The eight best Mercedes-AMGs

13th May 2021
Henry Biggs

Formed as a builder of racing engines in 1967, AMG took its name from the first letter of the surnames of its founders, Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher plus Großaspach, the village where the former was born. Both were former Mercedes-Benz engineers and it wasn’t long before the company started forming an association with the three-pointed star’s products.


Throughout the 1980s AMG offered a range of unofficial performance, alloy wheel and styling upgrades to Mercedes models. The link between the two brands on a performance level became strong enough that in 1993 they signed a cooperation agreement allowing AMG upgrades to be sold through the Mercedes’ dealer network and joint model development.

Six years later Mercedes took a controlling stake in AMG, taking it over entirely in 2005. Despite the company’s beginnings, AMG-badged Mercedes are often less motorsport inspired than offerings from rival BMW M Sport, instead preferring the gentleman’s hot rod approach of enormous power allied with impressive levels of comfort. Here are our picks of the best.


The Red Sow

The Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3 was Mercedes doing AMG things before, well, AMG did; stuffing a monster 6.3-litre V8 engine from a limousine into a smaller car and creating the world’s fastest saloon of its day. Back then AMG was a manufacturer of racing engines and components so saw an opportunity to promote its engineering nous. The company acquired a crashed 300 SEL and converted it to competition spec, painted it red hence the name, and promptly finished second in the 1971 24 Hours of Spa (as pictured).

By the end of its racing career the Red Pig had an engine displacing 6.8-litres and produced 428PS (315kW). On retirement it was picked up by French industrial concern Matra in order to conduct high speed tests on jet fighter landing gear


The Hammer

We included the AMG Hammer recently in our look at the best car names for obvious reasons but it deserves a second mention because of how it acquired that label. That being the 5.0-litre V8, generally used to propel SL convertibles in a wafty fashion, which AMG polished, blueprinted and balanced before swapping the standard two-valve heads for freer breathing multivalve versions. Also available as options were 5.6-litre and 6.0-litre versions.

Whichever version you specced, the engine would feed the rear wheels through a four-speed automatic gearbox with enough brutal mid-range torque to outrun the Countachs and Testarossas of the day. It also remained relatively under the radar despite the awesome five-spoke wheels, bulging arches and ducktail bootlid.



This is undoubtedly the most controversial entry on the list but, as far as we are concerned, possibly the most ridiculously awesome. After all, shoehorning huge, hand-assembled V8s into sporting saloons, convertibles and even estate cars is fairly par for the course, at least among the German big three.

Putting that same engine into a relatively prosaic people carrier seems to us to encapsulate the AMG ethos that there is no three-pointed star wearing product that it can’t improve with gobs of power. Adding the 6.3-litre, 510PS (375kW) to the six-seater R-Class turned it into a five-second 0-62mph machine shod with 21-inch wheels, quad exhausts and the requisite aggressive AMG bodykit. Unsurprisingly only around 200 ever found willing customers making it one of the rarest AMG models ever.



The Mercedes SLK was the car which really kicked off the early 2000s craze for hardtop convertibles despite being somewhat derided as not being the sharpest handling sportscar. Which we would argue is never the point of a convertible since removing a fixed roof and replacing it with a folding cover – regardless of what it is made of – will always adversely affect dynamics.

The first generation SLK got the AMG treatment, with a supercharged version of Mercedes’ 3.2-litre V6, but it is best described as warm rather than hot. The second generation however received a naturally aspirated 5.5-litre V8 good for 360PS (265kW) feeding the rear wheels through the Mercedes 7Matic gearbox which could be overridden using wheel-mounted paddles. True, that enormous engine up-front made it nose heavy and no rival for a Boxster, but the engine sounded epic through the quad pipes and made the car amusingly tail happy in an old school way. Undoubtedly a future classic.



Jumping from one end of the Mercedes’ convertible range to the other, the SL also offered its occupants the convenience of a folding metal roof and, being the plutocratic pick, benefited from the full fat AMG experience. That meant taking the 6.0-litre M120 V12 and enlarging it to a whopping 7.3-litres with upgraded internals, making it the largest 12-cylinder ever fitted to a Mercedes.

The upshot was 525PS (386kW) and 750Nm (555lb ft) of torque, rocketing the slick SL to 62mph in a traction limited 4.6 seconds and on to over the double ton with the factory limiter removed. It was also one of the most discreet AMG conversions with little to give away the punch it packed. The engine was later adopted by Pagani for the Zonda but the SL73 is much more exclusive than the supercar with only 85 built.



From one of the most subtle AMGs to one of the unashamed monsters, built to celebrate Mercedes’ fourth consecutive DTM championship in 2003. Obviously this was no occasion for half measures so the middle management CLK coupe was fitted with a supercharged 5.5-litre V8 producing 580PS (427kW) and 800Nm (592lb ft) which, despite a mere five-speed automatic gearbox, propelled the car to 62mph in 3.9 seconds on the way to a 199mph top speed.

The smoothly blobby early-2000s styling of the CLK received a less than subtle makeover, necessary to contain the power; widened track and tyres covered by enormously flared arches which were punctured with brake cooling ducts, side sills wide enough to stand on and a suitably DTM-esque rear wing. Just 100 were made and owners included Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen and Takuma Sato. 



Over time AMG has inveigled itself to sit ever more closely with its parent brand to the point where it has become the progenitor of its own exclusive products, named Mercedes-AMG, distinguishing themselves from the rest of the three-pointed star’s line-up. Although the majority of the models are still based on cars rolling off the Stuttgart production lines, the 2014 GT was the first to be exclusive to AMG.

A svelte two-seater coupe the GT spawned roadster, higher performance ‘S’ and ultimate Black Series and GT-R variants. The standard model is more than enough to provide plenty of enjoyment though with a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 producing 476PS (350kW) and 630Nm (466lb ft) turning the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic gearbox. The GT has also seen AMG return to racing in the GT3 and GT4 classes. The former bagged a class 1-2-3-4 at the 2016 Nürburgring 24 Hours.


G63 AMG 6x6

From the somewhat sublime to the unashamedly ridiculous; the AMG G63 6x6 redefines ‘biggest and baddest’. There is a respectable, military 6x6 G-Wagen, powered by a stalwart turbodiesel and developed for the Australian Defence Force. This is not that. The G63 is motivated by a twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8 producing 543PS (400kW) and 760Nm (562lb ft) of torque.

Every one of the three axles is driven with five diff locks, low ratio transfer case and an on-board compressor for adjusting tyre pressures up and down according to the terrain. Those tyres are a massive 37-inches in diameter and help give the G63 ground clearance of nearly half a metre; its wading depth is double that figure. Oh and it will hit 62mph in less than six seconds. Your move every other off-roader.

  • Mercedes

  • AMG

  • AMG GT

  • Hammer

  • 300 SEL

  • SL

  • SLK

  • CLK

  • G63

  • List

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