Car reviews - Mercedes-AMG - GT - S
Mind-altering pace, a noise to wake the undead, brilliant handling
Room for improvement
Ride can be overbearing, ability level too high to access too often
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14 Dec 2015
By TIM ROBSON
Price and equipment
The GT S comes to Australia at $295,000 before on-road costs, a price point that sees it drop in just over the top of the Porsche 911 GT3, which retails at $293,200 (plus ORCs). At 350kW and 440Nm, the 375kW/650Nm Merc shades the GT3, but the Porsche weighs 140kg less.
Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific has opted for the highest specification of GT – known as the S – for the local market, while a limited-edition version called the Edition One is also available – for at least the first few months.
For an additional $19,990, a lighter carbon-fibre roof and a more aerodynamic body with larger front splitter, black side-sills and a fixed rear spoiler in place of the standard deployable version are added.
The 18-inch and five-spoke alloy wheels are also swapped for a leaner 10-spoke set measuring 19-inches at the front and 20-inches at the back.
The GT is chock full of cool kit for $300k, including all manner of active and passive safety measures, lashings of carbon-fibre and leather and a tablet-style infotainment screen – which, for us, looks a little kludgy, especially seeing as it’s not removable.
Sliding behind the wheel, the all-new cockpit turns the sense of occasion right up to eleven. Settling into the driver’s seat is akin to sliding into the cockpit of a GT3 racer, as the high centre tunnel and sculpted doors ensconce you deep in the cabin of the car.
The seats in our Edition One are low-slung race buckets, while the flat-bottomed wheel is covered in a suede-like Dinamica material that is actually used on Merc’s racing car steering wheels.
A pair of classic dials faces the driver, while a high centre console is festooned with cool inset circular buttons to adjust driving parameters. The short, stubby gearshift is oddly and awkwardly placed, but given it’s only used to engage drive before using the steering wheel paddles, it’s an acceptable trade.
A quartet of airvents straddles the centre of the dash, underneath the aforementioned infotainment screen. It looks for all the world like it can be removed and used outside the car, but sadly it’s not to be.
There is plenty of space behind the wheel for even the tallest of drivers to get comfortable, with the seats sinking low to the floor of the car for a greater sense of connection.
The passenger space is a little more restrictive, though, with taller riders unable to stretch out completely. There’s also not much in the way of storage in the cabin, though there is room for three overnight bags under the tailgate.
A small dial under the driver’s left hand holds the key to the GT’s ability, with five modes available to the driver. Comfort mode shushes – but can’t silence – the raucous quad-tipped exhausts, softens the three-stage adjustable dampers and lightens up on shifting and throttle maps. The hydraulic steering is variable in its rate, but isn’t part of the computer map.
Sport and Sport Plus modes progressively firm things up and opens baffles in the exhaust, while Race mode lets slip the bonds of traction and stability control – an option best reserved for somewhere with more run-off than our sinuous coast-hugging test loop.
An individual mode, meanwhile, allows the pilot to program a personalised set of parameters to suit.
Engine and transmission
The GT’s M178 engine is a work of engineering art. Configured as a dry-sumped 4.0-litre V8, a pair of turbochargers is mounted inside the valley between the two cylinder banks, necessitating the relocation of the exhaust outlets to the inside and the inlets to the outside of the so-called ‘hot inside V’.
This shortens the inlet tracts and markedly improves the throttle response time from the pair of identically sized turbos.
Thanks to its oil reservoir being relocated to the side of the engine, it sits 55mm lower in the bay than the version of the same engine in the Mercedes-AMG C63, with its air intake piping relocated to the front of the block to allow it a more rearward location in the bay.
Even the cylinders are sleeved in a material poached from the 2014 Mercedes Formula One engine.
Making 375kW of power at a peaky 6250rpm and 650Nm, the GT’s full torque load arrives nice and early in the rev range at 1750rpm and hangs around until 5000rpm.
It’s transferred to the back wheels via a rear-mounted seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle that also houses an electronically activated limited slip diff, and is fed by a carbon-fibre propshaft used by Merc’s DTM cars that’s encased in an alloy torque tube.
Ride and handling
Dialled into Sport Plus and toes hovering over the throttle, the GT is poised for take-off. With just a smidge of throttle pressure, the turbos spool up, the torque builds and the GT just bolts for the horizon.
Engine response is ferocious and instantaneous, and the torque is a gift that just keeps on giving all the way through the rev range.
The gearbox comes along for the ride, and does a good job feeding gears to the beast under the bonnet. It’s perhaps a little more conservative in its downshift protection than other hi-po dual-clutch ’boxes we’ve tried, but it’s a close-run thing.
Take a deep breath and lean on it a little more, and it’s like being in a computer game that you’re not exactly on top of yet, as corners come up WAY more quickly than you expect.
The GT’s handling balance is ready for you, though, with astonishing steering precision and a sublime balance between the front and rear of the car. The massive staggered tyres provide frankly astonishing levels of mechanical grip, while the double-wishbone layout at all four corners of the car complement the flex-free chassis perfectly.
All the while, the bellowing engine that cracks like a rifle when the throttle shuts, the lively steering and the view down that long bonnet assure you that you are indeed in a pretty special car.
On longer jaunts, the suspension set-up, especially when coupled with the larger wheel/tyre combo on the Edition One car, becomes a bit wearisome, though, even with the car set up in its most benign mode. It’s a bit of a surprise actually the tune is definitely on the firmer side in the spring department.
Safety and servicing
The GT S isn’t built in big enough numbers to require it to undergo crash testing, but it has a vast array of stability and traction controls, along with blind-spot monitoring, four airbags and collision prevention.
Mercedes offers three fixed-price services for the AMG GT the first service at 20,000km/12 months costs $876, the second at 40,000km/two years is $1652, and the third at three years/60,000km is $1652.
As a flagship grand touring two-seater, the Mercedes-AMG GT S is superb. Its clever V8 generates power and torque in a matter and at a rate that has to be felt to be believed, while its latent ability to hold the road, no matter the conditions, is incredible.
It lacks a bit of the theatre and spunk that set the SLS apart from the pack, though the trade-off in simplicity, weight savings and handling improvements is understandable. It’s just not quite as ‘in your face’ as the SLS was.
Is it a 911 rival? If you have $300k burning a hole in your pocket for the two-seat sportster, though, you already know which car you are going to get.
Having sampled both, the GT is a more civilised proposition on the road, though not quite as accomplished on the track.
Porsche 911 GT3 from $293,200 plus on-road costs
It’s low slung, curvaceous and blindingly fast – but it’s a car you have to be in the mood for. A low-slung nose and a lot of noise inside the car from massive tyres, the GT3 is a take-no-prisoners sportscar with huge ability.
Jaguar F-Type R AWD Coupe from $242,280 plus on-road costs
It’s a damn sight cheaper than the GT S, and lacks a little in the presentation stakes, but it’s an absolute riot of a car. A phenomenal supercharged V8 with a soundtrack from a 1960s Le mans car, real cross-country ability and amazing presence make this a viable alternative.
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