Review of: 2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 2dr Cpe S
2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S: Six letters have transformed a company
By Jil McIntosh
Aug. 7, 2015
Six letters have transformed a company. AMG GT S. They don’t roll off the tongue, but they sure roar off the line. To me, Mercedes-Benz has always been a luxury-car company that also offers sports cars. Now, it’s arguably a sports-car company that also makes luxury sedans.
This all-new model takes its place at the top of the company’s lineup, where the now-retired SLS previously parked. It may not draw as many curious glances, not when you open the doors conventionally as opposed to the SLS coupe’s gull-wings, but that doesn’t matter once you’re in it. Even with 80 fewer horses, it’s still a far sharper and more satisfying driver than the SLS ever was. Yes, they took eighty horses out and still made it better.
Wisely, Mercedes-Benz hit us with both barrels the first time out, as the lesser-powered (and undoubtedly lesser-priced) GT will hit the market next year. The Mercedes-AMG GT S starts at $149,900, but of course you don’t have to stop there. My tester had a $2,500 carbon fibre trim package, a $2,800 Exclusive Package that extended that pricey trim, and then added $3,400 for its red Nappa leather upholstery, $250 for its silver seatbelts (why you wouldn’t want matching black or red, I have no idea), and $6,900 for its Burmester surround-sound stereo. All in all, I need to win $165,750 in the lottery to give this puppy permanent status in my driveway.
Pros & Cons
- + Great exhaust note
- + Great fun to drive
- + Generous low-end torque
- - Rearward visibility
- - No graceful way to get in or out
- - Shift lever
It may not have gull-wing doors, but it’s a stunner with its long nose and shortened tail. Many say they have detected whiffs of Porsche’s 911 in the design, given that it’s the car Benz has in its sights. But from the rear three-quarter view, I’m reminded of the Jaguar E-Type’s classic proportions.
I could spend three pages minutely describing the hood scoops, the headlights, and the rear wing that automatically rises when you’re 20 km/h over the highest legal 100-click limit in my province, but what’s the point? All that needs to be said is that this is one damn gorgeous slice of sexy car. So much so that I had a few anxious moments on the highway when a few other drivers, drawn by its looks and the novelty of such a rare car in the wild, chased me down and drifted frighteningly close so their passengers could video me on their phones.
I attended the world premiere of this car in Germany last year, where the designers spent a lot of time explaining all of the details they’d put into the cabin. The condensed version is that the dash is a low-set “wing,” and with the exception of the knurled knobs for the four central vents, there are no knobs or controls on the top portion to interrupt the flow, and with a separate centre console that isn’t visually attached to it. The four buttons on either side of the console symbolize the car’s V8 engine.
As is common, the central screen is tablet-style and set at the top of the dash. This allows for a smaller dash and also keeps your eyes up and toward the road when looking at the screen.
The low-slung floor and high sill give you no really graceful way to get in or out, and the cabin is tight, although much is forgiven once you’re staring down that long, domed hood. There’s some small-item storage space up front, and room for overnight bags once you lift the hatch.
Some of the ergonomics could be a bit better. The GT S has the requisite cupholders hidden away at the front of the centre console, and the joystick and touch pad for the infotainment system tuck in right behind them. That means the electronic gearshift lever is positioned well at the back, where you’ll have to twist your wrist to reach it, as well as the “Park” button included on its pad.
Overall, from the flat-bottomed steering wheel to the abundant metal accents—and the carbon fibre optioned on my tester—this interior is gorgeous. And yes, I would definitely check off my tester’s “Red Pepper” extra-charge leather choice, which really brings the cabin to life.
The infotainment system uses Mercedes-Benz’s usual joystick controller, along with a touchpad curled over top which you use to trace letters or numbers to access information. There’s a bit of a learning curve to it, especially just in scrawling the letters close enough to something it can recognize. Navigation and satellite radio are standard equipment.
The surround sound system was a hefty chunk of change at $6,900, and I’m guessing I’d get a lot more out of it if I actually owned the car. But I only had my ride for five days, and so while I turned the stereo on a couple of times to check it out, I mostly left it off, because I didn’t want anything to interfere with my enjoyment of the sounds the car makes.
Okay, enough with the peripherals; on to the meat of the matter. AMG’s custom is for one person to build the engine from start to finish, and my hat’s off to Stefan Schreyer, whose signature plate on the cover indicates he was the man responsible.
What he built is an all-new 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that knocks out 503 horsepower. It may not sound as impressive on paper as the outgoing SLS’ 583 horses, but while both churn out 479 lb.-ft. of torque, the GT S maintains its twist power through a much broader range, starting at just 1,750 rpm. As a result, while the SLS posts a 0-to-100 km/h time of 3.7 seconds, the GT S almost matches it in 3.8 seconds, even with 80 fewer ponies.
The sole transmission choice is a seven-speed automatic dual-clutch unit located at the rear axle. With the transmission back there, the engine’s midway location behind the front axle, and a standard electronic rear differential lock, AMG’s engineers say that the weight balance and traction is enough that an all-wheel-drive option isn’t necessary.
Smack the pedal to the metal and the GT S throws you back in the seat. But under normal driving, it doesn’t actually feel as fast as it is, and it can catch you by surprise, as it did me at half-throttle when I checked my speedo against the sign on the highway and found a serious discrepancy.
But if the speed sometimes sneaks up on you, the sound definitely doesn’t. This car is gloriously visceral, from the throaty engine to the burble of the pipes that gets even louder when you press a button to open an internal exhaust flap. The stiff suspension transmits every bump in the road, but that’s not a complaint: it just adds to the experience. You feel this car through your hands, your feet and your seat.
The handling is sharp enough that you could measure turns with a protractor. It’s by the far the most responsive Mercedes I’ve driven, including the SLS. Pop it into “comfort” mode and you can take it in traffic to the office, while you still have ‘sport,’ ‘sport plus,’ and ‘race’ modes up your sleeves, along with an “individual” mode where you can custom-tune everything and save it. A console-mounted button gives you two sport settings for the shocks, and when you press it, you can feel the adjustable suspension screwing the back end down over a pair of 295/30 tires that each look as wide as an entire Smart car.
The GT S is a big car, but it doesn’t drive like one. It’s snarly but composed, fast but well-mannered, and it goes like stink and with the sound to match. Mercedes and AMG have definitely hit the mark.
Unlike rivals that offer several versions of their nameplates, this Mercedes-AMG comes in only one flavour right now, so you have to look beyond the starting prices when comparing the GT S and its $149,900 tag.
The Porsche 911 starts at $112,800 for 400 horses, but it’s $172,400 for the 911 Turbo and its 520 ponies. Likewise, you can get into a 430-horsepower Audi R8 for $136,100, but you need $170,500 to get the 525 rating of the R8 5.2. About the only break you’ll get in the 500-horse range is Jaguar’s F-Type R, which gives you 550 of them for $117,500.
Driving the Mercedes-AMG GT S took 20 pounds off my frame, 10 years off my age, and turned my grey hairs brown again. Well, okay, no, but cruising along in it, I sure felt like it did. The company has outdone itself, and taken its sports side to a whole new level with this car. I’m sure anyone fortunate enough to get behind the wheel will whole-heartedly agree.