Mercedes-Benz's performance car division, AMG, will release a new engine that offers drivers more power while using less fuel.

AMG once exclusively tuned Mercedes cars for racing since the 1960's, and now buyers can choose one of the brand's higher-dollar, performance-enhanced cars right off the showroom floor.

Rising fuel costs are a concern even among AMG's relatively wealthy customers. Therein lies the problem: the rumble of a large, thirsty V8 is a signature of most of AMG's products. Those heavy German cars need extra low-end power to get off the line quickly, so switching to a fuel-sipping four cylinder engine isn't an option.

AMG will address these issues with its latest 5.5-liter V8 engine, featuring what the company calls 'AMG Cylinder Management'. This system will allow the engine to shut off cylinders at highway speeds, so the street-legal racers can run on as few as four of its eight cylinders.

At highway speeds, the operating four cylinders create about as much horsepower as a new Toyota Camry, but if the driver has the urge for additional pep, the engine automatically revert to full use of all cylinders.

AMG developed the system from Mercedes' Formula 1 racing engine, which uses similar technology when the driver need to save fuel.

The 5.5 liter engine will make its debut under the hood of the new SLK 55 AMG at the Frankfurt Auto Show this Fall.

Of course, cylinder management isn't the only improvement on the new engine. The new AMG is fitted with new cylinder heads and a modified crankcase, valve train and oil supply system. AMG claims that all of the modifications should create a 30 percent improvement in fuel economy over last year's model. And, for drivers more interested in AMG performance will be glad to know that the new engine produces an additional 60 horsepower over the last one, too.

Like every AMG engine, the new V8 will be hand built, tested and signed by a single master mechanic before being fitted to a new Mercedes body.

author photo

J. Mark Sternberg is an automotive journalist, car enthusiast and writer with a degree from the University of Arizona. Mark is a devoted Formula 1 fan and also enjoys boating, flying and attending the occasional track day.

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