Test Drives

Mercedes AMG GT S Review: Super Sledge



 

Text & Photos: Derryn Wong

This is the latest hammer from the forge that is Mercedes-AMG HQ, Affalterbach, and despite its name, the GT isn’t quite an effortless, mile-munching, cross-continent conveyance.

Instead, the GT does a very good impression of an old-school sports car: It’s full of drama, sounds like a low-flying airplane and requires a gung-ho driver to get the best out of it.

The GT is closely related to the SLS AMG supercar, that modern re-interpretation of the classic 300SL ‘Gullwing’ from Mercedes history. But while the SLS was aimed at being a halo car for the three-pointed star, the GT is more concerned with winning over drivers.

How? Well the price tag is much lower, $699,988 with COE, compared to the near million-dollar price tag of the SLS when it was launched back in 2010.

Both cars share the same aluminium space frame (which weighs a piddling 231kg) but from there the GT departs from its winged predecessor almost entirely: The 4.0-litre twin-turbo engine has 2.1-litres less capacity than the naturally-aspirated 6.2-litre V8 of the SLS, and it’s also 60bhp less powerful, but has the same torque.

The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is similar, but improved, and sits at the rear axle, while adaptive suspension and engine/transmission mounts are a stock feature with the S model.

In silhouette the car’s DNA is very obvious: The cab pushed all the way back, almost on the rear axle itself, the nose stretches out giving the car a streamlined missile-like appearance that’s conjures up the 300SL again, or even a Bugatti Atlantic, something reinforced by the way the headlights and fenders protrude out of the body slightly.

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The test unit is clad in matte metallic grey called ‘designo selenite grey magno’, a $2,200 option. The car’s launch colour, a fiery yellow called ‘AMG solarbeam’, would have been preferable, but that’s an eye-watering $26,000 option.

In any case, the dark paint and dangerous curves of the car render it a sort of optical black hole you can’t stop staring at. It’s long, low and curvy, and it might not be everyone’s cup of nerve-destroying coffee, but it is unique and unforgettable, especially from the rear quarter, where it resembles a species of huge, metal scarab.

Getting in is less of a chore without those attention-grabbing gullwing doors, not that the GT is short on the ability to draw looks, but you still sit very near terra firma. Which is a good thing, since sometimes the GT is quite startling in its ability to impersonate a warbird.

The interior is stunningly well put together, and again, unique as cockpits come in the sports car class. It’ll make you think more of Charles Lindbergh than Nico Rosberg, with lots of rich leather and polished chrome/piano black draped over curved surfaces and thankfully not much OTT carbonfibre.

But the GT is not here to listen to minor ergonomic woes, it’s here to look good, kick ass, and chew chewing gum. In Singapore, you do the math.

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That much is made clear by the cluster of dangerous-looking buttons that ring the center console. Like previous AMGs, you can manually modify the suspension, drivetrain, ESP and exhaust behaviour of the car with them.

What’s different is the drive mode selector, or Dynamic Select as Mercedes calls it. You have four stock presets – Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Race – which dial the madness up or down accordingly, and Individual, which dials it in your very own, special blend of neck-straining preference.

Hit the start button and you’ll realise why AMG has made the NA-to-turbo transition best of all the German carmakers. The turbo V8 idles as a lively, basso drone with harmonic overtones and complexity that’s so commonly lacking in other modern performance turbos.

It’s a mechanical symphony that swells majestically as the revs rise. Peak torque is made at 1,750rpm, but the car really gathers momentum by 2,500rpm and the GT punches ahead. In Manual shift mode, it’ll hold the gear for you all the way until 7,000rpm and the limiter, tap the right paddle and the electrifying process starts again. 0-100 in 3.8 seconds is middle ground in modern sports car terms, but the GT S has a unique brutal accelerative quality.

Sitting near the exhaust probably helps, as does the standard, switchable Sport Exhaust, but there is really no reason for you to ever turn on the radio or to quell the wonderful noise with Comfort mode.  

The drivetrain is almost worth the price of admission alone. It roars, snorts and blurts its way into your heart, even if the car’s uncompromising chassis scares the beejesus out of you at the same time. It’s a bit like having a tame Smaug at your beck and call, but you should be wary of being burnt if you’re not careful.

Seated way back, the front end sometimes feels a bit distant, a by-product of the steering (and perhaps comically-wide tyres) lacking highly-concise feedback, but the response of the GT is pin sharp, it’s supremely pointable and shoots around corners with zero roll and the feeling that it scrubs off very little speed while doing so.

And there is a lot of noise in the cabin – no E-Class this, you’ll feel and hear the suspension flex, while the rear tyre roars away in your right ear, informing you on exactly the sort of tarmac you’re riding upon.

 The chassis is stiff as ever, perhaps a degree too much so, and being seated near the rear axle you’ll feel every bump in the road no matter what setting the adaptive suspension is in. It’s not terribly uncomfortable, but more obtuse bumps will have you out of your seat.

The GT is the sort of car that feels the same going at 20km/h or 200km/h. Whether that’s bad or good depends entirely on the driver’s mindset.

In stark contrast to more cosseting, daily-drive sports cars, it has a uncompromising, almost brutal side. The car’s spiritual home seems to be a modern race track: wide, billiard-smooth tarmac and with plenty of space.

To drive the GT fast in the real world, you need to pay full attention and always have your hands on the wheel. There’s a massive amount of grip from the wide tyres, and it’s not easy to break traction on the rear, but some bumps do jolt the steering, so a firm hand is required to take the car by the scruff of the neck and really hoof it.

It’s not easy to drive fast, but when it is, you’ll feel a definite sense of accomplishment. To wit, the GT S is something like Mjolnir: It gives thunderous power and supreme ability, but you have to be worthy to wield it by approaching it with the right mindset.

The more important thing is the amount of thrills the AMG GT S delivers, whether you’re behind the wheel or not, plus the uniqueness, charisma and desirability factors, all of which the GT has in spades. It’s not a scalpel, and very much a hammer, but fittingly so since it makes such a thunderous impression.  

Mercedes-AMG GT S

Engine                                                           3,982cc, 32V, V8, twin turbo
Power                                                          510bhp at 6250rpm
Torque                                                          650Nm at 1750-4750rpm
Gearbox                                                          7-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed                                                          310km/h
0-100kmh                                                          3.8 seconds                                       
Fuel efficiency                                                      9.5L/100km
CO2                                                                    222g/km
Price                                                                   $699,988 with cOE

Availability                                                          Now

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about the author

Derryn Wong