I’d be exaggerating if I said I had to pull myself off the floor after first learning about Mercedes-AMG’s plan, but it certainly came as a shock.
We’ve always known the race to meet the 2021 95g/km fleet average CO2 regulations would bring about widespread downsizing, but so far, much of the performance market has been unaffected by this.
The bombastic V8 in today’s C63 is an integral part of the model’s character and gives it a USP above six-cylinder rivals from BMW and Audi. Recreating that character will be extremely difficult with a four-cylinder hybrid powertrain, but AMG’s engineers have as much technical know-how and financial might as anyone to make a success of it.
Again, it raises big questions about the future of the V8 in Europe. Traditionally, the popularity of AMG’s larger models in places such as the US and Middle East have offset the desire for greater efficiency here, but with parent firm Daimler potentially facing massive fines if it can’t bring down its CO2 output substantially, drastic action is needed. No doubt other car makers will be facing the same decisions.
Thankfully, our understanding is AMG's V8 still has (we hope) a good few years of life left in its for the larger, pricier AMGs - but Daimler won't want people to be buying them in huge numbers.
This decision is rumoured to have cast divisions between Mercedes-Benz and AMG bosses, with one insider claiming AMG boss Tobias Moers walked out of the meeting where the die was cast. There's undoubtedly a desire for change, but also passion within AMG to keep doing things the way it does best.
But there's a wider, societal debate here, too. Are we passing the point where huge cars with thumping great V8s and 15mpg capability are considered 'cool' by the general populous? Enthusiasts need to remember they are in the minority, and, with ever growing environmental pressure, such cars are surely becoming less desirable and realistic now. That discussion has been had several times in the last decade or so, but this really does feel like the tipping point now.