first drive report!http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-review/mercedes-benz/first-drives/mercedes-amg-gt-first-drive-review
This is the Mercedes-AMG GT – the second production model to be conceived, engineered and developed at Mercedes-Benz’s AMG performance car skunk works on the outskirts of Stuttgart in Germany.
The indirect successor to the mighty SLS comes in two distinct guises and prices; the standard GT is pitched at £97,195, while the more powerful GT S driven here goes for £110,495.
The latter is planned for UK delivery in April, with the former due to arrive here next October, but order books for both cars are already open.
As well as promising sharpened performance properties, the GT also aims to provide added levels of practicality over the £57,990 more expensive SLS, with which it shares various elements of its floorpan and driveline.
Gone are the heavy gullwing doors and the traditional coupé layout, though. They are replaced by frameless front hinged openings and a fastback body design with a large tailgate that opens up to reveal a 350-litre boot.
What remains of the first bespoke production model from Mercedes-AMG are the exaggerated proportions and vaguely retro aesthetic appeal, albeit in a more compact package.
At 4546mm in length, 1939mm in width and 1289mm in height, the GT is 92mm shorter, the same width and some 27mm taller than the SLS, with which it shares key elements of its aluminium body structure.
It also rides on a platform with a 50mm shorter wheelbase, at 2630mm, as well as tracks that are reduced by 2mm at the front at 1682mm and by 1mm at the rear at 1652mm.
Eschewing the naturally-aspirated 6.2-litre V8 multi-point injected petrol engine of the SLS, the GT is the first Mercedes-AMG model to adopt an advanced new twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 direct injection petrol powerplant mounted well back in the engine bay for optimal weight distribution and low polar inertia – both crucial to top notch handling properties.
Loosely related to the 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder direct injection petrol engine used in the A45 AMG, the 90-degree unit is the first series production road car engine to feature turbochargers mounted inside the cylinder banks - a layout AMG claims boosts thermal efficiency, provides optimal throttle response, and reduces emissions whilst providing for compact packaging.
Further highlights of the new in-house developed engine, which goes under the internal codename M178, include dry sump lubrication to better withstand cornering forces, and an exhaust system with fully variable exhaust flaps that allows the driver to vary the intensity of the engine sound via a button on the centre console.
The results look compelling on paper; the new V8 provides the standard GT with 456bhp at 6000rpm and 442lb ft of torque between 1600rpm and 5000rpm. With added turbocharger boost pressure output rises to 503bhp at 6250rpm and 479lb ft from 1750-4750rpm in the initial top-of-the-line GT S.
By comparison, the standard SLS offered up 563bhp at 6800rpm and 479lb ft of torque at 4700rpm. The car the GT S is really aiming at in pure performance terms, though, is the £120,598 Porsche 911 Turbo, and in its latest incarnation its twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine serves up 513bhp at 6000rpm and 487lb ft at 1950rpm.
Channeling the heady reserves to the rear wheels is a revised version of the dual-clutch gearbox originally engineered by German specialist Getrag for the SLS. Mounted at the rear in a classic transaxle layout, the compact unit helps to provide the new Mercedes-AMG model with a claimed 47 per cent front and 53 per cent rear weight distribution.
The seven speed transaxle gearbox has been heavily upgraded with a new electronic package that sees it offer up to five different operational modes: Controlled Efficiency, Sport, Sport Plus, Individual and, on the GT S only, Race. Further functions include automatic stop/start, brake energy recuperation and a coasting function that idles the engine on a trailing throttle in Controlled Efficiency mode.
Both GT models receive a standard locking differential. But whereas the standard GT gets a traditional mechanical unit, the GT S is fitted with an electronic function that is claimed to provide greater levels of traction by constantly varying the locking effect in acceleration and overrun.
The GT is based around a magnesium and aluminium body structure produced by German construction specialist Thyssen Krupp – the same company that turns out body structure components for McLaren and Lamborghini. In standard GT guise, the new AMG performance flagship tips the scales at 1540kg, while the GTS comes in at 1570kg.
This gives them respective power-to-weight ratios of 296bhp per tonne and 320bhp per tonne – a respective 52bhp/tonne and 27bhp/tonne less than the 1620kg SLS. And the 1670kg Porsche 911 Turbo? It boasts 307bhp/tonne.
What is it like?
The draw of the Mercedes-AMG GT begins the moment you reach for the door handle, step over its broad sill and slide your backside into the fabulous two seat cabin.
There is an appealing individualism and contemporary look to the design of the interior, which is terrifically well organised and imparts a feeling of real quality.
You sit very low on seats with loads of lateral support and generous electronic adjustment, with the heavily structured dashboard imbued with a 8.4-inch monitor and no less than six round ventilation units, while the beautiful multi-function flat bottomed leather steering wheel that adjusts for both rake and reach is ideally placed in a near vertical position.
A pair of dials and a colour display reside in a heavily hooded binnacle ahead of the driver. All of the major controls are grouped in a panel atop the high mounted centre tunnel between the driver and passenger.
Much of the switchgear is unique to the GT; the main buttons and dials are superbly crafted and nicely weighted in their operation. Other less impressive switches are housed out of view within the roof liner.
They may share a common silhouette, various structural elements and driveline components, but on the road the differences between the SLS and the new GT S are immediately apparent.
From the very first mile, the new Mercedes-AMG model feels a more rounded car than its predecessor, offering sharper step off qualities, terrific low end tractability and superior shift quality along with added accuracy to the steering, further compliance to the ride and an excellent low speed manouverability. All of this makes it a more gratifying car in everyday urban driving conditions around town.
Up the pace on the motorway and you discover the core strength of the GT S: the sheer urge delivered by its engine.
Despite giving away 2226cc in swept volume to the naturally aspirated unit it replaces, the new twin-turbocharged engine is quite fantastic, with a wonderfully linear nature without any discernable lag.
It's terrifically smooth and flexible qualities across the entire rev range, and comes with a work-like willingness to pull hard all the way to the 7000rpm redline, as well as a tremendous NASCAR-like soundtrack when you’ve got it operating in anything but Controlled Efficiency mode, in which the exhaust flap is closed off to muffle its aural traits.
This inherent potency of the engine is backed up by much improved qualities from the reworked double clutch transaxle gearbox. It now shifts with added determination, especially in Sport Plus and Race modes, where ratios are engaged with great purpose.
According to Mercedes-AMG’s performance figures, the GT S can crack 62mph in just 3.8sec – or 0.1sec faster than the original SLS. Aided by an active rear spoiler that deploys from the rear of the tailgate at 44mph to enhance longitudinal stability, it is also claimed to reach an electronically limited top speed of 193mph, or 4mph less than its predecessor.
Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are outstanding given the top shelf performance; a combined cycle figure of 30.1mpg relates to an average 219g/km.
In a development first brought to the earlier SLS AMG Black Series, the GT S employs a damper between the engine block and floorpan. It is also the first Mercedes-AMG model to use active hydraulic engine mounts that continuously vary their firmess depending on the revs and yaw properties. Together, they are claimed to dramatically reduce the movement of the engine under load for added handling precision.
Underpinning the new car is a bespoke aluminium suspension that employs traditional double wishbones up front and a complex double wishbone arrangement at the rear - in which the lower wishbones are connected directly to the wheel carrier for added wheel control and adjustment precision. Added to this are sturdy anti-roll bars and a set of standard 19-inch wheels shod with 255/35 front and 295/35 profile tyres.
Allied to well-judged electro-mechanical steering whose assistance alters with speed, the new suspension endows the GTS with satisfyingly sharp responses, outstanding body control and fabulous purchase.
This, together with greater levels of compliance, a more refined feel and generally more determined nature than the SLS in just about every driving situation.
There is terrific fluidity and pleasant directness to the handling, making the new Mercedes-AMG reassuring all the way up to and, when your mood permits, beyond its high limits of adhesion. The inherent accuracy and feel of the steering makes the GT S easy to place in corners.
The underpinnings also telegraph its actions with fabulous clarity, allowing you push hard up to the apex and then get on the power earlier than you would have with the SLS. The sheer traction generated out of corners is exceptional and a clear nod to the deftness of the chassis tuning and expert calibration of the electronic stability control, which only ever springs into action when it is really required.
Provoke the GTS into a drift by turning off the electronic safety net, and it’s wonderfully progressive and fabulously engaging.
The most impressive aspect, though, is the overall cohesion evident throughout the new car. The SLS was already a terrifically well balanced car with sufficient performance to unlock its potential.
The GTS ups the ante by several steps. Subjectively it feels quicker point-to-point yet more civilized over any road, its dynamic properties are sharper while the ride is more refined, and it is also better to listen to at full chat in Sport Plus or Race modes but less intrusive ambling along on part throttle loads in Controlled Efficiency mode. Coupled with the compelling ride quality, it all makes for a formidable long distance grand tourer.
Hauling the GT S down the road proves no great drama, at least not with the optional carbon-ceramic discs fitted to our test car. An impressive 402mm in diameter at the front and 360mm at the rear, they initially lack for bite when driven away cold. But once you’ve worked some heat in to them they provide truly impressive retardation with nary of hint of fade, even after a decent stint on the track.
Should I buy one?
No doubt about it: the GT is a sharper yet more refined prospect than the old SLS.
It is more rewarding car all round, whatever the driving conditions. Be it urban running, motorway cruising, back road running or race track work, it always feels to operate beyond the already lofty levels of its predecessor. And at a much lower price, too.
However, the new Mercedes-AMG model (in GT S form especially) is up against some stiff supercar competition. It’s priced to rival the sublime Porsche 911 Turbo, and it’ll also likely feel the heat from the upcoming second-generation Audi R8, which is due to arrive shortly after the GT S hits UK showrooms.
It is distinguished by its straight line accelerative ability, which thanks to the efforts of its new engine and vastly improved qualities of its gearbox is impressive, but also because of its sheer everyday driveability, engaging handling, fine ride quality, excellent refinement and outstanding interior.