Mercedes-AMG GT review
Mercedes thinks it can knock the Porsche 911 off the top of the sports car market, and the AMG GT is the car to do it
The Mercedes-AMG GT is the firm's new flagship sports car. It's been developed entirely in-house by AMG, yet despite having a silhouette inspired by its predecessor, the SLS AMG, it’s not a direct replacement. Instead the AMG GT is a smaller and less expensive GT, and it has the Porsche 911, Jaguar F-Type R, Aston Martin Vantage and Audi R8 in its sights.
Power comes from an all-new twin turbo 4.0-litre V8 that will appear in the next generation of AMG models. Here it drives the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, while the GT is offered with two power outputs - 456bhp in the GT and 503bhp in the GT S.
Mercedes-AMG GT at Paris Motor Show 2014
The faster GT S can sprint from 0-62mph in just 3.8 seconds and on to 193mph, while it comes with an electronically controlled differential and AMG Ride Control three-stage damping. The GT gets a mechanical differential, but will still manage 0-62mph in four seconds.
The AMG GT S is now on sale in the UK, while the GT is available to order with first deliveries in August. Early birds will be able to go for the limited edition AMG GT Edition 1, which comes with extra standard equipment and exclusive details, like a large fixed rear wing and a carbon fibre front splitter, plus more prominent side skirts.
Our Pick: Mercedes-AMG GT S
The Mercedes-AMG GT is the second sports car from the performance division, and follows in the footsteps of the SLS Gullwing. It retains the same front mid-engine, rear-wheel drive layout, but it's smaller, and has been designed to be what Mercedes describes as “a contemporary sports car which embodies the spirit of glorious Mercedes sports cars of the past”. It's clear from its design that the GT has a clear lineage back to Merc's most famous sporting models.
With the same long nose and squat proportions, there’s a hint of the SLS about the AMG GT’s shape, but delicately flowing surfaces ensure the GT looks far more svelte than the outgoing SLS, and its proportions are similar to the Jaguar F-Type's.
The arched roof flows smoothly into the broad but athletic tail, while at the front traditional AMG bonnet vents and latticework side vents leave you in no doubt as to the potential under the bonnet.
Customers can choose from a range of carbon, black or chrome exterior detailing packages, but even in its most basic form, the GT has the head-turning appeal to rival the world’s most desirable sports cars.
The sense of occasion continues inside, where the driver-focused cabin makes a strong impression. Tucked into the low-slung driver’s seat, you’re cocooned between the concave door panels and the huge transmission tunnel. In a nod to the V8 engine, this centre console the eight buttons laid out in a V formation - and it comes in a choice of chrome, matt carbon, high-gloss carbon, black diamond or matt silver finishes.
The sweeping dash features a quartet of circular air vents and Mercedes’ excellent tablet style screen. It's controlled by the latest COMAND system with touch pad and roller dial, while clear mapping and audio controls mean it's easy to operate on the move.
As you’d expect in a car with a six-figure price tag, the cabin is trimmed in upmarket materials, while all the switchgear is first-rate. A lovely Alcantera trimmed flat-bottomed wheel finishes off the stunning cabin, and if you’ve got the funds, there’s huge scope for personalised leathers and high-end options.
One look at the specification of the AMG GT is enough to get you excited about the driving experience. An aluminium chassis, a 4.0-litre V8 with dry-sump lubrication and twin-turbochargers, a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, multilink suspension and a low centre of gravity – it has all the best sports car ingredients.
You sit low in the car, and the driving position is good, although your view ahead is dominated by a large bonnet bulge. Press the starter button on the transmission tunnel, and the all-new 4.0-litre V8 barks into life before settling into a burbling idle. The tailpipe noise that comes into its own above 3,000rpm - especially with the standard sports exhaust activated.
With 650Nm of torque available as low as 1,750rpm, the 503bhp GT S feels instantly responsive, yet peak power doesn’t arrive until 6,250rpm – so there’s performance on offer throughout the rev range. The dual-clutch gearbox shifts seamlessly, and there’s a nice blip on the downshift accompanied by pops and bangs from the exhaust.
Mounted low in the chassis and behind the front axle; the engine’s compact packaging helps deliver a low-centre of gravity and excellent weight distribution. As a result, the GT S feels sharper and more dynamic than previous AMG models. From behind the wheel, the GT feels planted to the road and very stable.
Body control is excellent, and for a front-engine rear-wheel drive car, traction and mechanical grip are sensational. The wriggling and writhing motions you expect as the rear axle attempts to put the power down and the suspension tries to control roll and pitch are just not there – the GT is incredibly composed.
The variable ratio steering is light and sensitive, but it lacks the last percentage of feel you’ll find in a Porsche 911: you need to trust that the front-end bite is there rather than feel it. Yet the AMG’s handling composure and grip means you’ll need the freedom of a track to get near its limits.
For all of its tautness and grip, the GT S is a reasonably refined cruiser. The suspension set up is just the right side of firm and, on smooth tarmac with the dampers in Comfort Mode, the GT S rides decently enough to be comfortable. The wide tyres generate some road noise at speed, and the engine does tend to make more noise than some rivals, but overall refinement is good.
The GT is new from the ground-up, but it’s been subjected to rigorous performance testing - so we wouldn’t be too concerned about reliability. Especially, as AMG’s famous ‘one man, one engine’ principle means the 4.0-litre V8s are hand built to the strictest quality standards.
Across the car, a host of proven Mercedes components should further cement confidence in its reliability, while Mercedes ranked 11th in our 2015 Driver Power survey, although their dealers finished a disappointing 21st from 31 in 2014.
Safety kit is a strong point. The GT comes as standard with Collision Prevention Assist, knee airbags for driver and passenger and tyre pressure monitoring, while optional extras include adaptive high-beam LED lights, a reversing camera, lane tracking, blind spot warning and traffic sign recognition.
Day-to-day usability is key to rivalling cars like the Porsche 911, but the Mercedes-AMG GT isn't the most user-friendly sports car.
The chunky A-pillars make visibility tricky at junctions, and the high bonnet means some crests will be tough to see over, but a low seat means there’s plenty of headroom and the driving position is excellent. The boot is similar in shape to the F-Type Coupe's, and it will hold two golf bags longways. There's a maximum of 350 litres, or 285 litres if you pull the load cover closed, but at least that keeps your belongings out of sight. The boot lid opens wide so access is easy and there’s an aluminium strut to stop luggage sliding forward under braking.
However, the shallow boot and its lumpy floor make the space a little awkward. With tiny door pockets and a small glovebox, storage space is a bit tight in the cabin, too. By comparison the F-Type Coupe has a 407-litre boot, while the 911’s combination of rear seats and a 115-litre deep nose boot gives it a slight advantage over the AMG GT.
A V8 sports car with a six-figure price tag is never going to be cheap to run, but the GT gives you the image, sound and thrills of the outgoing SLS for a lot less money.
The GT and GT S versions emit 216g/km and 219g/km of CO2 respectively, although these figures mean tax costs will be similar to the 209g/km F-Type R Coupe. As a mark of the efficiency gains Mercedes has made, the outgoing SLS emitted 308g/km.
Even so, the GT still sits in the 35 per cent tax bracket for company car buyers. Insurance and fuel bills will be high, but fixed priced servicing will help you budget for maintenance. And thanks to the AMG's exclusivity and limited production numbers, residuals of around 59 per cent are ahead of the Porsche 911.