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Driven: Mercedes-AMG GT S launches at Mt Panorama

Panoramic shot: Mercedes’ latest AMG sports model has impressed one of Australia’s great drivers at one of its greatest circuits.

Mick Doohan gives $295,000 Mercedes-AMG GT S the Bathurst seal of approval


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17 Jul 2015

MERCEDES-BENZ’S flagship sports model – the all-new AMG GT S – has officially gone on sale in Australia with the blessing of five-time motorcycle grand prix world champion Mick Doohan.

The AMG brand ambassador could be expected to heap praise on the mighty twin-turbocharged V8-powered two-seater sportscar, which is priced from $295,000 plus on-road costs and made its Australian debut this week at the iconic Mount Panorama raceway.

But after taking GoAuto for a few hot laps of the punishing Bathurst track, the motorsport legend was genuinely impressed by the vehicle’s performance.

“I haven’t driven it on the street just yet but I don’t think I need to,” he said. “Most cars, you put them onto a racetrack and it’s almost like you know what to expect, but this far exceeds what I was expecting.

“As a circuit car it’s amazing. The feedback it gives you and the thrill it gives you, I can’t wait to drive it on the street.”

While the new model has been generating considerable attention in Australia, Mercedes is not planning to dent rival brands’ sales with huge volume. Instead, the company is pitching the GT S as a new halo for the company.

Speaking at the ‘Festival of AMG’ and the vehicle’s launch at Bathurst, Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific senior manager of public relations, product and corporate communications David McCarthy explained the vehicle’s positioning.

“You’re only talking, first year, 150 cars,” he said. “Porsche will see a lot more 911s than that and that’s probably its closest competitor. Some people say Maserati but I don’t think so.

“Jaguar perhaps but again I don’t classify it as a competitor. Stealing sales? We have more buyers than we have customers.

“A 911 buyer has a very different view of the world to a GT buyer.”

Despite relatively low volume predictions, Mr McCarthy said the sporty coupe would allow Mercedes to compete in a new segment, and that all sales counted.

“It fits in a price strata where really we didn’t play before,” he said. “It is much cheaper than an SL63, more expensive than when we had CLK63, and we haven’t had an AMG E-Class coupe in the current generation. SLK55 is, again, a different car.”

While the GT is expected to win some conquest sales from rival brands, Mr McCarthy said a majority would be from existing well-heeled AMG customers, and was not seen as a replacement for the now-discontinued SLS supercar.

“There are some new ones (customers) but I know a few SLS owners who are buying a GT as well. There will be some that are new to the brand but AMG owners tend to be pretty loyal.”

Like the rest of the AMG range, the existing fan base will be attracted to the new coupe’s potent performance, which is headlined by its mighty twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8, kicking out a healthy 375kW of power and 700Nm of torque.

Sent only to the back wheels via a seven-speed DCT Speedshift automatic transaxle, that power is enough to send the GT from 0-100km/h in a rapid 3.6 seconds and on to a terminal velocity of 310km/h.

The V8 has been treated to dry-sump lubrication, allowing it to be positioned low in the chassis for a lower centre of gravity, while its mid-front mounting has resulted in a 47:53 front/rear weight distribution.

Mercedes-Benz Aust/Pac could have taken a less-powerful non-S version of the GT with 25 fewer kilowatts and a 50Nm handicap, but only the full-fat version will be offered here for the foreseeable future.

A second version is available for now with a “sportier” and “more head-turning” Edition 1 on sale alongside the GT S for $314,900 plus on-roads.

The Edition 1 features 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.

The GT S rides on the ultimate handling-focused suspension with double wishbones in each corner, while 19-inch wheels wear 265/35-section Continental tyres on the front and wider 295/30 rubber at the back.

Ride Control allows the driver to pick from one of three available suspension settings, while the Dynamic Select system offers more customisation with five variable drive modes – Controlled Efficiency, Sport, Sport Plus, Individual and Race.

The standard iron disc brakes measure 390mm in diameter but can be upgraded to a lighter and more heat-tolerant carbon-ceramic set, with larger gold callipers.

Overall weight is kept to 1570kg through the combined use of steel, aluminium and magnesium construction.

The GT interior is available trimmed with a choice of matte or gloss carbon-fibre, silver-chrome, black diamond, matte silver or fibreglass finish.

It also comes with a flat-bottomed leather-clad three-spoke steering wheel, the now-familiar 7.0-inch tablet-like display at the top of the centre stack, a TFT display in the instrument cluster, aluminium trim on the shift paddles and brake and accelerator pedals, while sports seats are dressed in faux-leather Artico/black fabric with AMG lettering.

Mercedes’ Comand controller is situated in the console and provides access to audio and other functions.

Edition 1 versions have top-quality Nappa leather ‘performance’ seats with red stitching, matching interior leather coverings, and a flat-bottom performance steering wheel with Edition 1 badge.

The GT’s list of typical Mercedes safety features extends to adaptive braking, a driver fatigue warning system, a collision prevention system and tyre-pressure monitoring, while options include Mercedes’ Pre-safe system, a reversing camera, adaptive high beam system, blind spot monitor and lane departure warning.

Boot space is 350 litres – 57 litres smaller than a Jaguar F-Type Coupe with its spare wheel removed.

Mercedes-AMG GT pricing*
GT S (a)$295,000
GT S Edition 1$314,900
*Excludes on-road costs.

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