Mercedes and its acquired AMG sub-brand have always been somewhat of a juxtaposition for me. I respect their cars immensely; I find most of their designs tastefully understated and a few years ago I even bought an old W126 just to revel in its immense build quality for a little while. But for my personal tastes they’ve never really left me with that burning, urgent need to own one like the other brand from Stuttgart does. So when AMG announced that they have built a ‘true competitor for the Porsche 911’, a phrase flipped by almost every sports car manufacturer these days, I was typically skeptical.
But after attending the Adelaide preview of the new GT S, I’m rapidly coming around to AMG’s way of thinking. And I’ve got that insatiable desire to drive this thing, a feeling that the SLS or even the SLR never elicited.
The proportions of the GT are absolutely spot-on. It borrows mere styling suggestions from the SLS in terms of the upright windscreen, the way the a-pillar joins at the centre point of the wheelbase, the almost comically high belt line and those horizontal rear lights, but overall it is a far more refined design. It’s a small car that feels no bigger than it needs to be, lithe and ready to pounce. It has presence but doesn’t trade it for an air of everyday usability, arguably the most important and hardest to replicate trait for any would-be 911 competitor.
As we have come to expect of anything bearing an AMG badge (the fun little A45 aside), a thumping big V8 is found under the long bonnet of the GT S, in this case the latest generation twin-turbocharged, dry sumped M178 four litre. In the GT S it gives 375kw (503hp) at 6250rpm, and 650nm of torque is delivered from 1750rpm all the way to 4750rpm.
We started the V8 and gave it a few revs, the sound pure anger as the noise bounced off the hard surfaces in the big hall the car was in. It still has the gruff, trademark AMG yawl but it’s a tad more refined in the GT. It seems AMG have learnt a few showboating tricks from the Jaguar F-Type too, and if you open the exhaust valves the GT has all of the giggle inducing snap, crackle and pop on engine deceleration that serves no purpose other than sounding the business. No complaints here.
Under that satin silver heat shield up the back of the engine bay sits those two turbochargers, mounted inside the V where the exhaust ports can bark straight into them. It’s a little bemusing as to why this idea is only just taking hold, as the clever packaging means both intake and exhaust tract lengths can be kept incredibly short for improved throttle response. I imagine there’s some pretty tricky technology to solve the various heat management issues, but it seems like such a simple concept.
It might not look it from the outside but the GT is a proper mid-engined car. That plastic cover with the badges merely hides free space, and you can see by the turbochargers that the engine is mounted well and truly behind the front axle line. With a rear mounted transaxle gearbox, the GT has an almost perfect 47/53% weight distribution.
You sit down low into the cockpit of the GT but ingress is not as challenging or undignified as you may think. The alcantara trimmed wheel dominates the experience, and all of the primary vehicle controls fall to hand on the oversized centre console. The vehicle, navigation and infotainment systems are intuitively controlled through Mercedes’ latest generation interface consisting of a scroll wheel and an apple-esque touch sensitive pad.
Software gimmicks don’t usually impress me much in a sports car, but I will admit that Mercedes’ latest generation of navigation is pretty cool to muck about with. All of the buildings in the major cities of the world are accurately mapped and rendered – check out Adelaide’s Westpac building!
If I’m honest I think the big chrome console trim dominates the cockpit more than it should, but it’s a small gripe. The overarching impression is of extreme quality; it’s beautifully finished and the attention to detail is superb. The switchgear has a solid feel to it, even down to the door lock knobs that appear to be milled aluminum.
The cockpit is a pleasant place to spend your time, and that’s important in a sports car that purports to be used every day. You can put up with cheap plastics and the odd squeak when you’re at warp 10 on a twisty road, but it’s the quality materials that you’ll notice when driving through the city to dinner.
The AMG GT seems to be one of the first true alternatives to the 911, well, to the Carrera GTS and below at least. It has all of the showroom appeal, the pricing is keen and if I’m honest I think it’s a nicer looking car. The truest test will be not in just driving it, but in living with it for that is where the 911 truly excels. The GT walks the line of refraining from being overtly brash and it is, dare I say it, tastefully understated.
Driven recently on Any Given Reason:Adelaide #AMG #GT #GT S #Mercedes #Mercedes-Benz #South Australia