Daimler plans a line of vehicles with modified engines and sport-tuned suspensions to bridge the gap between standard Mercedes-Benz models and high-performance AMG derivatives.
Company executives say the new strategy begins with the Mercedes C450 AMG, which will launch at the Detroit auto show in January. Powered by a twin-turbocharged V-6 and equipped with a torque-converter-type automatic, the C450 AMG will fit between the regular Mercedes C400 and the Mercedes C63 AMG.
During the next few years, Mercedes will launch similar models for its other lines, including the CLA, E class and GLK.
The line will not match the performance of regular AMG models, and visual modifications will be restricted to trim, cladding and wheels. Full-fledged AMG derivatives often feature body modifications, such as wider fenders.
Mercedes is following the lead of Audi, which has offered S-badged models for several years. They slot between Audi's standard models and high-performance RS versions.
BMW and Cadillac have followed the same strategy. BMW now offers M Performance models, which are based on the regular lineup. Cadillac has added the Vsport moniker to more powerful models that don't qualify as V-series models.