Mercedes-Benz’s unofficial replacement for the gullwing-doored SLS is not only a more focused and well-rounded sports car, it’s both prettier and cheaper
WHAT IS IT?
A Porsche 911 fighter with a hot rod flavour, built in Affalterbach by Mercedes-Benz’s performance arm, AMG, and designed to be the purest expression yet of an AMG sports car. Unlike the ballistic but flawed SLS, and the lumbering SLR that preceded it, the GT is more mainstream, and all the better for it.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
To coincide with the opening of Australia’s first AMG Performance Centre in Fortitude Valley in Brisbane, we were treated with our first taste of the new Mercedes-AMG GT on local soil. Admittedly, it’s on the Norwell circuit with driving instructors riding pillion, but it’s enough exposure to know that the GT one helluva sports car.
Most obviously, the rear-drive Porsche 911 Carrera GTS PDK at $276,090, though there’s also the 911 GT3 ($293,600) and the formidable 911 Turbo ($366,500). And let’s not forget the old but still capable Audi R8 supercar in entry-level 4.2-litre V8 guise ($287,000).
PLUS: Arresting style; neck-snapping performance; all-pervading soundtrack; great steering; chuckable chassis
MINUS: Un-ergonomic placement of gearstick and centre-tunnel controls; more affordable 336kW GT has been deemed not AMG enough for Australia
THE WHEELS VERDICT
It’s a great-looking car with a great-sounding engine and an X-factor that its rivals can’t match. Combine that with a terrific chassis and a much sharper sticker than the bitey old Mercedes SLS AMG and it appears Stuttgart is onto a winner with the GT S. But if you haven’t ordered one already, you’ll need to join the queue.
THE WHEELS REVIEW
IT appears third time’s a charm for Mercedes-AMG. Having already had two stabs at creating a sports car – the SLR co-developed with McLaren and the schlong-nosed SLS – it’s only with this third iteration that true greatness has been achieved. And you can tell that even from a 15-minute stint behind the wheel on Queensland’s Norwell race circuit.
Not the greatest of first impressions though. In the flesh, the AMG GT S – the top model in a line that will also include a lesser-powered GT in the coming months – appears smaller than expected and definitely lacks the in-your-face drama of an SLS. And it isn’t as loud either. As the GT S begins a series of laps at Norwell with a rotating crew of journos behind the wheel, I wonder why I can still hear myself think. “Where’s the deafening exhaust noise? Where’s all that crackle and pop? Is that journo going soft?”
But patience has its own reward. The AMG GT is an incredibly pretty coupe, especially when viewed from behind, even though the Solar Beam Yellow Edition 1 version we’re being treated to has a fixed rear spoiler, side skirts and a front splitter. No biggie though, because they’re subtle enough not to impede its overall shape.
While the GT S may not quite be the aural crowd pleaser the SLS was, behind the wheel the drama is all there. AMG’s new twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 – punching out 375kW from 6000-6500rpm and a 650Nm wad from 1750-5000rpm when fitted with an AMG Dynamic Plus package – is such a tractable beast, yet there’s a tidal wave of acceleration, induction growl and exhaust thunder waiting for anyone brave enough to bury the right pedal. The downsized engine feels more at home in the GT than in the Mercedes-AMG C63 sedan that goes on sale in July.
Thing is, the GT S isn’t a monster at all. It’s just as ballistic as the old 6.2-litre SLS in a straight line (3.8sec to 100km/h), yet it isn’t as intimidating to drive quickly. How quick? AMG reckon the GT S is eight seconds faster than the SLS Coupe around the Nurburgring Nordschleife, and only seven seconds slower than the SLS Black Series…
“It’s the beginning of a new era regarding driving dynamics” said Tobias Moers, former head of engineering and now chief boss man at AMG, and I can believe it. From the creamy consistency of its steering to the feedback channelled through your fingertips, the GT S wants to be driven hard.
Trailing brakes into a corner doesn’t snap the GT S into oversteer like it did an SLS, yet there’s ample tail adjustment available if you choose to go there. It’s all about progression, and that’s what makes the GT S stand out. Combined with the optional ceramic brakes ($17,500) fitted to our test car, the speed and composure with which the GT S could string together a tight circuit like Norwell would’ve been a pipe dream for the lairy SLS.
And this is only the beginning for the AMG GT. When we raise the topic of a convertible version, AMG’s Moers confirms that “we will bring a family; GT is supposed to be a family”.
A high-achieving family, as it turns out.
Model: Mercedes-AMG GT S
Engine: 3982cc V8 (90°), dohc, 32v, twin-turbo
Max power: 375kW @ 6250rpm
Max torque: 650Nm @ 1750-4750rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
Kerb weight: 1570kg
0-100km/h: 3.8sec (claimed)
On sale: July 2015