The skinny: A long, long bonnet, 4.0 litre bi-turbo V8 and crushing performance, the new AMG GT S is the baddest boy in town. Few cars drive as well, as brutally fast, and with such chassis balance and nailed-down grip.
It looks like it should be carrying a spiked club, but offers cosseting luxury inside, and an exclusive feature list. AMG, no risk, has Porsche in its sights with the new GT S… let the track hostilities begin.
Vehicle style: Premium sports coupe
Price: $294,610 (before on-road costs)
Engine/transmission: 3,982cc direct injection, bi-turbo V8 / AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 7-speed transmission
Power/torque: 375kW/[email protected]
Fuel consumption: (claimed) 9.1 l/100km | (tested) 11.9 l/100km
To look at the AMG GT S is like seeing sin – dark, brooding, filled with menace – a good kid gone off the rails, and now “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”.
It helps that it has the presence of a white pointer. People sense that it’s near; the deep, gruff, ground-shaking rumble from the pipes at the rear signals its approach, and when they see it, they're mesmerised.
Immensely powerful, every stamp on the accelerator accompanied by a thunderous volley from the dual-pipe rear, Mercedes’ new AMG GT S rules the road like an apex predator.
It bites and snarls and twists through a set a turns with ridiculous grip and eye-watering speed.
Strange then that it is so easy to drive, so accommodating, and – though it baulks and bumps and strains when poking through town, and that bonnet is so absurdly long – so light and manoeuvrable.
What an amazing car it is. Cruel, really, that I would have to rob seven banks to buy it. Cruel, that you would likely have to do the same.
Its $295,000 asking price puts it in very rarefied air, and anyone lucky enough to have one in the garage becomes part of a very exclusive club.
But let me tell you, if your numbers drop, if there is a “bank error in your favour”, if that miserly aunt you’ve never met suddenly succumbs, you would definitely have one.
With the AMG GT S, Mercedes has built something very, very special.
Key standard features:
- AMG instrument cluster, sports pedal cluster, sports seats with Nappa leather upholstery
- AMG Performance 3-spoke steering wheel, flattened bottom, 12:00 o'clock marker
- Burmester 640 Watts surround sound system with 10 speakers, 10-channel DSP amplifier
- DAB+ digital radio, CD/DVD player, two USB ports, SDHC card slot (10 GB memory)
- COMAND Online high resolution colour display with 21.3cm screen
- Touchpad ‘finger gesture’ COMAND Controller
- 3D navigation map display with photo realistic 3D buildings and 3D map rotation
- Cruise control
- LED head lights with adaptive highbeam assist
- Integrated WLAN hotspot
- LINGUATRONIC voice control system for audio, telephone, navigation and music search
- Bluetooth interface with hands-free function
- SMS/e-mail write/read function and Bluetooth audio streaming
- Electrically adjustable (with memory function), heated, driver and front passenger seat
- KEYLESS-GO electronic drive
- Luggage net in left hand side of luggage compartment
- THERMOTRONIC automatic twin-zone climate control, among a suite of premium features
If I were to mention a gripe about the interior, if I was to find fault – Mercedes Benz is, after all, only ‘human’ (a perverse notion I know) – it would only be contrariness.
The nit-picking of a churl; not happy with anything.
Because the interior of the AMG GT S is, simply, exquisite. Heavy-handed, sure, even a little ‘industrial’, and perhaps not elegant in the way that Audi does elegance, but with a raw-boned beauty none-the-less.
With swathes of leather trim and stitching, superb cold-metal surfaces, switch-gear and controls with the feel and engineered precision of a Swiss watch, and with a beautifully-balanced Alcantara and leather steering wheel (with a 12:00 o’clock marker for when things get hectic), it looks and feels every inch the super-premium machine.
The 21.3cm screen looks like an iPad someone glued into a valley in the dash, but that’s the way Mercedes Benz does them. It is easily used and navigated, and is as clear as the sky.
The navigation can also be moved into the centre of the instrument cluster, or you can configure it with technical data or trip information.
The electrically-adjusted, heated, ‘standard’ AMG seats grip like racing buckets, can be tailored to the body and are brilliantly comfortable.
(And the AMG Performance seats that come with the Edition 1 package – with carbon-fibre rear wing, ‘black diamond’ interior, red-leather highlights with red contrasting stitching, black 20-inch alloys, and more – are simply superb.)
Also superb, and with ground-shaking clarity if you wish to announce your purchase to your neighbours, is the fabulous Burmester 640Watts, 10-speaker surround sound system.
So, few things to find fault with here.
Well, maybe there is one thing: at the risk of being churlish, the shift lever for the seven-speed dual-clutch rear-mounted transmission is in the wrong spot; it's mounted too far rearward in the console.
For chaps like me, devilishly handsome but with stumpy legs, it had me reaching and twisting awkwardly back to shift it in and out of drive. It’s minor, but an ergonomic failure.
No such issues with the other controls – eight buttons controlling various alchemies rimming the V-shaped centre console.
The console itself comes standard with a broad ‘silver chrome’ metal finish, but can be specified in carbon-fibre or piano black, and it looks sensational in a jet-fighter way.
Under those controls are things offering various levels of entertainment, like the starter button, and an exhaust ‘loud button’ – very entertaining; press it, and an exhaust baffle opens, changing the gruff growl of the pipes to a deep, loud, gravelly bark. We just left it switched on (and why wouldn’t you?).
Also among the buttons is an on/off switch for the auto stop/start, which, typically annoying, we turned off.
There is also the controller for selecting between the various dynamic modes, from Comfort, through Sport, Sport+ and Race mode. On a scale of “soft” to “mental”, it’s not very soft in comfort, very mental in Sport+ and entirely deranged in Race.
The very low seating position takes a little time to get used, given the high belt-line and very long nose.
It feels a bit like sitting in a hole and looking out over a small island.
But you’ll get used to it – it helps that the GT S is so easy to drive – and there is an old-fashioned E-Type sports-racer charm about it.
The boot space is ok for a two-seater coupe; we fitted a couple of ‘carry-on luggage’ cases, briefcase and loose gear. Certainly enough room there for a weekend away or the Saturday meg-shop (but you’ll be carrying the golf clubs on the roof).
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 3,982cc direct injection, bi-turbo V8
- Power/torque: 375kW/[email protected]
- AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 7-speed transmission (rear transaxle)
- Double wishbone suspension (front and rear)
- Hydro-mechanical variable ratio power-steering
- AMG 360mm ventilated discs front and rear; six-piston fixed-caliper front, single piston floating caliper rear (optional carbon ceramic 402mm AMG discs)
The AMG GT S, in RACE mode, will launch to 100km/h in 3.8 seconds. For the technically minded, that’s less than four “cat-dogs”.
What that means – in practice – is that if you floor the accelerator, your teeth will arrive before your face.
In fact, the throttle response, at any speed, and from very low revs, is instant and neck-snapping. And lag? About as much as that moment before being fired out of a cannon.
Responsible for all this mumbo is the M178 twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 under the bonnet. This is no ordinary V8 and no ordinary twin-turbo.
Unusually, it has an AMG-developed ‘hot-vee’ design with the exhaust manifolds and turbos sitting in the valley of the ‘vee’ (and the inlet manifolds outside).
This shortens the path of the exhaust gas pressure to the turbos, but also concentrates heat there. To compensate, the AMG GT S comes with a very large cooling system and some elaborate plumbing for the intercoolers.
According to Mercedes’ spokesman, Jerry Stamoulis, it runs cooler under intense track conditions (cooler even than the AMG C63 S) as a result.
The M178 V8 in the GT S develops slightly less torque than the M177 V8 in the AMG C63 S, 650Nm as opposed to the 700Nm in the sedan and wagon.
But the GT S is lighter, and marginally faster. It has a 47:53 rear weight bias, thanks to the ‘rearward set’ V8 and rear transaxle carrying the seven-speed DCT transmission.
The lightweight aluminium construction combined with this chassis balance, translates to profigious, and dismissively assured, on-road grip.
Fire it around some slippery bends, as we did on a damp run down the coast, and the GT’s ability to point through an apex with not a discernible trace of understeer, and to get the power in early on exit, is, like, scarily good.
Such is the grip, your nerve will fail you before the car – especially when you’re wrangling the beast through a slippery tight turn with a sheer drop on one side, and a rock wall on the other.
The steering too is rapier-sharp. It’s an ‘old-fashioned’ lightly-assisted hydraulic system, and the feel for the road and what’s happening at the wheels is better than nearly everything we’ve driven the past year or more. (Mechanical steering might be old-hat, but it sure takes some tossing for feel.)
Helping the dynamics of the drive is the massive Michelin boots on 19-inch alloys up-front, 20-inch at the rear.
The ride is firm (what did you expect?), especially in Sport and Sport+ modes, and there is a fair amount of tyre noise on coarser tarmac. But for every kilometre you travel, you will be constantly reminded that this is a performance car to its thunderous core.
The AMG GT S is such a great car to drive. It is raw automotive theatre – visceral, blistering and brutish – from the moment you fire it up.
You’ll be intoxicated by the bark at the pipes, by the whirr of gears coming from near your left hip as you paddle it through the rapid-shifting seven-speed transmission, and you’ll never tire of the sense of ‘following’ that long, long nose as you point it at the open road.
But we had to give it back.
Safety features: Among a full suite of passive and dynamic safety features, the AMG GT S offers eight airbags (front, knee, head and full length window), along with traction control, electronic stability control, lane-keeping assist, ABS, hill start assist, fatigue detection, blind spot assist, a collision detection and warning system, reversing camera, and tyre pressure monitoring.
HOW IT COMPARES:
You’ll be shelling out $276,090 (plus) for the Porsche with PDK seven-speed transmission ($268,700 for the Carrera 2 manual). The pinnacle of drivers’ cars, the 911 Carrera GTS offers 316kW and 440Nm, quite a bit less than the 375kW and 650Nm of the AMG GT.
It’s a ‘Sophie’s Choice’ here – they are both fantastic performance machines – but there is a clear difference: the Porsche is more the switch-blade to the AMG’s bludgeon. But the Porsche will never turn as many heads as the brooding Mercedes and there would be little in the battle on track.
Then there is the gorgeous Audi R8 at $287,000. A howling jewel of a sportscar, with a truly beautiful interior and pumping 316kW and 430Nm to the tarmac through a sublime quattro AWD system. Certainly not as raw as the Merc, nor as satisfying as the Porsche, but one of the great modern cars.
VERDICT | OVERALL
There is a rare intensity and genius to the AMG GT S. It is, in every sense, a total brute of a car.
For raw power and amazing athleticism, and for the visceral, intoxicating experience of the drive, it has few peers.
With a low-slung, long-nosed, ‘bad boy’ stance, it looks sensational – few cars turn heads like this one.
And while it may have the darkest of dark hearts nestled into that astonishing chassis, it is beautifully trimmed and featured, and feels every inch the exclusive premium drive.
If you’re thinking Porsche, you now have a choice. (Better get those numbers in or start mixing up a toddy for the ageing aunt.)