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Mercedes-AMG reveals world’s most powerful four-cylinder engine

7th Jun 2019 3:51 pm

421hp, 2.0-litre turbo-petrol M139 engine will be used in the AMG-badged A 45, CLA 45 and GLA 45.


The world’s most powerful 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, series-production engine has been revealed by Mercedes-AMG, and is set to feature in its upcoming ‘45’ model range.

Developing 421hp in its most potent ‘S’ form, this completely new 2.0 turbo replaces the engine used in the previous A 45 A-class, CLA 45 and GLA 45.

Despite the potency of the outgoing A 45 360/381hp AMG four, engine development boss Ralf Illenberger says that emission requirements, the desire for more power, less weight and the different packaging requirements of Mercedes’ latest generation of compact cars necessitated a complete redesign. “The only carry-over parts are a few nuts and bolts,” he added. The new M139 engine produces 387hp/480Nm in standard form and 421hp/500Nm in ‘S’ guise.

Another major aim has been extracting a sportier driving experience from the engine by altering its torque delivery. While the previous, M133 four-cylinder engine’s torque curve resembled a diesel’s, rising steeply to level-off across a wide chunk of the rev range, the new M139 2.0 produces more of a crescendo of thrust.

The aim is to produce the rising rush of acceleration that’s characteristic of a revvy, normally aspirated engine. Rather than flat-lining, diesel-style, from around 2,000rpm, AMG’s new engine generates peak torque at 5,200rpm, while nevertheless producing more shove than the old one between 1,000-2,000rpm, the strongest surge developing from 3,000rpm. Overall, said Illenberger, “it produces a more sporty delivery.”

More diesel-like are the 160bar combustion pressures generated by the new unit, and a lighter, yet more robust cylinder block developed to withstand them. It’s of the closed-deck variety, creating a crankcase casting more like a part-closed box rather than a semi-open one, with deep, strengthening skirts around the cylinders. The new alloy block is as strong as a diesel engine’s, said Illenberger. The 16-valve cylinder head is also new, a key design challenge being the dispersal of the considerable heat generated.

Larger exhaust valves and valve seats, a redesigned water jacket, oil, water and air chilling for the turbo and separate coolant plumbing for the cylinder head and cylinder block allow more efficient and protective control of under-bonnet temperatures, assisted by electrically controlled water pumps. The head itself features ‘Camtronic’ variable inlet and exhaust valve control and dual-injectors per cylinder.

A single piezo-injector per cylinder would be at the upper limit of its fuel volume delivery, said Illenberger, so a second quartet of injectors sits within the inlet manifold tracts to boost delivery under hard acceleration. The Camtronic system enables two camshaft profiles to provide a blend of good fuel economy and heightened throttle response.

The vanes of a sizeable turbocharger run in low-friction roller bearings, an electric wastegate minimising the loss of boost when pressure modulation is required. The turbo now lives between the engine and the front bulkhead, the cylinder head having been turned through 180 degree, in order to fit the engine beneath the lower bonnet lines of the new models.

The turbo’s new location requires extra cooling, and some of this provided by an engine cover shaped to direct fan-generated airflow over it. Illenberger said that the electric water pumps may also function after the engine has been switched off, to cool the block, head and turbo. The more potent ‘S’ version sometimes harnesses the air conditioner for cooling too.

Besides designing an all-new engine, AMG has also developed a more streamlined way to make it. Each engine is still built under the ‘one man, one engine’ approach long used by the company (there are several women hand-assembling these engines too, incidentally). It uses methods of electronically recording the sequence of torque applied to each power-tool-attached component streamlined to save time. The new arrangement also improves assembly ergonomics.

The new methods cut the production time by 20-25 percent, said plant manager Alexander Kurz, enabling AMG’s four-cylinder manufacturing facility to produce 140 engines per day over two shifts. The first car to feature this unit will be the A 45 in July, the CLA 45 sedan appearing near-simultaneously, and the GLA 45 a little later.

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