/ 30 July 2023

Mercedes gets local pulses racing

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Power plus: Mercedes-Benz showcased its top vehicles at its AMG Performance Tour, which was held in Kyalami, Johannesburg. Photos: Supplied

The second instalment of the AMG Performance Tour — where Mercedes-Benz celebrates the achievements of its performance division — took place at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in Johannesburg this past week. The inaugural event was held in 2015.

The brand used it to introduce its formidable performance AMG models in the form of the revived A 35, A45 S as well as the new SL 43, GLB 35 and GT four-door 63 S E Performance models. 

Bernd Schneider, five-time DTM champion and Mercedes-Benz ambassador, made a special appearance at the event. 

A few fortunate show attendees scored a shotgun ride around the circuit in an AMG GT3 racer manned by Schneider. 

While I can’t say much about the fierce-looking racing vehicle, I did briefly get to sample the refreshed A45 S, GLB 35 and all-new SL 43 AMG models around the Kyalami Grand Prix circuit. 

Arguably one of the best-looking hot hatches available on the local market, the A45 S sees the Audi RS3 as its direct competitor and ups the ante to 310kW and 500Nm of torque from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. 

Brilliance is the name of the game here, as the refreshed model leaves little to fault.   

With an eight-speed AMG DCT transmission that shoves power to the tarmac via the 4Matic+ system, the A45 S is capable and composed, with superb levels of grip for great confidence, even when pushed hard around the track. 

In terms of performance, Mercedes-AMG quotes a time of 3.9 seconds to 100km/h, but it feels quicker than that. 

Aesthetically, Mercedes-AMG has subtly revised the exterior look of the car, courtesy of reworked headlights and taillights and an AMG-specific radiator grille, as well a new bonnet badge with the AMG logo, front apron and wheel design. 

As for the junior A35, it uses a similar capacity engine but delivers a slightly less potent 225kW and 400Nm, enough to catapult this model from 0 to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds and 4.7 seconds for the sedan and hatchback. 

Instead of four exhaust tips, the A35 gets two, one on each side. 

Take a close look at the brutal A45 S, and you will realise that Mercedes-AMG has found a workable formula to make not just a fast hot hatch, but a genuinely involving piece of metal that we still hold in high regard. 

Page through the history of the brand’s model portfolio and you will realise that the SL is one of its oldest nameplates. 

For one, there’s the legendary W113 model, which was famous for its impressive performance and style, and was designed with a distinctive concave hardtop, which earned it the nickname “Pagoda”. 

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History lessons aside, the new Mercedes-AMG SL is available locally in a sole 43 variant which makes use of the same M139 2.0‑litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit that delivers 280kW and 480Nm or an additional short-term boost of 10kW/150Nm. 

No 4Matic+ special treat here — all that power is sent to the rear wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission. 

Although other markets receive the SL55 4Matic+ and SL63 4Matic+ variants, the SL43 has everything you could possibly need in a road car, thanks to its ability to blend performance with style. 

On the track, the SL43 combines decent performance with GT-like refinement, and while it has long legs, the enjoyment factor isn’t ever-present for me. It lacks the thrill factor of a genuine sports car and doesn’t make my heart race or my palms sweat. 

I am sure drivers will still appreciate its smooth and comfortable nature. It will do better as a fast cruiser than an all-out performance machine.  

Looks? It’s bonkers, thanks to an aggressive front end, complemented by sporty front and rear aprons and four exhaust tips. 

The SL43 has space to seat four, including the driver.

The interior benefits from a user-friendly 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster. It’s housed within a high-tech visor that prevents reflections when the roof is stowed away. 

It also has an 11.9-inch infotainment system that can be electronically adjusted from 12 to 32 degrees. 

Gone is the outgoing model’s Vario roof, which has been replaced by a lightweight, old-school soft-top that can be opened and closed in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 60km/h.

Although it might not be an outright performance roadster, the SL 43 remains an impressive car to pilot, with solid performance, superb handling dynamics and generous amounts of technology. 

It’s easy to fall in love with it — but it is costly at R2 449 500.  

Wait. There’s more …

At the Tour, Mercedes-AMG also unveiled its new GT four-door 63 S E Performance, GLB 35, EQE 43, and I managed to take a peek at the C63 S E Performance.  

The GT four-door 63 S E Performance is the first model under the Mercedes-AMG banner to wield the new E Performance technology, paired with the existing 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 powerhouse, making it the most potent AMG model ever. 

Think of 620kW and a mind-blowing 1 400Nm — it’s psychotic. 

It doesn’t end there. It’s also electric, courtesy of a 6.1k watt-hour battery pack that feeds power to a rear-axle mounted electric motor. This gives it enough for a pure electric vehicle range of 12km. 


On the performance front, the GT 63 S E Performance is claimed to romp from 0 to 100km/h in 2.9 seconds en route to a top speed of 316km/h, while shuffling through a nine-speed AMG Speedshift transmission. 

Both the C63 S E Performance and GT four-door 63 E Performance models are set to be available in South Africa next year. 

Then there’s the GLB 35, which is earmarked to be sold in minimal quantities. How many? Mercedes-AMG says it will only be offering 35 examples. 

Each of them will be powered by the same M139 engine with 225kW and 400Nm, matching the A35’s power figures. 

Although it is a large SUV, it completes the 0 to 100km/h sprint in 5.3 seconds, while shifting through an eight-speed DCT transmission that drives all four wheels. 

Each of the models is priced at R1 425 722 and, by the look of it, it’s a usable seven-seater with impressive space and performance. 

From its electric vehicle stable, Mercedes-AMG showcased its EQE 43 4Matic, which has the i4 from Munich in its crosshairs. 

With 350kW/858Nm and a mind-blowing performance of 4.2 seconds for 0 to 100km/h, the EQE 43 is a new sort of AMG performance car with plenty of tech and luxury. It employs a 90kWh battery pack with a range of 534km. 

Indeed, the Mercedes-AMG EQE 43 is not your average electric sedan. It combines the performance and refinement of a traditional AMG model with the efficiency and innovation of an EQ vehicle. 

Because of this, it will appeal to those who seek power, luxury and technology in a sleek,  futuristic package.

Both the C63 S E Performance and GT four-door 63 E Performance models are expected to be available in South Africa next year.