AMG Boss Declares Rear-wheel Drive Dead

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Mercedes-Benz + Bart Hickey

After axing the iconic V12 last year, AMG chief Tobias Moers is eager to make at RWD the latest casualty at Affalterbach. 

For the past few decades (in America, at least) we’ve been mourning as the slow decline of the manual transmission. But all the while, we’ve been missing the decline of another enthusiast staple: The rear-wheel drive layout. Save for muscle cars and some trucks, American manufacturers largely gave up the ghost on RWD years ago. The Europeans have seemingly kept it alive until this point, but in a recent interview with Autocar, Mercedes-AMG chief Tobias Moers seemed to stick a knife right in the layout’s heart. According to him, RWD is the next thing to go over at Affalterbach.

There have been warning signs, of course. Over in the Old World, most of the market is made up of compacts and subcompacts, and the majority of them are FWD. BMW ditched a true RWD-layout for its current M5, and even the Porsche 911 buyers seem to favor AWD. But Mercedes has always been more traditional than its competitors. And, they’ve made some incredible RWD cars of late. But that kind of sentimentalism isn’t enough to overrule Moers’ pragmatism.

Mercedes-AMG GT 53 4MATIC+ 4-Door Coupe. Austin 2018

Looking Toward the future, Not the Past 

“Customers have given us the answer, and most want four-wheel drive,” he says, citing the advances in technology that give AWD an edge. “Back in the days when we had an AMG E-Class as rear-wheel drive and with four-wheel drive as an option, over 90 percent chose 4WD. In the new E63 with drift mode, you have a real rear-wheel-drive car but with four-wheel drive also.”

This is the latest development in a string of big changes at AMG. Just last week, Moers announced that every new AMG model from 2021 on will be electrified. 2019 marks the end of the V12-powered AMG S63. After that, the V12 is dead to the brand. And according to Motor1, the mighty AMG V8 could be next. Says Moers: “We’re still responsible for V12s – maybe Maybach is going to use them in the next-generation S-Class, but not AMG. Having a high-powered competitive V12 would be a new engine, and in the new times there is no room to do that.”

1955 Mercedes-Benz SL Gullwing - 2019 Acura Long Beach Grand Prix

So, just like that AMG, the tuners who rose to prominence behind the Red Pig, will soon be out of the big-displacement, rear-wheel drive business. Instead, it’s focusing on small displacement engines and electric powertrains. Looking at their recent efforts, we have no doubt that Mercedes’ tuners will stay at the top of the heap. But, we can’t help but want to raise a glass to the layout. The “new times” are plenty great, but this news has us feeling wistful for the good old days.

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James Derek Sapienza has worked as a writer and editor in the world of automotive journalism since 2015.

He has a BS in History at SUNY Brockport, with a focus on American popular culture. A fan of the classics with a special interest in German cars, he is a proud owner of a 1991 W124 Mercedes. He is a frequent contributor to Mustang Forums, MBWorld, 5Series, Rennlist, and more.

Sapienza can be reached at [email protected]

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