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Mercedes-AMG makes moves with mid-tier muscle

The new Mercedes-AMG 43 range includes the C 43, the GLC 43, the GLC 43 Coupe, the C 43 Coupe, the E 43 and the SLC 43. — Picture by Leow Ju-Len
The new Mercedes-AMG 43 range includes the C 43, the GLC 43, the GLC 43 Coupe, the C 43 Coupe, the E 43 and the SLC 43. — Picture by Leow Ju-Len

SEPANG, May 19 — When is a Mercedes not a Mercedes? Short answer: When it is a Mercedes-AMG.

Four new models from Mercedes’ sporty division have entered the Singapore market, with the aim of tempting buyers to move from other high-performance models sold by Audi and BMW.

Parent company Daimler reserves two special labels for the extreme versions of its Mercedes-Benz cars. There is the Mercedes-Maybach, a custom-built, ultra-luxurious limousine; and then there is the Mercedes-AMG tag, aimed at speed junkies who want a more comfortable alternative to, say, a Maserati.

The AMGs have much more power than a regular Merc and are quicker than some Aston Martins. However, the Mercedes-AMG models still remain a rare sight on the road: A source from Daimler South-east Asia said that the company sells only a “handful” of AMG cars per year in Singapore.

This is partly due to price: The basic C 180 Coupe, for example, costs S$224,888 (RM698,939.29), but a top-end fire-breathing AMG like the C 63 S Coupe will burn a S$466,888 hole in your pocket.

But the company is hoping that will change with the launch of a mid-tier range of AMG models known as the “43” series.

The new GLC 43 4Matic, for example, costs S$301,888 with COE.

“These are cars for the aspiring, younger generation of customers,” said Wolfgang Huppenbauer, the chief executive officer of Daimler South-east Asia. “They’re for the ones who like a sporty vehicle with enough power to play around with.”

The new “43” cars are less powerful than AMG’s top-end “63” models. The latter have hand-built engines, but the cars in the 43 range are powered by engines off a mass-production line.

This makes the cheaper C 43 slightly slower: It needs 4.7 seconds to reach 100km/h, whereas the C 63 S can do it in 3.9 seconds. However, the 43 offers more comfort than the hardcore experience that top AMG models give occupants.

Another difference is its subtler looks. A small aerofoil here, black wing mirrors there, and brakes painted grey are three key ways a 43 model looks different from a regular Mercedes-Benz. Inside, there are bright red seatbelts as well as subtle chequered-flag inserts in the instruments.

Unlike the pricier AMG models, however, the 43 range is not intended to shout about its performance.

“For me, the 43s are, like we say in Germany, a wolf in sheep’s skin,” said Huppenbauer. “A 43 has all the attributes of a sports car, but doesn’t show it in the first second that you see it”.

But when you get down to it, as fast as the AMG 43 cars are, the race that really matters for the company is the one for sales.

Other carmakers have tried a similar strategy with their own high-performance sub-brands. Audi and BMW, for example, market their fastest cars under “RS” and “M” labels respectively. A tier below them are the more affordable “S” and “M Performance” models.

But Mercedes-AMG looks the most committed to the strategy. It has offered the broadest range — there are altogether eight different cars available in the AMG 43 series here. In comparison, Audi offers only four S models, and BMW has six M Performance models.

So far, the strategy seems to be working. One model, the C 43 sedan, has already picked up “dozens” of orders here, said the company.

“I think we’ll have a good run with these cars,” said Huppenbauer.

“The 43s are really hitting the target group of people who like to have more than an average car, but don’t want to go all the way to a top-end AMG.” — TODAY

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