 models.
Mercedes-AMG is sticking broadly to the strategy of offering a hybrid 53 model on derivatives of its longitudinally engined cars where it doesn’t offer a 43 and 63; which means we shouldn’t expect one on any of its traditional saloons, at least for the time being.