Car reviews - Mercedes-AMG - GT - S
Gorgeous V8 with epic performance and an excellent automatic, crisp and light steering, dainty dynamics on smooth roads
Room for improvement
Tough suspension even in Comfort mode, tiring road noise, handling can be edgy on rough roads, extra cost over entry GT
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17 Oct 2017
STARTING a family can be a daunting task, but not it would seem for Mercedes-AMG. Only its second bespoke sportscar breed, the GT range has more than tripled in size within three years.
From the original GT S, to the addition of the entry GT, focused GT C and hardcore GT R, with coupe or roadster body styles available, this AMG cohort has grown to number seven. Soon a Benz Valente eight-seater will be called to lug this family around, because a GT four-door is imminent.
The least-changed among all this expansion is the originally available GT S, that launched Down Under in early 2015. Identified only by a new ‘Pan Americana’ multi-vertical-slat grille and boasting a minor power and torque increase, even pricing and equipment has remained virtually unchanged.
Family expansion could also create a family feud, though – and this middle-tier GT S is now placed under a harsher spotlight with more affordable, or more hardcore siblings giving it the squeeze.
Mercedes-AMG of course would not mind whether a buyer chooses a GT, GT S, GT C or GT R as long as they are kept away from pesky Porsche showrooms. Surely the vast 911 range has spurred the Affalterbach performance division of Mercedes-Benz to expand its own line-up.
What it all means is this GT S – now $298,711 plus on-road costs, up $3711 compared with 2015 – is $40,000 pricier than GT, but $15,000 or $50,000 cheaper than GT C and GT R respectively.
Common to all is a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine and seven-speed automatic driving the rear wheels. Power and torque in the GT respectively rises by 10kW/30Nm to 350kW/630Nm, while GT S leaps by 9kW/20Nm to 384kW/670Nm, and the new GT C stages 410kW/680Nm.
For 0-100km/h performance, the GT claims 4.0 seconds, GT S 3.8s and GT C 3.7s.
Otherwise the GT S adds Nappa leather trim, 20-inch rear alloy wheels (19s still up-front), electronic actuation of the standard limited-slip differential, three-mode adaptive suspension, active sports exhaust, dynamic engine mounts, sunroof and active cruise control for its surcharge over GT.
But the GT S also happens to miss the rear-wheel steering, 68mm-wider rear guards, 44mm-wider rear track, ventilated front seats and suede-trimmed steering wheel of the only slightly pricier GT C.
With all this front of mind, then, the question is clear: is the GT S the ‘sweet spot’ between GT and GT C? It simply could not be answered three years ago when it was the only model grade available.
Having previously tested the GT S on a racetrack only, its surprisingly deft and dainty smooth-road handling remains. For a sportscar with genes that trace to the phallic SLS – and the GT still flaunts a long bonnet, bum-on-axle seating and pert rear – this AMG is not just a mighty, swinging hammer.
There is surprisingly light and immediate steering that requires a delicate touch – some would like extra weight, if only to help them become more precise drivers – and front-end turn-in that, depending on the corner, can move from rapid to rabid, as it can emphasise a weight shift to the rear.
Delicate is not a word that comes to mind when experiencing the full force of the engine, however, but this Mercedes-AMG concoction remains a delicacy.
Somehow it enables driver and passenger to hear the tasty tingle of valves and clear induction rasp without the dominant whoosh and whistle that afflicts other twin-turbocharged competitors – especially the new 911 Carrera which, in the time since the GT S launched, has replaced a 3.8-litre naturally aspirated unit with a 3.0-litre twin-turbo that has taken a backwards step for aural appeal.
Terrific throttle response combines with an automatic that, although a bit slow and slurring in Comfort mode, can transition from assertive to aggressive in its most extreme Sport Plus setting. The way it downshifts hard under brakes is masterful, and indeed Porsche dual-clutch rivalling.
Thankfully, too, a driver can, via an Individual mode, switch the drivetrain to the Sport Plus setting while leaving the chassis in its softest Comfort mode.
It is absolutely necessary to do so, because the suspension tune of the GT S does not follow the lovely-and-light guide of the steering tune.
On country roads the GT S is very tough on driver and passenger even in Comfort mode. It jiggles and fidgets near constantly, lacking by some margin the suppleness of a Porsche adaptive suspension system, while sending a similarly high level of coarse-chip tyre roar into the cabin.
GT certainly does not stand for Grand Tourer here.
While the GT S can be balletic and belie its 1672kg kerb weight through corners, it can also turn edgy over bumps a Carrera would brush off. Despite 53 per cent rear-biased weight distribution, the back can breakaway easily, so it is no coincidence that the GT C gets a much wider rear footprint.
Otherwise the sizeable centre stack is ageing well inside, with a definite premium feel to the leather-trimmed surfaces and brushed-silver finishes.
The gearlever remains too far back, however, and the Benz infotainment system is especially fiddly without the shortcut tabs (for nav/media/phone) found on the centre stack of other models. Control instead relies only on the rotary dial on the console, encumbered by a touchpad cowering over it.
At least the electric liftback opens to a decently spacious boot that is lost on the roadster body style (which is not available in GT S anyway, but comes in more affordable GT or the GT C).
Conversely, the cabin styling is gorgeous enough to demand light be let in, and maybe removing the fabric roof in the roadster would render criticism of the road noise nicht? Potentially, too, the fatter rear footpring of the GT C would help stabilise some of the edgy back-end behaviour. And, combined, a buyer can choose a GT C roadster for around 10 per cent extra over GT S coupe.
Viewed another way, given the GT is so much cheaper and barely loses any performance, perhaps it could be seen as a better-value buy.
While family expansion can be rewarding, then, rivalry within Mercedes-AMG has also arrived. The GT S remains good, but it might no longer be the favourite within this modern family.
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