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 kabob, you panic and you panic good. Typically we mimic Vincent Price in The Fly and say, "Heeellllppp Meeeeeeee!"
But this time we did not freak out. Because, despite the fact that the speedo in the engineering prototype was passing 193 mph, the driver of our Mercedes AMG GTS was none other than Tobias Moers, the new head of AMG and the guy who engineered this car.
“Ja, it is okay,” he said loud enough to be heard over the roar of the NaCl slamming into the craft’s wheelwells like rocket-propelled road salt as the front tires were pulled left and right through the slushy ruts. “It is not so bad.”
Perhaps, it was not. True, the orange traffic cones set on sticks maybe a quarter mile apart that more or less defined the course we were supposed to take over Bonneville were popping up over the horizon, whipping by and then disappearing below the curvature of the Earth behind us at a ferocious rate. But no matter. This was quite an experience.
We glanced at the Euro-spec speedo, 311, it read. That’s, uh, carry the three, yes: 193 mph. Then a different speck appeared over the horizon and pretty soon it turned out to be a full-sized car. So we would not make the GTS’ 194-mph top speed today. Within a couple seconds we had coasted and gently braked back down to a speed that wouldn’t even have gotten us a ticket on the rapidly approaching Interstate 80 just ahead of us.
We went 193 miles per hour in the 2015 Mercedes AMG GTS.PHOTO BY MARK VAUGHN
This kind of thing is pretty fun. Ask anyone at Bonneville Speed Week. Ask them how they handle that high-speed wheel wander on the salt. We’d like to know. In the case of the Mercedes-AMG GTS, you just stay on the throttle.
“The faster you go, the more stable it becomes,” said Moers. “At 160 or 200 (kph, or 100 to 125 mph) you get this…”
He grabbed the racer’s imaginary steering wheel in his hands and swayed back and forth.
“Then you step on the gas…”
The AMG GTS gets 503 hp from its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8.PHOTO BY MARK VAUGHN
When you step on the gas in the AMG GTS you will get 503 SAE hp at 6250 rpm, just shy of the 7000-rpm redline. That’s the kind of output you’ll appreciate at a place like Bonneville, where horsepower is king and torque is along for the ride. The same V8 in the “entry level” GT model makes only 456 hp, which is still nothing to sneeze at. And you wouldn’t want to sneeze at these speeds.
The new twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 replaces the 6.2-liter V8 that was in the SLS. The GT and sportier GTS are basically the new SLS. The new car is still made out of aluminum, with the exception of a magnesium front cross member, but it is shorter, lighter and a little less powerful than its predecessor. Even so, Moers says that it’s faster around a race track.
We didn’t have a race track on our trip to Utah but we did have some mountain roads. Before heading west to Bonneville we went east onto the twisty two-lanes of the Wasatch mountains. Here Moers was able to use the engine’s vast, flat torque curve to its best result. Peak torque of 479 lb ft is available from 1750 to 4750 rpm. Stepping on the throttle at almost any point in the rev range resulted in equal parts massive thrust and tuned engine roar (louder or softer via the tuned exhaust button on the console). Moers estimates 0-60 in 3.6 seconds and we would have to agree with that. The GTS was most impressive when the broken yellow line appeared on the road and we passed some cars, safely and with a loud roar. That was fun.
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 ...
We got a sense of the car’s lateral grip on some of the canyon’s curves, where the Michelin Pilot Super Sport (MO) 265/35ZR19 front, 295/30ZR20 rears mounted on 10-spoke wheels held to the road like sticky notes. The new car has the same chassis controls as other AMGs, with a dial on the console to tighten up shift speeds, shocks, throttle response and deepen the exhaust note. We tried Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Race and felt the differences. They were typical AMG, with varying levels of AMG immediacy. The steering was quicker than just about any gran turismo on the market and the throttle response was similarly quick. Lifting off the throttle delivered immediate engine braking, as with other AMGs, unless the car’s computer sensed you had lifted off in a corner, where sudden engine braking could upset your line. Then it eased off.
Moers is particularly proud of a new feature on the GTS in which we rode, the Dynamic Plus package of active powertrain mounts. There are two for the front-mid-mounted engine and two for the transaxle out back. Since the mass of the powertrain is so great as a percentage of curb weight, tuning the active mounts to reduce the effect of that mass in corners was the aim of the new system. We’d need some seat time back-to-back with and without it to tell you how much difference there is, but Moers was enthusiastic on the stability enhancement it offered.
That's a Euro-spec GTS in green and a U.S. spec TS in black and white. We like the green scheme.PHOTO BY MARK VAUGH
The GTS will be the first model out, debuting September 9 in AMG’s home in Affalterbach. The GTS will go on sale next spring, maybe in April, with the GT coming out in fall 2015. U.S. pricing is still a long way from set, but Moers said to expect European pricing for the GT at under 100,000 Euros and for the GTS at 112,000 before taxes. That’s $134,000 to just over $150,000 in our dollars, give or take a couple/ten grand. That doesn’t take into account all the weird and goofy things that make up European prices. Other estimates have put the AMG GT closer to $100,000. Either way, that’s maybe Aston Martin or upper Porsche 911 territory. The GTS fits nicely in that slot.
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