S63 Showcar debuts new 5.5 liter V-8
Going Green(er) in Affalterbach
Our world is rapidly changing with a tidal wave of environmental awareness sweeping virtually every industry. Scrutiny of corporate environmental responsibility has never been stronger and pressure to adopt environmentally friendly products and production techniques will increasingly influence global corporations’ products and services.
With talk of ‘peak oil’ and the debate over carbon emissions driven global warming intensifying, pressure on automobile companies to become more responsible global citizens is growing. Mainstream automobiles are generally becoming vastly more efficient but what about the high performance sector?
Frankly, most high-performance luxury manufacturers (Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Ferrari et al) have been blithely sailing on with massive power increases and generally dismal fuel mileage. However, these niche manufacturers and the ultra-performance cars from mainstream manufacturers are in danger of appearing seriously out of step with the globe’s emerging wave of social responsibility.
Mercedes-Benz and AMG Respond
‘AMG Performance 2015’
If you have ever felt a little self conscious in your (fairly) socially irresponsible 2009 S63 or 2003 SL55 idling next to a new Ford Escape Hybrid silently resting at a stop light, you are certainly not alone. Mercedes and AMG have been pondering this issue and have just released their first solution to the high performance conundrum, the new highly efficient 5.5 liter biturbo V-8.
To get the world’s attention, AMG cleverly modified an S63 with the new drivetrain and wrapped it in the gaudy period racing livery of their brawny but successful 300SEL 6.8 of decades past. This bellowing sedan won its class and finished 2nd overall at Spa’s daunting 24 hour classic in 1971.
Since 2002 AMG has used a variety of powerplants to achieve the massive power and torque required to lead the ultra performance segment: a supercharged 5.5 liter V-8, the twin turbo 6.5 liter V-12, and most recently a normally aspirated 6.3 liter V-8. Their solution to the daunting task of delivering massive power/torque with greatly reduced fuel consumption was to combine a 5.5 (5461cc) liter V-8 with two turbochargers, an air to water intercooler and direct fuel injection with “spray guided” combustion technology. Thus the M157 engine has been born.
The result is 544 hp (or 571 hp with the AMG performance package – 1.3 bar turbo boost rather than 1.0 bar) and a whopping 25% increase in fuel mileage compared to the current S63. AMG’s engineers also boast of a massive 28.5% CO emissions reduction. This is significant news and signals a shift away from simply building a full range of generally inefficient but gloriously enjoyable motorcars.
The large new S63’s earth friendly behavior was not achieved without some clever technical chicanery. Fuel mileage figures returned by the new car were undoubtedly experienced while motoring in transmission mode “C” or more specifically the “Controlled Efficiency” mode. This mode switches the 5.5 liter V-8 off during stops and insures the car moves away from rest in 2nd gear and prompts earlier upshifts through the remaining 5 ratios.
Yes, Mercedes’ and AMG’s clients can easily afford to pour massive amounts of petrol into these capable road cars. But a growing number of the firm’s future high performance clients, particularly in the European Union, will pause to digest relative fuel mileage and emissions levels before opting for an AMG product. Tastes are changing, even in this premium segment.
‘KERS’ for the Masses
From Formula 1 to the Autobahn
Another noteworthy trick is essentially a KERS system for the road. Formula One racing fans will recognize this term from the 2009 season. The acronym aptly describes the process: ‘Kinetic Energy Recovery System.’ The S63 uses this system to store energy (heat) generated by braking forces and gathered during periods of overrun (off throttle coasting). This energy is used to maintain the battery charge and allows the alternator to operate at very low voltage levels, thereby reducing power absorption from the engine.
And so AMG eases its clients toward a more responsible attitude toward their cherished high performance road cars. While some of AMG’s achievements will simply be cocktail chatter for 2011 S63 owners, the benefits are undoubtedly real and concrete evidence our friends in Affalterbach have their eyes firmly focused on the future.
What’s next – an electric SLS Gullwing? Well, actually yes…
Roy Spencer, editor MercedesHeritage.com.
Photography from Mercedes-Benz and Roy Spencer