Mercedes-AMG GT review
Mercedes thinks it can knock the Porsche 911 off the top of the sports car market and that the Mercedes-AMG GT is the car to do it
The Mercedes-AMG GT is an all-new sportscar developed entirely in-house by AMG. In spite of its SLS inspired silhouette, it’s not a direct replacement for the gull-winged supercar. Instead the smaller and cheaper GT has the Porsche 911, Jaguar F-Type R, Aston Martin Vantage and Audi R8 in its sights.
Powered by a new biturbo 4.0-litre V8 engine that drives the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, the new Mercedes sports car offers a choice of two variants with different power outputs - the 456bhp GT and the 503bhp GT S.
Mercedes-AMG GT at Paris Motor Show 2014
With a top speed of 193mph, the GT S will hit 62mph in just 3.8 seconds, and comes with an electronically controlled differential and AMG Ride Control three-stage damping. The GT gets a mechanical differential, but will still hit 62mph in four seconds.
The more expensive AMG GT S arrives in the UK in April 2015 with the GT following in August. Plus, the first lucky owners 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
AMG’s second sports car, the new GT is smaller than the SLS Gullwing, but it retains the same front mid-engine, rear-wheel drive layout. Designed to be what Mercedes describes as “a contemporary sports car which embodies the spirit of glorious Mercedes sports cars of the past” the car has a clear lineage back to the brands 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.
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 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 has the eight buttons laid out in an expanding 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. Controlled by the latest COMAND system with touch pad and roller dial, the mapping is super clear and the audio; telephone and settings functionality is intuitive and easy to operate.
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 personilised leathers and high-end options.
One look at the tantalising 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, double wishbone suspension and a low centre of gravity – it has all the best sports car ingredients.
Sat low in the car, the driving position is good, and when you press the starter button on the transmission tunnel, the all-new 4.0-litre V8 burbles into a smooth idle. The attractive 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.
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 trys to control roll and pitch are just not there – the GT is incredibly composed.
The variable ratio steering is light and fast, but lacking 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 close its limits.
Still, for all its tautness and grip, the GT S remains an enjoyable road car. The suspension set up is just the right side of too 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 but overall refinement is excellent.
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 9th in our 2014 Driver Power survey, although their dealers finished a disappointing 21st from 31.
Safety kit is a strong point, too. The GT comes as standard with Collision Prevention Assist, a knee airbag and tyre pressure monitoring, while optional extras include Adaptive high-beam, reversing camera, lane tracking, blind spot warning and traffic sign recognition.
Day-to-day usability is key to rivalling cars like the Porsche 911, and the Mercedes-AMG GT doesn’t score badly on this front.
The chunky A-pillars make visibility tricky at junctions but a low seat means there’s plenty of headroom and the driving position is excellent. The 350-litre boot will hold two golf bags either long ways or across. 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 216 and 219g/km of CO2, which means you’ll pay £280 a year in road tax – the same as 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, too, but fixed priced servicing will help you budget for maintenance. It’s a little early to say how well the GT will hold its value, but as a guide the outgoing SLS retained 46.0 per cent over three years.