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AMG Considers RWD "Baby" Benz

January 15, 2010

MONTVALE, NJ - Mercedes-Benz' AMG is considering creating a high-performance small car off the forthcoming MFA platform, according to Motor Trend. While the MFA, which will underpin the next-generation A-Class, B-Class, and three new small Mercedes models by 2012, is a front-drive platform, the AMG car will be rear drive.

The smallest car in the current AMG lineup is the 6.2L V-8-powered C63. Mercedes has offered an AMG-modified A-Class in the past, but AMG boss Volker Mornhinweg says a front-drive performance car is incompatible with the performance company's core values. He says AMG has looked at the MFA platform and believes it can engineer a rear-drive version. "We have the capability to do it," he says.

Rear drive would give the baby AMG car steering and handling consistent with the impressive new E63, C63, and SLS models. Considering the likely packaging constraints, a big V-8 engine is obviously out of the question, but Mornhinweg hints even a four-cylinder powerplant could be tuned to deliver the high torque performance feel that's become an AMG trademark.

Transmission would be a dual-clutch manual or seven-speed Speedshift automatic. AMG version aside, the new MFA platform will play a key role in Mercedes-Benz's plans to reach 1.5 million sales worldwide by 2015. "We do not have a dominant position in the front-drive compact class," says Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche, who notes Mercedes has sold more of the new E-Class than BMW 5 Series and Audi A6 combined. With five new compact front-drive models positioned between smart and the C-Class, Zetsche clearly expects that to change.

The new small Benzes will be premium vehicles, not cut-priced entry points to the three-pointed star, insists Zetsche. "The premium and low-price segments remain the determining poles of the automotive industry," Zetsche explains. "The problem lies in the middle, where companies without a good cost position or a good brand position will fall into the hole. We are convinced the percentage of the market that is premium will stay the same as in the past; therefore, we are very focused on this segment."

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