Mercedes-AMG GT S review

What is it?

Mercedes-AMG’s very first example of a right-hook, Aussie-spec GT S super sportscar. And in the fetching, range-topping ‘Edition 1’ trim offered from its July launch.

What’s Edition 1 entail?

Well, for a start, it’s a $19,900 premium over the regular $295,000 GT S, so there’ll two versions available at launch.

Half of the extra Edition 1 goodies are aesthetic and aero enhancements: a more aggressive front fascia design, a natural carbonfibre-finish roof, blackout Exterior Night stylisms, specific 10-spoke rims and a more race-inspired cabin makeover with Nappa leather ‘performance’ seats and a neat Dinamica-trimmed tiller.

The rest of the package essentially hardens up the vibe and handling character somewhat. Electronically controlled damping, aka AMG Ride Control, is fitted as standard on Edition 1.

So is the AMG Dynamic Plus package, which adds a suite of harder-tuned addendum such as firmer spring and damper settings, more negative camber up front, speed-sensitive ‘sports’ steering, dynamic self-adjusting engine and transmission mounts and a Race drive mode to regular trio of Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus settings.

What, no regular GT?

Nope. Mercedes-Benz Oz is doing what all prestige Euro importers do with big-ticket new models: launch with high-spec variants filled with lots of fruit. So both the GT S and GT S Edition 1 get the full monty 375kW and 650Nm from the biturbo 4.0-litre V8, rather than the GT’s 350kW and 600Nm.

While the official line is that there are no plans to bring the GT to Oz, you’d wouldn’t bet against it arriving some time in the range’s lifecycle, perhaps closer to $250K – and 911 Carrera S money – in price.

It’s just a baby SLS, right? Or a bloated SLK?

If you presume so you’re in for a big shock. It’s way better than the SLS it effectively replaces. And not just because it’s a helluva lot more affordable.

When pushed, the SLS could get downright spooky – it was essentially a big, powerful hot rod without a huge amount of poise.

Granted, we only had about ten laps around the Norwell Driver Training circuit, which is a tight, dinky and fairly lumpy track, but the GT S is a sharper, friendlier and more focused sportscar. It feels much better sorted and more resolved when pushed hard.

It’s also offers far too much performance for such a compact and tight circuit, though it was an absolute hoot.

Isn’t it supposed to be Affalterbach’s answer to the Porsche 911?

Sure. And in many ways it is. At 1540kg, it feels light on its feet and a tremendous agility. From how keen it is to track its front end to how well sorted and communicative the interplay is between the throttle and the rear axle, it’s a real AMG high water mark. And seeming taps sports car purity with as much gusto as the finest 911 Carrera.

It’s also quite an intimate driving experience – you steer it with light and accurate inputs rather than chucking it around with white knuckles.

And yet, the GT S is anything but Mercedes-AMG biscuit-cutting a rear-engined Porsche…

How so?

AMG boss Tobias Moers, who was at Norwell for MOTOR’s drive, name-check’s Jaguar’s F-Type Coupe R as a key rival, and after a red hot go at his new steed you can see why.

The GT S still retains that hot rod factor of the SLS, from how it sounds to its rolling punch, to how much swagger and mojo it has at six-tenths, to the glorious view across the sculpted bonnet.

It’s a total feel-good car in a number of areas where 911s can feel a bit lacking. So, yes, it’s got a lot of that Coupe R fire about it, particularly when you kick it in the slats when exiting a corner and the tail end dances around under forced-induced V8 torque.

Ah, yes, the 4.0-litre turbo V8. As heroic as the old 6.2?

Fire the biturbo V8 into life, plant the right foot, snick a couple of paddle-slapping upshifts via the seven-speed twin-clutch transaxle and you’ll almost begin to believe AMG boss Tobias Moers’ bold claim that “nobody will be missing the 6.2.”

It’s a gem of an engine. Somehow, AMG engineers have manage to virtually eliminate turbo lag and, at just 1750rpm, well before its sonorous exhaust bark bellows throughout the cabin, 650Nm has wound up the electronically control diff lock and is doing its best to unglue the fat 295mm rear rubber.

Where the GT S gets hairy-chested is from the mid-corner and corner exit. It doesn’t take much to unglue the rear rubber, though the linearity of the throttle allows a high level of accuracy when doling out the V8’s good with the right foot. There’s so much on tap, though, that you really want to keep the tail tidy before unleashing all of the engine’s herbs.

So how quick it is?

Its maker claims the GT S will dispatch the 0-100km/h sprint in just 3.8sec. We didn’t try launching it hard but it sure feels that quick…if the rear hooks up well enough, that is. V-max is a lofty 310km/h v-max.

So it’s plenty good then?

Put it this way: the victory is that in one package AMG has managed to imbue its new hero with 911-like friendliness, accuracy and precision in driver control with the kind of fiery, lively, ballsy character of, say Jaguar’s F-Type Coupe R. And an arguably more accomplished, multitalented blend than either key rival can muster.

A PCOTY contender then?

Absolutely. And a frontrunner at that.     




Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, DOHC, 32v

Power: 375kW @ 6000-6500rpm

Torque: 650Nm @ 1750-4750rpm

Weight: 1540kg

0-100km/h claim: 3.8sec (claimed)

Top speed: 310km/h (claimed)

Price: $314,900

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