Car Brands Are Trying Everything To Stay Relevant, Including 2000+HP Boats

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Source: Car and Driver
Full Article: Car Brands Are Trying Everything To Stay Relevant, Including 2000+HP Boats

From the January 2018 issue

I knew we were getting pulled over even before the blue lights came on. In this respect, boats are the same as cars. You pass the Coast Guard going in the opposite direction, there’s a pause for a moment or two, and then the law expresses its interest by ripping a tight 180. At that point, the blue strobes are almost redundant. When you’ve got an orange rigid-hull inflatable with triple 300-hp Verado outboards bearing down on you, you chop the throttles. Odds are slim that you’ve got the juice to pull away from a U.S. Coast Guard boat. But we could have, a fact unsubtly advertised by the gigantic AMG logo spanning each side of the boat. You know how AMG cars are fast? So is this.

When the officers board the boat—a 41-foot Cigarette Racing SD GT3 center console—Skip Braver, Cigarette’s owner, raises the rear hatch over the engines, revealing two twin-turbo 1100-hp DOHC 9.0-liter V-8s from Mercury Racing. One of the Coasties observes, “If you’d decided to run, we wouldn’t have been able to catch you.” Well, not with a boat.

Cigarette and AMG have been collaborating on these co-branded boats for a while, typically to the confusion of onlookers who assume the boats must have AMG engines. The partnership isn’t that literal, not least because the offshore horsepower scene is way crazier than anything in the AMG engine portfolio. You can get that Mercury V-8 in 1550-hp flavor, warranty included. Yeah, it’s a 10-hour warranty, but putting a warranty on a 1550-hp boat engine is like offering low deductible health insurance to a chainsaw juggler. You have to be really confident that he’s good at juggling chainsaws.

So this is strictly a branding exercise, but one that makes sense—both Cigarette and AMG cater to rich people who like things that look cool and go fast. Braver and Benz design boss Gorden Wagener are friends. Hence, AMG boats. Also, this trip from Miami to Key West, by sea with the AMG boat and by land with an AMG GT R.

No matter how closely it looked, the U.S. Coast Guard couldn’t find a single bit of Mercedes in this boat.

Wagener is part of our troupe, and before we got on the boat, he held court on the design future for Benz. I tend to imagine designers as artsy types, gaunt folk who wear metal-framed glasses and possibly berets. But Wagener comes across as a jock, the karate guy from the bad dojo, someone who might at any moment give you a noogie. I was afraid he was going to give me a purple nurple after I said that I liked the look of the Lexus LC500. He didn’t say anything, but his expression would’ve been appropriate if I’d just coughed tuberculosis in his face and showed him my collection of Band-Aids that I found at water parks.

What Wagener did say was that Benz design is going clean. “Instead of adding things,” he said, “you take things away.” That’s an unforgiving approach, because if you get it wrong—an unresolved curve, a cut line that doesn’t quite work—there are no flashy gewgaws to distract the eye. The GT R, which he designed, is a case in point. Its active aero shutters are buried under the grille where you can’t see them. Yeah, there’s a wing on the back, but even that’s subtle for a car that nearly matched the Porsche 918 Spyder’s record at Lightning Lap. So the AMG GT shape probably won’t change much anytime soon.

And beyond that, Mercedes is pondering the question of how it will stay relevant in the face of automation and electrification, forces that threaten to homogenize the automotive market. So Wagener commissioned his design team to imagine that near-future world and all the ways Mercedes could fit into it. The result is a book called Sensual Purity, which might also be the name of an unreleased Prince album.

Within those pages, we see not just sleek future cars, but houses, bridges, and public spaces. Some of it is deliberately over the top—hey, who wants a condo in the 5000-foot-tall Benz skyscraper? Don’t worry, it has a dock for your thousand-foot Mercedes yacht, which has 160,000 horsepower. I would’ve gone for 200,000 horsepower, but I dream bigger than most.

The yacht is so huge that it has its own marina at the stern. And there, in the illustration, we see a dagger-looking center console not unlike the Cigarette SD GT3. That part, anyway, isn’t the future. It’s the present, if you’re rich enough. And it’s a preview of a world where car companies aren’t just car companies, a future that everyone from GM (ride sharing!) to Tesla (solar roofs!) is trying to figure out. You’re mad Ferrari will make an SUV? Wait till it makes a toaster.

I don’t know if I’m ready for that. I don’t know where all this is going. But the Coasties seemed to like it. A few minutes after they left, we were streaking along again, an 85-mph AMG billboard. No need to overthink it.

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