I read that when Mercedes-AMG boss Tobias Moers heard the next C63 would need to adopt a hybrid four-cylinder engine, so that Mercedes could meet its CO2 emissions targets, he walked out of the meeting. And it wasn’t to go and buy celebratory bunting.
Moers likes multi-cylinder engines – making engines is what AMG started life doing, after all – and thinks V8s, as fitted to the C63 at the moment, are the heart of the company.
But the rules are the rules: big car makers need to find a way for their cars to emit an average of 95g/km of CO2 in 2021, phasing down to 81g/km by 2025 and 59g/km by the end of the next decade. There are minor complications based on weight and how many cars a company makes, but that’s the short of it. And if they don’t comply, they pay the EU money on every car they sell, for every g/km by which, on average, they miss the target.
Which means AMG isn’t the only one with grumpy engine enthusiasts. For companies on the breadline – which is most mainstream manufacturers, whose ambitions are a modest single-percentage-figure profit – finding 95 euros to pay per car, per g/km by which the whole fleet exceeds a target, is unthinkable. Increasing prices so customers pay it is no more palatable, either. And so they’ll meet it. Ask them and they’ll say: it’s not optional.
And yet the desire to bring you and me performance cars is still there. Which brings us not just a four-cylinder hybridised C63, but also a fast Peugeot 508 hybrid, the mooted rebirth of Vauxhall’s VXR as an electric-only performance brand and, at Ford, uncertainty about whether there can be a new Focus RS at all, given what we’ve come to expect of an RS.
Certainly, the days of just slapping a big engine in something and making a ‘halo’ model out of it are gone.
The will is there – because car companies like performance cars as much as we do and it’s good for them, overall – but in trying to find different ways to give them to us, there doesn’t seem to be the concession that customers would accept the ‘performance’ bit changing. Things go as they always have: a new model comes along, with more power than it had before, and it’s probably a bit bigger and heavier and faster and more capable, while trying to be less consuming.
And the next C63, my esteemed colleague Greg Kable reports, follows that path: it might have a 2.0-litre turbo engine but is still expected to make more than 500bhp, while electrification will surely offset any weight saving over halving the size of the engine.