Being the Porsche 911 must be tough.
Engine: 4.0 L Turbocharged V8, 503 HP and 479 lb. ft. of torque
Transmission: Seven-speed dual clutch
Price (US): AMG GT S starts at $130,825 after destination charges
Price: (CDN): AMG GT S starts at $151,975 after destination charges
0-60 MPH: 3.7 seconds
Top speed: 193 MPH
Every time a new high-end sports car comes to market, Stuttgart’s rear-engine wonder is firmly in the cross hairs. I guess after fifty-plus years of success, it’s normal to be a target.
So why is there so much Porsche discussion during a Mercedes-Benz review? Because the latest car to come from the three-pointed star is the 2016 AMG GT S and it’s positioned to challenge the iconic P-car head-on.
It’s a Mercedes-AMG
Officially, the car is called the Mercedes-AMG GT. When it comes to cars built by Mercedes-Benz’s in-house tuning arm, Karl Benz gets the shaft and his name is dropped from the nomenclature. Then again, Mercedes-Benz-AMG is a bit of a mouthful.
The GT marks the second car wholly designed and built by AMG. Using a modified SLS platform, the GT retains classic Mercedes styling cues like its predecessor. With a long hood and tightly sloped rear end, the GT is identifiable as a Mercedes while remaining unique in its own right. The new AMG is a couple of inches longer and substantially wider than the Porsche 911 and Jaguar F-Type and carries a curb weight of 3,695 lbs.
As gorgeous as the outside of the GT may be, the inside is absolutely stunning. Mercedes claims it makes you feel like you’re slipping into the cockpit of fighter jet. That may be a bit much, but there are some aviation-inspired design cues inside. Even though it’s a smaller vehicle, there is more room inside the GT than the SLS. At over six feet tall, I can easily sit in the AMG-GT with a racing helmet on, something I struggled with in its predecessor.
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The Hot V
But a pretty design is nothing without mechanics to back it up. For now, only the more potent AMG GT S is available. Mercedes will offer the less potent base GT model, but that won’t happen until later this year. Both cars come equipped with a new AMG-built 4.0-liter turbocharged V8 engine. In the AMG GT S, power is cranked up to an impressive 503 HP and 479 lb-ft of torque.
Don’t assume the new Mercedes engine is just another German 4.0-liter turbocharged V8. The AMG power plant has its two turbochargers mounted inside the V of the cylinder banks, similar to where the Corvette Z06 puts its supercharger. Mercedes-AMG implemented this design to cut down on turbo lag and reduce how much packaging space the engine would call for. Mercedes claims it’s the first engine to have inboard mounted turbochargers and dry sump lubrication.
Oh, It’s Fast
With a seven-speed dual clutch transmission sending power to the rear wheels, the AMG GT S is claimed to run from 0 to 60 MPH in 3.7 seconds on the way to a top speed of 193 MPH. And you know what? It feels every bit capable of that. Power is instant and builds in a tremendous crescendo that has the rear tires hunting for traction. During some wet laps around Canada’s famous Mosport racetrack, the AMG GT S powered up the inclined back straightaway, building speed the whole way. Mosport is a fast track that favors powerful cars and the AMG GT S fits right in.
Many, me included, were leery about AMG’s switch to a smaller displacement V8 engine. A large part of the AMG appeal resides in that amazing V8 howl that explodes from the brand’s vehicles. After a few seconds of driving the GT, my fears subsided. The AMG GT S can still wake your neighbors and cause minor seismic tremors with a V8 roar. Set the adjustable exhaust to open and the cabin fills with glorious V8 goodness. There aren’t any parlor tricks sending sounds through the speakers or firewalls here. It’s all, 100 percent, eight-cylinder magnificence.
Handles Bendy Roads As Well As It Bellows
The AMG GT S is more than just an engine. it’s a complete package. It may be a front engine car, but since the transmission is positioned at the back of the car, it has rear-bias 47 to 53 percent weight distribution. The S ditches the regular GT’s mechanical rear differential for a faster reacting electronic differential and comes standard with AMG ride control that electronically alters the dampers.
AMG has really sweated the details to give the GT as many performance advantages as possible. To save weight, the car ditches a conventional car battery for a lighter weight lithium ion one. Since there is dry-sump lubrication, the engine is missing a conventional oil pan that allows it to sit 55 mm lower in the car than it normally would, lowering the overall center of gravity. Like many premium sports cars, the GT features trick aerodynamics like the rear spoiler that deploys automatically at 75 MPH.
Although it was raining during my track time with the AMG GT S, it’s apparent how well the car can dispatch corners. AMG laid waste to no fewer than 1,200 sets of tires during development of the GT to ensure it was dialed in. Initial turn in response from the car is lightning fast. Even if overall steering effort is light, it delivers a lot of feedback to your hands.
In the wet, cold conditions, the AMG GT S was a handful, with the powerful V8 constantly trying to break the rear tires loose. During one session when the weather momentarily subsided, I could feel how much grip is available during maximum cornering loads. The AMG GT S is wholly capable of hustling around a racetrack at a high rate of speed, but it’s still missing that complete, integrated feel of engagement found in a few of its competitors.
And For Even More Performance
If the AMG GT S isn’t enough performance on its own, there is the AMG dynamic plus package that includes adjustable engine and transmission mounts. In the soft setting they provide great comfort and a smooth ride. Stiffen them up and the engine and transmission feel as if they’re glued to the chassis to deliver better response with a side helping of vibration. Other performance enhancements include greater negative front axle camber, a stiffer suspension, revised steering and higher performance tires.
Braking in the AMG GT S is not an issue at all. The base pistons grab the rotors quickly and ferociously. Even in the rain, braking performance was outstanding thanks in part to an automatic brake-drying system that lightly applies braking pressure every so often to keep the rotors and pads dry in the rain. Of course Mercedes also offers an optional set of carbon ceramic brakes that measure almost 16 inches in diameter up front.
Pricing for the AMG GT S starts at $130,000, which puts it right on par with mid- to high-end versions of the Porsche 911. Although it isn’t as dynamically capable as the 911, the AMG GT S is gorgeous, sounds glorious and is a gem to drive in its own right. AMG truly has built a viable alternative to swimming in an overpopulated sea of Porsche 911s.