RE: Mercedes-AMG GT: Review

RE: Mercedes-AMG GT: Review

Saturday 13th August 2016

Mercedes-AMG GT: Review

Is the 'basic', non-S AMG GT really the best of the bunch? Time to find out!



The Mercedes-AMG GT is a very likeable and competent car. But in the arena it operates, 'likeable and competent' aren't really enough.

The SLS it was developed from didn't suffer the same problem - it had THAT engine, it had THOSE doors and operated at a much higher level. Sure, it was flawed in some respects. But it had character the GT seems to have sacrificed in the name of playing to a broader audience. Or, to put it another way, steal a few 911 owners and bring them into the AMG fold.

Given the increased mid-range of the turbo engine, the greater gadget count AND the polishing of some of those dynamic rough edges, you'd have thought a little more gratitude would have been in order. Especially given how much SLS hardware you're getting for considerably less money. But after driving the S on the launch I couldn't help thinking a GT with a few of those SLS style rough edges remaining would be somehow more AMG. After talking to an engineer who developed the 'base' GT I even wrote a blog about it, proposing the cheaper car might be the better option.

This is the moment to put that theory to the test.

Still a stonking engine, even with a mite less power
Still a stonking engine, even with a mite less power
Power struggle
The car you see here is as close to an entry level AMG GT as you could buy. Its £97,200 starting price (compared to £110,510 for the S) has been tipped into six figures with a couple of options but, for a press car, the spec is commendably restrained. It looks fabulous too; way more exotic and dynamic on the move than it does in pictures thanks to its wide, flat stance.

Key changes versus the GT S your Merc dealer will no doubt try to sell you instead? In the brochure you'll clock the power deficit of 462hp and 443lb ft against the S version's 510hp and 480lb ft, this translating to a couple of tenths off the 0-62 and a few mph off the top speed. Fresh from the Jaguar showroom you may be looking again at the 575hp and genuine 200mph the SVR F-Type offers for the same money.

Do yourself a favour. Put the brochures down and go for a drive. Because at no point does the 'basic' GT feel outgunned. From start-up burp and angry, gargling tickover onwards there is never any sense AMG has deliberately strangled the 4.0-litre V8 - this is a fast, fast car. And a deliciously noisy one.

The tech presentation for this M178 V8 was telling in its priorities - before we got to hear any numbers or engineering geekery we were played recordings of a succession of classic AMG V8s to prove turbos were not going to dilute the character. And this engine's opening salvo to the driver is less a polite handshake than a muscular man hug.

Low, wide and loud - no missing it!
Low, wide and loud - no missing it!
OK, it doesn't pick up quite as sharply as the old naturally-aspirated 6.2. But beyond that you're never left wanting by the power, in terms of its quantity or delivery, all the way to the 7,200rpm redline. And even on the standard GT you get AMG's clever active exhaust system for maximum drama. Strike one for 'why would you need an S?'

Well, other upgrades include three-stage adaptive dampers and - the big one - an electronically controlled differential that can go from fully open to fully locked depending on what the black boxes tell it. Driving S versions of both the GT and the C63 it's very obvious AMG has embraced this technology to offer a more refined interpretation of its traditional hot rod handling balance.

New school thrills
Traction, it seems, is the new sideways. 'Better' by objective measures. But the non-S GT gets a traditional mechanical locking diff and clever Multimatic passive dampers as part of its standard spec. Inspiring this whole idea the base car might just be a little more fun, with perhaps a hint more of SLS.

Certainly when AMG used to offer optional limited-slip diffs there was a sense of nudge-nudge, wink-wink to the hooligan end of the customer base. In keeping with that aftermarket spirit there was a sense the ESP and other systems were calibrated without the diff, meaning when it was added you could subtly dictate the direction of travel on the throttle before the nannies had even woken up.

This does require some provocation
This does require some provocation
Not the case on the GT. Even with the mechanical diff the set-up is all about traction; a quick diversion via Blyton Park proves you can get on the throttle very early in the corner, exploit the natural balance and only at the extremes get a sense of rotation into oversteer. Which is all very impressive. But you can't escape the sense the rough-edged AMG we used to know and love has grown up and got sensible, if faster and more capable.

On slower corners it's a little more like the good old days, a stab of throttle able to lock the diff and spin up the rears to unleash a little more of the traditional AMG magic. A pity then the variable rack, over-assisted steering lacks the feel or consistency to lean against, making it hard to balance on the throttle the way you might an Aston Martin Vantage. Like the Aston it's got a transaxle layout to keep the weight distributed between the wheels; it also keeps hydraulic steering and uses much of the SLS's front end hardware. There was real substance to the SLS's steering so it's frustrating that new-school calibration squanders these fundamental advantages; the F-Type SVR may have a less exotic mechanical layout but Jaguar's fixation with steering feel delivers handsomely in the confidence you have in the front end into the corner, and the ability to then play with the angle of attack on the exit. This with an EPAS system too.

Pass up the option
And what of the passive dampers I'd been so eager to try out? The set-up is not shy, that's for sure. If you want chassis feedback the GT certainly delivers on that, to the extent surface 'noise' from white lines to discarded fag butts thud through the aluminium structure. Low-speed business and high-speed tyre roar are ever present, but then the S with its three-stage damper set-up is hardly S-Class refined either. As the speeds rise it's clear the passive dampers have superb body control, dismissing rapid-fire bumps with consistency on the road and supporting the weight shifts through the corners on the track. They're helped by the GT's favourable weight distribution but there's a fluidity and predictability about the way the car behaves that's really very pleasant indeed. Hand on heart you don't lose any of that with the adaptive set-up. But for the diehards the base car's passive option is a nice thing to have. And one less gadget to distract you from enjoying the GT's broad range of talents.

Lesser option? Not a bit of it!
Lesser option? Not a bit of it!
In conclusion then a call for the base car to demonstrate there are, after all, some rough edges in the GT might seem a curious desire. And diametrically opposed to the direction taken by the pending 585hp, four-wheel steer GT R. But in an age where technology continues to raise the level at which the true abilities of fast cars can really be enjoyed it's perhaps not as daft as it sounds. This is not the successor to the raw thrills of the SLS and earlier AMGs though - that age would appear to have passed.

But if you want a taste of that it could actually be the best GT you can currently buy. Case proven - less can be more!

Watch the onboard here.

 


MERCEDES-AMG GT
Engine
: 3,982cc, turbocharged V8
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 462@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 443@1,600rpm
0-62mph: 4.0sec
Top speed: 189mph
Weight: 1,615kg (kerb)
MPG: 30.4
CO2: 216g/km
Price: £97,200 (£104,930 as tested, including Premium Package with Keyless Go, Mirror Package, AMG door sill panels, Burmester surround sound, panoramic sunroof and Parktronic £4,195; Driving Assistance Package with Distronic Plus radar cruise control, Lane Tracking Package and Pre-Safe anticipatory safety system £1,695; Brilliant Blue metallic paint £945; 19-/20-inch AMG five-spoke wheels £895)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos: Dan; additional action photography Stan Papior/Autocar

[Sources: Multimatic]

 

Author
Discussion

NDNDNDND

Original Poster:

650 posts

119 months

Wednesday 10th August 2016
quotequote all
Looks good fun, pity its another farting automatic 'sports car'.

mikearwas

1,047 posts

95 months

Wednesday 10th August 2016
quotequote all
Unfortunatley I'll have to disagree.

I test drove this engine in the C63 as I was considering the latest shape one of those. The engine felt heavily restrained and despite revving freely seemed to lack punch in anything over 2nd gear. My current 'old' shape C63 with the N/A engine feels a fair bit quicker. The new C class is a heavy car though.

WJNB

1,368 posts

97 months

Wednesday 10th August 2016
quotequote all
Irrespective of whether the basic standard car is better & more so if it's regarded as being 'value for money', a term associated with supermarkets or white goods ALWAYS go for the top of the range otherwise you will be mistaken for a cheap-skate.

Dafuq

354 posts

106 months

Wednesday 10th August 2016
quotequote all
Me likey! smile

Replacement for an aging MX5 Dan?

Itsallicanafford

1,887 posts

95 months

Wednesday 10th August 2016
quotequote all
WJNB said:
Irrespective of whether the basic standard car is better & more so if it's regarded as being 'value for money', a term associated with supermarkets or white goods ALWAYS go for the top of the range otherwise you will be mistaken for a cheap-skate.
Whow, i wonder what my neighbours must think of me then when i park my 106 outside my house!

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unpc

2,042 posts

149 months

Wednesday 10th August 2016
quotequote all
Why do these German manufacturers persist in putting variable ratio racks in these things when I never yet heard a good word said about them?

Dan Trent

1,815 posts

104 months

Wednesday 10th August 2016
quotequote all
unpc said:
Why do these German manufacturers persist in putting variable ratio racks in these things when I never yet heard a good word said about them?
Well, Porsche has been using (mechanically) variable racks from - I think - 997 onwards and you don't hear many complaints about steering in 911s, Boxsters or Caymans. So to an extent it comes down to the calibration and the decisions made about how they *want* it to feel.

It's an interesting one in the GT's case though because the first thing AMG - under Tobias Moers in his previous role as development boss - usually did was junk the standard variable ratio Mercedes rack and put a linear one in instead. See A45, C63 and others. Moers is an engineer and I took this to mean it was a 'thing' he had so I was surprised when I learned the GT had a variable one. I asked him this directly on the launch and he gave a very non-committal shrug and a rather corporate answer, which I'll interpret as 'Mercedes made us do it, you pick your battles....' If the GT R has a linear rack that'll rather make that point but we'll have to see about that; if it does I guess they can give a face-saving response that it's because of the four-wheel steering or somesuch!

As per the story it's especially disappointing given so much of the front end hardware comes directly from the SLS and that had really good steering.

Cheers,

Dan

unpc

2,042 posts

149 months

Wednesday 10th August 2016
quotequote all
Dan Trent said:
unpc said:
Why do these German manufacturers persist in putting variable ratio racks in these things when I never yet heard a good word said about them?
Well, Porsche has been using (mechanically) variable racks from - I think - 997 onwards and you don't hear many complaints about steering in 911s, Boxsters or Caymans. So to an extent it comes down to the calibration and the decisions made about how they *want* it to feel.

It's an interesting one in the GT's case though because the first thing AMG - under Tobias Moers in his previous role as development boss - usually did was junk the standard variable ratio Mercedes rack and put a linear one in instead. See A45, C63 and others. Moers is an engineer and I took this to mean it was a 'thing' he had so I was surprised when I learned the GT had a variable one. I asked him this directly on the launch and he gave a very non-committal shrug and a rather corporate answer, which I'll interpret as 'Mercedes made us do it, you pick your battles....' If the GT R has a linear rack that'll rather make that point but we'll have to see about that; if it does I guess they can give a face-saving response that it's because of the four-wheel steering or somesuch!

As per the story it's especially disappointing given so much of the front end hardware comes directly from the SLS and that had really good steering.

Cheers,

Dan
Thanks Dan,

I notice that that variation in the 911 rack is 17.1 to 13.7 to one which I guess is not massively different. Do you know if the rack on the GT has more variation? I still don't see the need for it or any tangible benefit from it. Surely you'd want consistent reactions from your inputs...

Dan Trent

1,815 posts

104 months

Wednesday 10th August 2016
quotequote all
I've never heard Mercedes quote those kind of numbers but you've inspired me to go and find out!

I'll see what I can do.

Cheers,

Dan

Itsallicanafford

1,887 posts

95 months

Wednesday 10th August 2016
quotequote all
I know they are relaxed at Blyton, but no helmet!

The biggest plus for my friends who own 911's are the back seats so they can still take the kids along on short journeys. I presume the GT doesn't have these? If not, i think it would be automatically ruled out by quite a few people.

Dan Trent

1,815 posts

104 months

Wednesday 10th August 2016
quotequote all
Itsallicanafford said:
I know they are relaxed at Blyton, but no helmet!

The biggest plus for my friends who own 911's are the back seats so they can still take the kids along on short journeys. I presume the GT doesn't have these? If not, i think it would be automatically ruled out by quite a few people.
We had it booked privately for a joint photoshoot with Autocar and I'd been doing some blurb to camera on a previous lap...

And no back seats which will, I guess, remain a killer for many an otherwise AMG-curious 911 owner.

Dan

marcosgt

10,188 posts

112 months

Wednesday 10th August 2016
quotequote all
Itsallicanafford said:
WJNB said:
Irrespective of whether the basic standard car is better & more so if it's regarded as being 'value for money', a term associated with supermarkets or white goods ALWAYS go for the top of the range otherwise you will be mistaken for a cheap-skate.
Whow, i wonder what my neighbours must think of me then when i park my 106 outside my house!
Is it a top of the range 106? They'll admire your flash then, regardless biggrin

Only Top-Trumps players care if you have the top of the range model.

After all the GT3 911 isn't top of the range, but people don't think you're a cheapskate for not buying the lardy Turbo, do they?

There's often a sweet spot in the range, where the lack of a boat anchor engine, automagic gearbox, too many toys and gizmos or luxury trim makes a non 'top of the range' model the best car to drive.

Not so good for impressing your Top-Trumps playing mates, though wink

M

Itsallicanafford

1,887 posts

95 months

Wednesday 10th August 2016
quotequote all
marcosgt said:
Is it a top of the range 106? They'll admire your flash then, regardless biggrin



M
no alloy wheels, wind-up windows, manual steering....they cannot even spell 'rally' correctly! must be the bottom of the range!

AMGJocky

1,402 posts

52 months

Wednesday 10th August 2016
quotequote all
Beautiful car.

Regularly been a passenger in the GT S and it feels completely monstrous. The gearbox is sublime.

HughS47

477 posts

70 months

Wednesday 10th August 2016
quotequote all
I've spent the afternoon hooning around the roads of southern France in my father-in-laws GT-S. It's a superb piece of kit and frankly I loved the ability to change from damping at the flick of a switch. I've never driven such a 'premium' car before, but have been lucky enough to spend time in a variety of different machines on and off track. I was astonished at the performance on offer and at how the car could perform both the role of comfortable cruiser and rabid machine with equal aplomb.
To suggest that the car would be better if it had more foibles (my interpretation of your article), is silly, as it strikes as arrogance from people fortunate enough to have experienced all those different machines. To average joe, driving the car without any experience in an SLS or other exotic machines in that sector, those foibles might be seen as negatives.
It's otherwise interesting to hear the differences between the two cars. At £105,000 as tested though, the savings over a car bought from a dealership ready specced and with some negotiated discount is negligable and doesn't seem all that cheap vs the GT-S.
I was left deeply deeply impressed by the car and can see why the motoring press like them. Now hopefully I can get some more experience in the future benchmarking it against some similar rivals.

Dagnut

3,515 posts

129 months

Wednesday 10th August 2016
quotequote all
I guess it's mechanically the same as the S apart from a map?
these things make 600+hp easily with an exhaust and a remap...I know it would put you on shaky ground warranty wise but it would be frustrating knowing you could release the 50hp lost to the S without any mechanical changes and a 500 quid map..and then spend 2k and you have a seriously quick car still well within its mechanical tolerances

sidesauce

861 posts

154 months

Wednesday 10th August 2016
quotequote all
Dagnut said:
I guess it's mechanically the same as the S apart from a map?
these things make 600+hp easily with an exhaust and a remap...I know it would put you on shaky ground warranty wise but it would be frustrating knowing you could release the 50hp lost to the S without any mechanical changes and a 500 quid map..and then spend 2k and you have a seriously quick car still well within its mechanical tolerances
No it isn't - The S has an electronically controlled LSD, the GT has a normal mechanical LSD and passive dampers, the S has bigger brakes and the gearbox has a faster 'race' mode.

kambites

55,390 posts

157 months

Wednesday 10th August 2016
quotequote all
Dan Trent said:
Well, Porsche has been using (mechanically) variable racks from - I think - 997 onwards and you don't hear many complaints about steering in 911s, Boxsters or Caymans.
You clearly haven't read enough of my posts on threads about post-996 Porsches. hehe

riviera

85 posts

69 months

Wednesday 10th August 2016
quotequote all
Looks so much better from the rear without a fixed spoiler - can't stand the way the lines of the forthcoming AMG GTR, F-Type coupe, R8 and various 911s/Caymans are ruined by them.

Vee12V

747 posts

96 months

Thursday 11th August 2016
quotequote all
kambites said:
Dan Trent said:
Well, Porsche has been using (mechanically) variable racks from - I think - 997 onwards and you don't hear many complaints about steering in 911s, Boxsters or Caymans.
You clearly haven't read enough of my posts on threads about post-996 Porsches. hehe
Exactly. What a ridiculous thing to say.