The 2016 Mercedes-AMG GT is the second model fully developed by Mercedes' in-house AMG performance arm following the limited production gullwing SLS supercar. Unlike the very high-dollar SLS, the GT is targeting a broader audience and playing in an area that's highly competitive with established vehicles like the Porsche 911, Audi R8 and Jaguar F-Type. It's stiff competition, but the GT has quite a few things going for it.
The GT certainly has pedigree with a shortened version of the SLS' aluminum spaceframe with magnesium front supports. In all, 93 percent of the structure and body are aluminum. One of the few things that isn't aluminum or magnesium is the trunk lid, which is steel.
An updated version of the seven-speed dual-clutch sequential manual transaxle supplied by Getrag also makes the jump over to the GT from the SLS, but instead of harnessing power from a 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8, it's now working with an all-new AMG-developed 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 with 456 hp in the base GT and 503 hp in the range-topping GT S. The new engine features a "hot inside V" layout for its two turbochargers, meaning they're mounted inside the V portion of the engine to not only help produce a more compact package but provide optimum response time. The engine is also dry-sump lubricated to ensure necessary oil delivery under high lateral g-forces.
The eagerly awaited Mercedes-AMG GT will be powered by a twin-turbocharged four-valve-per-cylinder 4.0-liter V8 gasoline engine that produces 503 hp (SAE) at 6,250 rpm and 479 lb-ft of torque between ...
Handling is aided by a 47 percent front and 53 percent rear weight distribution. Suspension is double-wishbone front and rear with available adaptive damping (standard on GT S). A mechanical limited slip differential comes on the GT and an electronically controlled locker on the GT S. Carbon-ceramic brakes are available. Our GT S test car was shod with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires (265/35 ZR-19 front and 295/30 ZR-20 rear).
However, unlike the SLS -- a rather rough-riding vehicle because of its heavy performance focus -- the GT aims to behave more like its name implies and be a respectable grand touring car like the 911 and R8. A comfort setting can be selected through the rotary dial on the center console for the suspension, steering and engine behavior, as well as dynamic magnetic engine and transmission mounts that will allow more dampening properties, but then can be stiffened in the high performance sport, sport-plus and race modes.
The cabin is lined with soft leathers, Alcantara and carbon fiber, and equipped with a premium Bermester sound system in hopes of providing a ride suitable for relaxed motoring. The cabin overall is fairly airy with a surprising large rear cargo compartment that will easily carry a weekend's worth of luggage for two people.
An AMG-developed 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine with 503 hp powers the GT S.
How does it drive?
Our drive of the Mercedes-AMG GT S began on the crowded and low-speed streets in and around San Francisco, which were ideal to see how it behaved as a grand tourer. Turns out, it's quite good at it. With comfort mode selected, the V8's engine note isn't obnoxiously loud and there's enough give in the suspension to prevent occupants from getting beat up. Steering features a dead spot on center, but it still has a pleasing amount of heft tuned in. For the most part, the dual-clutch transmission operated well with quick shift performance when left in full-automatic mode, but there were a couple of instances where it got hung up between gear changes and then slammed into gear to jolt the entire car.
The seating position in the GT S is low in the comfortable and heavily bolstered seats. The cabin stays quiet enough, allowing us to easily have a conversation with our co-driver without having to raise our voices, and the airplane-inspired layout of all the controls are easy to operate and clearly marked. If there is one thing that may get annoying during daily driving, it's the thick A-pillars, which obstruct the side views out of the car, making turning out into traffic a bit more of a challenge.
On some winding back roads between San Francisco and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., we did get a chance to push the car a little. With sport-plus selected, the car offers oodles of performance for the street with snappy throttle response from the rumbly V8 that's punchy everywhere in the rev range. There's no turbo lag to speak of, and strangely there's no audible turbo whirls and whooshes that you can pick up in the cabin even when you're leaning on the throttle hard. It's sounds like an angry German muscle car, especially with the active exhaust on allowing it backfire when you lift off the gas. Manually selecting gears with the nice-sized steering wheel paddles is extremely quick, and the car tracks confidently through corners.
Normally, when you’re approaching 200 mph on slushy Bonneville salt and your car starts to waver a little, or more precisely, to yaw back and forth like a chicken carcass on a greasy shish ...
At Laguna Seca, we hit the track leaving the car in sport-plus for our first session with the transmission impressing us with crisp shifts and perfect rev matching for downshifts. Automatic shift programming was really good for a lap, but then we used the paddles to choose the gears the rest of the time with instant response to shift commands. The 503 hp felt comfortably manageable on the track, but with peak torque available at just 1,750 rpm rolling onto the throttle smoothly out of corners is best to prevent traction control from cutting power. Set the car in a turn and there's a lot of grip on tap that makes hitting your marks easy. It's a communicative car that lets you know when the front tires are approaching their limits through the steering wheel.
For the next couple of sessions out, we punched up race mode that loosened up the stability control allowing for more slip angle in corners, but it would still save your bacon if you got too far out of shape. It's definitely more fun to have the rear dancing around some with small steering corrections keeping you going along, which makes the driver feel more involved. Steering is wonderfully direct feeling in race mode, and the carbon-ceramic brakes on the track cars were plenty strong to scrub speed off. Under hard braking, the car stays composed, which is always comforting.
Occupants sit low in the GT’s aircraft inspired cockpit trimmed with leather, Alcantara, carbon fiber and piano black surfaces.
Do I want it?
If you don't want to become a Porsche Guy or Porsche Gal and are looking for a competent alternative to the 911, then the Mercedes-AMG GT S is something you should really take a gander at. On track, the Porsche feels a little more buttoned up compared to the Mercedes, and the spectacularly comfortable on-road behavior of the latest 991 911 trumps the GT S, too. Compared to the Jaguar F-Type and Audi R8, the Mercedes-AMG has better handling reflexes on a track, but are about on par with the two when it comes to street comfort.
What the GT S provides a rawer driving experience, which the people who have complained about the 911 becoming too much of a GT car should be happy about. The GT S is comfortable enough for road trips and offers enough space to actually carry a respectable amount of stuff.
The GT S will arrive in dealers in April, with the base GT following a year later. Expect other GT variants to follow, too. Dr. Frank Emhardt, the Mercedes-AMG GT head of development, says we can expect the new sports car to follow in the footsteps of its SLS predecessor, which was also offered as a roadster and in Black Series trim, in addition to the coupe.
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