Mercedes-AMGs are known for big, brutish power that loves to go sideways. But what’s power without control?
To highlight the difference in how various AMG powertrains maintain—or lose—control, Mercedes-AMG offers a winter driving academy dubbed the AMG Winter Sporting event. Chief instructor Danny Kok says the point of attending is to experience and learn sliding in an AMG—and to have fun.
For a well-rounded experience, the 2018 Mercedes-AMG Winter Sporting event featured a healthy mix of vehicles that ranged from the twin-turbo V-8, rear-wheel drive C63 S sedan and all-wheel drive E63 S sedan, to the all-wheel drive CLA45 four-door coupe with a small turbocharged inline-4 under its hood.
Lots of power, difference in control
All three AMGs have an abundance of power that makes going sideways a breeze, but controlling that power is vastly different in each car.
The rear-drive C63 S with its 503-horsepower, 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 is a brute, and lives in the old days of AMG: big power and only the rear wheels turning. On ice and snow it’s extremely easy kick out the rear end and induce oversteer, despite riding on Lappi winter tires with 2.2 mm studs. But it takes concentration and coordination between the throttle and steering to keep control of the slide. Too much throttle or too much twist on the steering wheel results in either a spin, understeer, or worse, a crash.
A more executive approach is the all-wheel-drive E63 S sedan powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 huffing through twin-turbos. Its 603 hp is sent to all four wheels through a rear-wheel-bias all-wheel-drive system. Going sideways in the E63 S takes slightly more effort than with the rear-wheel-drive C63 S due to all four wheels clawing at the ice and snow, but its extra length, width, and heft all do it favors by increasing the mass to rotate. Head into a turn with enough speed, crank the wheel hard, and the rear end will happily still kick out. Once sliding around a corner sideways, it requires less effort to maintain control with all four wheels clawing for traction. The E63 wants to right my wrong with the front wheels clawing, and pulling the car through the turn. I disagree at the moment; the rear-bias for the all-wheel-drive system means I can keep the rear swinging for just a moment longer.
The CLA45 is the most surprising and the most entertaining of the AMG trio on hand at the AMG winter driving academy. A polar opposite to the V-8-powered AMGs, the CLA45 is a pocket rocket with a 2.0-liter turbo-4 producing 375 horsepower to a front-wheel biased all-wheel-drive system. With less weight than the two larger AMGs, the small CLA45 is by far the most tossable of the trio, making it more fun to charge into a corner with far too much speed, flick sideways, punch the brakes to break traction, countersteer, and then goose the throttle to maintain the slide. Should the car head in the wrong direction, dial in more steering and mash the throttle to the floor while maniacally laughing, the front-wheel-drive-based system will figure it out eventually.