- Available for under £60,000
- 4.0 litre petrol twin-turbo V8, rear-wheel drive
- Flat cornering but sensitive to bumps
- Excellent reliability record
- Most of the SLS experience at half the price
A couple of months ago we drew your attention to the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG as an interesting prospect for those fortunate enough to have £110,000 to spend on a used Merc.
AMG's first ground-up, clean-sheet car showed what could be achieved with the mechanical equivalent of Thor's hammer, the gloriously bestial M159 6.2 litre V8, an engine so good that it was still preferred over the new-generation 4.0 twin-turbo V8 for FIA GT3 racing six years after the new and more modern motor arrived. Which it did in 2014 when the SLS's replacement using that 4.0 engine, the AMG GT, was announced at that year's Paris motor show. This is the car we'll be focusing on today.
From a distance, the 2015-on GT didn't look all that different to the SLS. Although its wheelbase was 50mm shorter than the SLS and the whole car was 92mm shorter overall, the expedition-length distance between the GT's windscreen and its headlights gave it the SLS's classic Saturn V rocket booster look. As in the SLS, the GT's V8 power went to its rear wheels via a transaxle. Also as per the SLS, the GT had 47/53 front/rear weight distribution. It didn't have quite the same curling-stone road presence as the SLS, but the GT's jazzier colours and electrically extending rear spoiler meant that it still delivered plenty of visual heft. You weren't shortchanged on V8 din either, despite the switch to turbocharging. The GT still produced that bilge-pump burble at idle, rising to a Geronimo yell at the 7,000rpm redline.
The most important difference between the SLS and the GT was something you couldn't see or hear - market positioning. New, the £160,000 gullwing-doored super-grand tourer SLS was in a class of its own in just about every sense. The GT was smaller and less exotic, with conventional doors that went a long way towards bringing it in for under £100k - a crucial price point in the battle with Porsche's Carrera and the then-new second-generation Audi R8.
Now, on the secondhand market, the GT is a lot more affordable than the SLS, the values of which firmed up considerably after 2014 when buyers realised that 2015's 'new SLS' wasn't going to be as special in either body style or, if you were an old schooler, oily bits. As a result, it's difficult to find a decent SLS for under £120,000 today, whereas early GT coupes with under 50,000 miles on the clock are easily found at £60,000 or less.
If the straight 476hp GT's 4.0sec 0-62 time doesn't do it for you, fret not as this was just the entry level car. The 510hp/495lb ft GT S was actually the first GT to go on sale in April 2015, the base car not arriving in showrooms until the end of the year. The S had a 0-62 time of 3.8sec and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential (the standard GT's diff was mechanical), plus new Race and Race Start modes in the AMG Dynamic Select adaptive drivetrain system, AMG Ride Control adaptive suspension, a moving-flaps AMG Performance exhaust that was optional on the GT, a lithium-ion battery and a front splitter in gloss black rather than the car's body colour. Top speed on the S was 193mph.
An Edition 1 flagship model based on the S came with a new bodykit, a big fixed rear wing, new carbon aero at the front, and staggered 19/20in wheels in gloss black. Inside there were suede/leather-trimmed AMG sports seats with contrast stitching and textured diamond trim on the centre console.
Higher-performance coupes joined the range in the GT's first facelift year of 2017: the GT C with a wider body, active rear steering and 550hp/502lb ft, and the GT3 racer-styled GT R with 585hp/516lb ft, a 3.6sec 0-62 and a top speed of 198mph. The R supplemented its normal Ride Control suspension with adjustable coilover springs and included an active air-managing underbody fairing, new air intakes and diffusers, manually adjustable rear wing and nine-mode AMG Traction Control. A few luxury items like Keyless-Go were dropped from the R spec and the sound system reverted to the basic GT's four-speaker system.
The £143,000 GT R became F1's official safety car in 2018, recording a 'ring time of 7m10sec in 2019 and offering an interesting alternative to the McLaren 570S. The base GT received a few of the R's cosmetic upgrades in the 2017 facelift.
2019's £189,000 GT R Pro was the most hardcore GT. It set out to fill the gap between the road and race GTs. With extra downforce, tweaked suspension and a better power to weight ratio it knocked six seconds off the R's Ring time. 750 of these GT Pros were going to be made available. We found one 4,000-mile 2020 specimen for sale in the US at just under $170,000, so apparently there's no premium on these yet. Contrast that with the Black Series SLS, fifteen of which were made and which have been advertised in recent times at £750,000. If you want to know what a GT R Pro looks like, just go to the PH header page and it'll be at the top of that.
Convertible Roadster versions of the base GT and C were added to the GT range in 2017. The GT Roadster cost £11,000 more than the coupe. Both Roadsters incorporated the GT R's underbody air management system, a three-layer fabric hood that could be deployed in 11 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph, a wind deflector, and the Airscarf system that had lawyers knocking on the doors of Mercedes's German dealerships in 2016 demanding their uninstallation on patent infringement grounds.
The arrival of the four-door version of the GT in 2019 resulted in another facelift that year for all coupe and Roadster GTs. We'll cover off what that entailed as we meander through this guide.
Secondhand, the GT may be half the price of the SLS, but is it half the car? Is it a pretender, a kind of SLS-too-lite, or a bit of a bargain? You'll have probably formulated an answer to that one already, but let's take an objective delve into what you'll get for your sixty thou.
SPECIFICATION | MERCEDES-BENZ AMG GT
Engine: 3,982cc, V8, 32v, twin-turbo
Transmission: 7-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 476@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 465@1,600-5,000rpm
0-62mph: 4.0 secs
Top speed: 189mph
MPG: 30.4 (official combined)
Wheels: 9x19 front, 11x19 rear
Tyres: 255/35 front, 295/35 rear
On sale: 2015 - now
Price new: from £97,200
Price now: from £58,000
Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we try to use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it's wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
The GT's twin-turbo 4.0 was always going to be negatively compared to the SLS's Armageddon-summoning M159 6.2, but the forged-crank M178 'hot vee' dry-sump motor that shared the bore and stroke dimensions of the A45 AMG was no dope. Although it gave away 84hp to the SLS, the basic GT's peak power was produced 800rpm lower than the big 'un's at 6,000rpm. Better yet, its 465lb ft torque peak (only 14lb ft down on the 6.2) chimed in at 1,600rpm, more than 3,100rpm earlier than the arrival of the naturally aspirated car's maximum thrunge. And best of all, the GT delivered its peak torque all the way from 1,600rpm to 5,000rpm, laying the path for a dream partnership with the AMG Speedshift DCT 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.
All of which goes towards explaining why, despite the big power gap and the minimal 5kg weight difference between the GT and the SLS, the later car's 0-62 time is only 0.1sec slower than the SLS's. The GT's enhanced powertrain efficiency knocked on to its official combined fuel consumption figure of 30.4mpg versus the 6.2's 21.4mpg - although realistically your GT mpg numbers are more likely to start with a 2, or even a 1.
Now let's look at the Speedshift 7-speed trans. In the SLS, it was a less responsive DCT than Porsche's PDK and was prone to the occasional lurch if, for example, the box decided to upshift while the car was decelerating. Still, SLS shifting could be retrospectively sharpened by applying AMG's enhanced factory software, and in terms of reliability it's always been a tough unit. Having said that, 135 AMG GT S cars built between June 2015 and June 2016 did have a problem. A burning smell is never good in any car. Here it usually meant that the bonding between the 3.9kg carbon fibre propshaft and the transmission flange had gone wrong. There was a recall for that.
Anyway, the good news was that the Speedshift's efficiency and shift times were improved for the GT. Four modes were provided by the AMG Dynamic Select system: C (Comfort), S (Sport), S+ (Sport Plus) and a new "I" (Individual). The S model's manual Race mode gave the shortest shift speeds and more engine noise. Pressing the M button activated manual shifting in any drive mode. There was double-declutching in manual, Sport, Sport+, and Race modes (in S models and above). The GT's ratio spread was larger and there was a 'sailing' mode that decoupled the trans from the drivetrain at speeds between 60km/h and 160km/h for greater economy, not a bad thing in a car whose mpg will drop into the teens or worse if you flog it.
The servicing schedule is every 12,500 miles. AMG's pride in its 'one man, one engine' philosophy should keep major engine problems at bay. You'd like to hope so anyway given the fact that Mercedes dealers were charging £135 an hour for servicing a couple of years ago, and the rarity of significant complaints from owners or even professional YouTube moaners would seem to back that up. There have been a few recalls for various things - GTs built between May 2018 and the end of October 2019 were recalled to fix a potential leak from a turbo oil feed line and ECU software was updated on Nov 2014-March 2017 cars - but the impression you get is that these recalls may have arisen more as a result of AMG's own programme of improvement than from a raft of actual owner problems.
Last time we looked you could pay around £45 a month for a fixed ServiceCare plan that was supposed to cover a GT's annual service costs for two or three years, as long as you didn't exceed 15,500 miles a year. To see if that was still the case we pumped the details of not one but five GTs into M-B's online calculator but it told us that every one was an invalid entry, that they were unable to process the reg numbers online, and that we'd have to call their service contract people. That all seems a bit lacking in transparency but unfortunately it's increasingly par for the course in our experience. Manufacturers generally seem very reluctant to publish their servicing costs these days.
The removal of the SLS's top-heavy gullwing doors helped to lower the new car's centre of gravity, and Mercedes's figure of 231kg for the bodyshell was claimed to be a benchmark figure in the sports car segment, though we're not sure what they were comparing it to.
In its PR material Mercedes-AMG claimed a 90 percent fuelled kerb weight of 1,540kg for the AMG GT, citing its 'intelligent material mix' of light alloy for the greenhouse and body, magnesium for the bonnet, and aluminium for over 90 percent of the SLS-derived spaceframe components. The weight most commonly quoted on t'internet for the GT is 1,615kg, that being the amount M-B quoted for the 90 percent fuelled car plus a 68kg driver and 7kg of luggage.
Whatever, the GT was lighter than the Porsche 911 Turbo and the Jaguar F-Type R. its chassis design hinged (bad word, probably) on the extensive use of aluminium to deliver maximum dynamism and precision through light weight and high rigidity, with the more compact M178 engine mounted well back in the chassis to help with overall balance. 2015 road testers - that's road testers from the year 2015, not 2,015 road testers - generally agreed that it turned into corners with remarkable keenness for a thing of its size and, once in the corner, with an equally remarkable amount of roll-free grip, but the price for that was a busy ride quality and a tendency for the car to react through the slightly too light steering to bigger bumps, or even be lifted clear of the road by them. Few categorised the GT as an easy drive, but if you enjoyed a little drama in your life you would very likely enjoy the challenge.
On the S model the AMG Dynamic Plus package included dynamic engine and transmission mounts whose stiffness was continuously adjusted by the AMG Chassis Controller to suit driving conditions. Ceramic brakes were a £5,995 option. They worked really well when warmed up but the feel through the pedal wasn't that great.
There was a recall on April 2018-November 2019 GTs to sort out an ESP control unit software issue, and all-new traction and stability control software was fitted as part of the 2019 facelift.
Nobody would pretend that the GT is the easiest car to see out of. Add in its rounded and distant body extremities and you're looking at a recipe for body dings, and not just on city-bound cars either.
The GT's boot is well sized and will even hold a golf bag plus sticks. Unlike the huge bonnet which had to be made from lighter magnesium alloy to keep the weight down, the GT's new and convenient liftback was relatively small and could therefore be made of steel. New lights, bumper and wheels came in the 2019 facelift, along with a redesigned rear diffuser and trapezoidal or quad-exit tailpipes.
As you'd expect, activating Sport mode cranks up the noise. You may find yourself in that mode more often than not, if only to drown out some of the road noise which is quite noticeable in a GT even when cruising in Comfort mode.
Before we talk about the cabin, let's talk about getting into it. The GT's regular doors may have helped to lower the c of g as well as the pulse rate of the M-B accountants but they didn't make entry and egress much easier. You still had to negotiate the SLS-style sill, although in practice this was less of an issue than it may have looked on the first encounter.
Once you're in you'll enjoy a beautiful, and beautifully engineered, environment. Some reckon it's not 'special' enough but others might see simplicity as a virtue. Set against the generally Gulliverian scale of everything else the oddly toylike (and awkwardly far back) gear selector toggle and an absence of headroom for taller drivers strike slightly false notes, though on the plus side there is an absolute wealth of cabin storage.
Owners of right-hand drive GTs will be pleased to note that AMG went to the trouble of relocating the big starter button on the right side of the dominant centre console. Given the relative difficulty of reading the analogue speedo, all GT owners were pleased to receive help from the additional digital speed readout.
Every GT had heated leather sports seats, climate control and an intuitive, easy to use 8.4in-screened Comand infotainment system with DAB radio, hard drive, satnav, Bluetooth and smartphone integration for track day lap recording and the like. The £4,195 Premium pack included a reversing camera, pano sunroof, 640watt Burmester sound system and illuminated door sills. The £3,000 Carbon interior pack gave you a high gloss carbon centre console, strut brace, door trims and air vent pods. The £800 Night pack had gloss black grilles, vents, mirror surrounds and tailpipes. £1,700 bought the Driving Assistance pack with lane assist, blind spot assist and radar Distronic cruise control.
There was a recall on the software for the radar control unit on Feb 2017-July 2019 cars, and another one to replace the front seat belts on July 2017-March 2018 cars. Poorly manufactured belt buckles on some later cars were replaced. There's been at least one instance of a mysterious and apparently hard to pin down problem with the lane assist system, albeit on another AMG model.
Mercedes-AMG's management team described the GT as 'handcrafted by racers... a sports car in its purest form'. That might seem like stretching it a bit, but the fact that the GT will take you, your main squeeze and a few changes of clothes to the Cote d'Azur shouldn't be allowed to somehow overshadow the fact that you'll also be able to complete that journey in just over ten minutes.
Okay, your ears might be tired by the end of the trip, battered not so much by the engine as by tyre and suspension noise, and your brain might thank you for giving the rougher routes nationales a miss, but outside of these small quibbles there's so much to love about the AMG GT. It's built to last, the reliability record is strong, the interior is fab, it sounds great, it goes like a bat out of hell, and you'd think that any pub vote would give a thumbs up not only to the GT's appearance but also to its image. When our glorious leader Nic tested it in period he called it 'a wonderful addition to the sports car world... a gleefully exciting and expressive car with its heart not so much worn on its sleeve as riveted to its forehead'.
All that at prices starting below £60,000 for a car that's less than five years old? Some mistake, surely, especially with current new AMG GT prices now beginning at £157,000? Well, no actually. Thanks in large part to the depreciating effects of the 2017 facelift on earlier cars we had no trouble finding this 2016 44,000-miler in black with the Premium package at £57,500.
Although some say the C is more focused than the S, from a performance per pound/value/availability perspective we'd be more than happy with an S. Here's a privately owned 2016 S in red with not just the Premium pack but also the Carbon, Driving Assistance and Night packs, not to mention diamond cut 19/20 staggered alloys. With a full service history, new rear tyres and the comfort of knowing that it's lived in a heated garage it looks like fine value at £59,990.
There's really no need to spend over £70,000 on a GT because there are plenty of sub-20,000-mile cars around for less than that, but if you really want to push the boat out here's a 2019 R Premium in the mad Hell Green Magno hue for just under £125k.
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