Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - AMG GT - S
Prodigious, accessible performance, telepathic handling
Room for improvement
Passenger space a little tight, lacks visual theatre
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14 Aug 2015
By TIM ROBSON
A BRAND needs a halo car, and halos don’t come much more shiny than a two-seater, rear-drive, V8-powered sports coupe. Badged simply as the AMG GT S, it represents the pinnacle of the current Mercedes-Benz line-up, and demonstrates the German brand’s depth of engineering nous across the entire car.
Take the body, for example. Rendered primarily in aluminium, the only steel part is the tailgate (an alloy one would have weighed more), while a single magnesium spar supports the headlights. The body in white weighs just 231kg, and there is no carbon-fibre in sight.
Incidentally, it shares only its floor and front and rear firewalls with the SLS.
Its M178 engine, too, 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 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 C63, with its air intake piping relocated to the front of the block to allow a more rearward location in the bay. Even the cylinders are sleeved in a material poached from the 2014 Mercedes Formula 1 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.
Its looks conjure up visions of the brute SLS, but on a smaller scale. The GT is about 100kg lighter at 1615kg and lacks the aforementioned gullwing doors, while the spars and side vents have been toned down, too. An Edition One pack offers the owner the option of a boy racer-sequel fixed wing, but the GT has a retractable wing fitted as standard that doesn’t break its clean, aggressive low slung looks.
While there’s no doubt it looks pretty incredible from the curb, from some angles the GT is a little, well, underdone on the theatre. Beautiful and stylish, yes. A rolling testament to AMG’s engineering prowess and Formula 1 success? Not so much.
The range-topping perception changes when you slide behind the wheel, though, with an all-new cockpit turning that sense of occasion back up to eleven.
Settling into the driver’s seat is akin to sliding into the cockpit of a GT racer, as the high centre tunnel and sculpted doors ensconce you.
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 found on racing car steering wheels.
Starting the GT is as simple as thumbing a button, and the V8 bursts into raucous life before settling into a powerboat-like deep warble. It’s easy to manoeuvre at slow speeds, thankfully, with surprisingly good vision all around the car.
The passenger space is a little more restrictive, though, with taller riders unable to stretch 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 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 today’s sinuous coast-hugging test route.
An individual mode, meanwhile, allows the pilot to program a personalised set of parameters to suit.
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 fairly bolts for the horizon. 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.
This is only the second car that AMG has developed for Mercedes, and the first one that bears only its name. While it’s a little disappointing to lose the – very impractical and heavy, engineers will tell you – gullwing doors and other external theatre pieces of the SLS, the AMG GT will give a few of the entry level pukka supercars – like Lamborghini’s Huracan and McLaren’s 650S – a real hurry up.
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