What is it?
Mercedes’ much-anticipated competitor in the premium sports coupe market, which Porsche has owned with its timeless 911 for the past couple of decades. The AMG GT follows in the wake of the retro-styled SLS, but the new model is smaller, lighter and significantly cheaper, too.
While the SLS was very much a GT car in the mould of the Aston Martin Vanquish, the new AMG GT is an altogether more sporting proposition (don’t let the GT badging mislead you).
The range starts at £97,195 for the entry-level version. The model tested here is the £110,495 S, which gets an extra 48bhp, lifting the total power output to 503bhp.
The 911 is the big seller in this market place, but the AMG GT will also have to do battle with the likes of the Audi R8 – a new version of which is due to arrive in 2015 – the Jaguar F-type V8 R Coupe and the Aston Martin Vantage. BMW’s petrol-electric hybrid i8 is a leftfield, but very worthy, alternative.
The AMG GT is a thoroughly modern sports coupe. Its aluminium construction, transaxle layout, front-mid located engine, downsized twin-turbo V8 and dual-clutch gearbox are all bang up to date for the sector.
The 4-litre, dry-sumped powerplant, with its pair of turbos mounted within the ‘vee’, backs up its 503bhp with a thumping 479lb ft of torque between 1750 and 5000rpm. The seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox is mounted on the rear axle for optimum weight distribution – 47:53 front to rear – and its seven ratios have been spread to make the most of that broad torque curve.
In terms of performance, the rear-wheel drive AMG GT S will sprint to 62mph in 3.8 seconds, topping out at 192mph.
The standard GT comes fitted with a locking rear differential, but in the AMG GT S it gains electronic control, which enables it to react quicker and with more precision for improved traction and handling.
The car is suspended by double wishbones all round. The AMG GT S also benefits from electronically-controlled dampers – an option on the GT – which give the driver a choice of three damping modes. Combined with the car’s low centre of gravity, the sophisticated suspension layout should give the AMG GT S the dynamic quality to rival the likes of the Porsche 911 and Audi R8.
Carbon ceramic brakes are available as an optional extra, although they weren’t fitted to our test car. The AMG Dynamic Plus package was fitted, however – it adds dynamic engine mounts to improve both refinement and comfort in normal driving, and handling precision during more spirited driving.
What’s it like to drive?
The far-reaching bonnet and bulky A-pillars can make the AMG GT slightly intimidating around town, but the driver will soon get a feel for where the extremities of the car are. The ride is certainly firm, even in the softest damper setting, but there’s enough pliancy and cushioning – particularly at motorway speeds – to prevent it from being crashy and uncomfortable.
The engine is muted at low speeds with the sports exhaust switched to its quieter mode and the dual-clutch gearbox shifts cleanly and smoothly for the most part (only occasionally does it catch or snag around town), which makes the AMG GT a very useable everyday car.
The twin-turbo engine delivers a mighty thump even from the lower reaches of the rev range. It doesn’t give the same thrilling crescendo as the SLS’s normally-aspirated 6.2-litre V8 right at the top end, but the trick sports exhaust does at least replicate that car’s dirty, bassy V8 rumble. It’s just a shame that most of the aural highlights are reserved for onlooker rather than the occupants.
Over a demanding stretch of the road, the AMG GT is brilliantly resolved. It feels tied into the road surface and it has enormous levels of body control. That helps it stay flat in direction changes and composed over undulations, which invites the driver to keep pushing harder and harder.
The long bonnet – with the front wheels mounted way out ahead – takes a moment to get used to, but with the engine located more or less beneath the dashboard there’s never any sense of resistance from the front end on turn in. Instead, the car feels agile and supremely well balanced.
The steering is the only real dynamic weakness. In fact, it’s hugely precise with a linear, natural rate of response, but it doesn’t drip with feel, which means the driver must learn to trust the vast reserves of grip at the front axle. The rear axle, meanwhile, finds plenty of grip itself, which makes the AMG GT feel stable and secure when pressing on. Traction is very impressive indeed for a car with so much torque on offer, even in damp conditions.
We’ll wait to deliver a verdict on how well the suspension copes with lumpy, broken British B-roads, but on the smooth Californian tarmac the AMG GT was very impressive indeed. The lighter, more focused Porsche 911 remains the sportier and more agile of the pair, however, if only by a small margin.
Anything else I need to know?
The AMG GT’s cabin is a very impressive piece of work. The expansive silver trim of our test car did divide opinions, but for the most part the cabin quality is very good with a sense of occasion that a 911 couldn’t hope to match. The transaxle layout does mean that the boot is quite shallow, however, and after a long motorway run the seats did feel a little short on cushioning.