The Mercedes-AMG GT could be the most anticipated car of the year. So how well does it live up to the expectations and will it pose a real threat to Porsche 911’s hegemony? We went to California to find out!
The AMG GT is the second car fully developed by AMG. Unlike popular believe it is not the successor of the SLS AMG though. Positioned a fair bit lower price wise, the AMG GT is a nimble sportscar in the 911 segment. Before sharing our driving experience below, we will talk you through the basics of the all new 2015 Mercedes-AMG GT (S).
The 2015 Mercedes-AMG GT comes with a mid-engine concept with transaxle and the intelligent aluminium lightweight construction. It has a newly developed AMG 4.0-litre V8 biturbo engine, which soon will also features in the C63 AMG. It is the first sports car engine with internally mounted turbochargers (“hot inside V”) and dry sump lubrication. It will come in two versions, the base AMG GT with 462 hp and as the Mercedes-AMG GT S with 510 hp. The AMG GT S will be available from March 2015, the base AMG GT will follow towards the end of 2015.
The AMG GT comes exclusively with rear-wheel drive and provides a power output of 510hp at 6,250 RPM in the Mercedes-AMG GT S and 462hp at 6,000 RPM in the AMG GT. In the AMG GT S a maximum torque of 650 Nm is available between 1,750 and 4,750 RPM. The AMG GT provides 600Nm of torque between 1750 and 5000 RPM. On the European test cycle it uses 9.4 liter per 100 km in the GT S and 9.3 l/100 km in the GT.
0-100 km/h is done in 3.8 seconds for the AMG GT S and in 4.0 seconds for the AMG GT. The 2015 Mercedes-AMG GT S has a top speed of 310 km/h and the AMG GT tops out at 304 km/h. The AMG GT and the AMG GT S weigh 1,540 and 1,570 kilogram respectively. As we experienced on the road it is the rolling sprints where the AMG GT (S) really excels. The Mercedes-AMG GT S is equipped as standard with an AMG performance exhaust system with fully variable exhaust flaps.
Gearbox & Drivetrain
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT (S) comes with the AMG Speedshift DCT 7-speed sports transmission. It has been further optimised for usage in the new sports car and thanks to the larger gear ratio spread, the pronounced torque plateau of the V8 turbo engine can be used optimally. The AMG GT has a 47:53 front/rear weight distribution. The GT comes as standard with a mechanical rear-axle locking differential which ensures outstanding traction and superb driving safety in all driving conditions. The GT S is fitted as standard with an electronically controlled rear-axle locking differential which is more sensitive and offers faster control over its mechanical counterpart.
Double-wishbone suspension is used at the front and rear – a technology adopted straight from motorsport. The AMG Ride Control sports suspension with electronically controlled damping comes as standard on the Mercedes-AMG GT S, or as an option for the GT. It can be changed between Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus. The speed-sensitive sports steering features a variable steering ratio and feels very connected and not over-engineered like in some other cars with speed-sensitive steering we have driven.
Interesting innovation on the AMG GT are the optional dynamic engine and transmission mounts in the AMG Dynamic Plus package. The engine and transmission mounts assume an important function in the case of a transaxle design: soft mounts improve comfort since they provide more effective decoupling of noise and vibration. Handling and agility benefit, however, from an overall stiffer mount set-up. Mercedes-AMG resolves these conflicting objectives using dynamic mounts, which adjust their stiffness continuously and instantly to the respective driving conditions and handling.
Excellent deceleration characteristics and high fade resistance come courtesy of the high-performance composite brake system – on the GT with internally ventilated, perforated 360-millimetre brake discs all-round; on the GT S with discs measuring 390 millimetres in diameter at the front, to cope with the higher performance, as well as red brake callipers. A ceramic high-performance composite brake system is available for both models as an option. Its advantages: lower weight, longer service life and even better fade resistance thanks to the ceramic brake discs with a diameter of 402 millimetres at the front and 360 millimetres at the rear.
Inside you will find a deep sloping dashboard with a high center console. Finished with the high quality materials you expect from Mercedes-Benz and a sporty AMG touch with red Start/Stop button, AMG sport seats and performance steering wheel finished in Alcantara. It is a pleasant mix of modern and luxurious interior.
Tall people beware, the AMG GT is not as spacious as we hoped and compared to the 911 it is a bit of compromise in terms of leg space or seat angle for anyone over 1,80 meter.
Lets have a look what Mercedes-AMG said about the design of the new AMG GT before we give you our take on it: “The new Mercedes-AMG GT embodies sportiness and emotion as an expression of sensual purity. The long bonnet with its pronounced powerdomes, the greenhouse which has been moved far back, the large wheels and broad tail end make up the distinctive looks. The trimmed cabin results in muscular shoulders – the hallmark Mercedes “Coke bottle” shape – which lends the car its extremely powerful stance. All modern Mercedes feature this “Coke bottle” theme, the GT being the most extreme example. Positively arched surfaces give the Mercedes-AMG GT its sensuous character and the appearance of a sculpture. Viewed from the side, the dome-shaped, arched roof line and the frameless doors are eye-catching features. The surfaces and lines of the side wall flow into the rear-end with a dramatic tapered effect. The side air outlets, each with two fins, represent a typical, styling feature of Mercedes-Benz sports cars.”
“The creative interaction of diverse design elements lends the coupé a superior, self-confident front: the three-dimensional diamond radiator grille, with central Mercedes star, a broad louvre and AMG lettering, stands in the centre of the front end. LED High Performance headlamps with stylised “eyebrows” as daytime running lamps, side lights and indicators, as well as three separate high-beam reflectors lend the GT its characteristic look. The A-wing with front splitter in the lower third of the front apron, a characteristic feature of AMG vehicles, makes the sports car appear low-slung and wide.”
“With its base areas, broad shoulders and expressive tail light graphics, the rear area creates an emotional overall appearance. The licence plate bracket is located in the lower part of the bumper, allowing the Mercedes star to be placed prominently on the smooth-surfaced boot lid. Added to which there is an extendable rear aerofoil, which is perfectly integrated into the body while the car is at a standstill. The black diffuser insert with tailpipes integrated into the bumper and the trim strip in matt iridium silver inspired by the A-wing in the front create a visual sense of lightness across the entire tail end.”
Our test drive with the brand new Mercedes-AMG GT S starts at the St Regis Hotel in Downtown San Francisco. Our example is a stunning Brilliant Blue one which comes pretty much full option. Near the hotel the sight of a dozen AMG GTs already gathered the interested of locals early in the morning.
Even sportscars these days come with key-less go so after getting behind the wheel we fire up the engine by tapping the start engine button. The V8 ferociously comes to live and we are ready to go. Our first stop is the Golden Gate Bridge on the other side of town, it gives an excellent opportunity to see how the AMG GT does as a daily driver in the city.
The first thing noticeable as we make our way to the Golden Gate Bridge is how planted it feels. This goes for all three suspension modes, where the comfort mode might already be to hard for some, but this might have something to do with the AMG Dynamic Plus package equipped on this car. On the up side it does mean it does feel like a proper sportscar even with the suspension in comfort.
For those unfamiliar with driving in American cities, they are littered with traffic lights and four-way stop intersections, which means a lot of braking and accelerating. As soon as the engine is warm we use this opportunity to see how it does sprints of the line and this is where the AMG GT S brings so much joy, in sport plus and race it will allow for a little wheel spin as you accelerate off the line, just enough to make the wheels squeal but not enough to scare you and all the people around you.
The people in this part of California are a real sporty bunch so on this early Sunday morning you will see hundreds if not thousands of cyclist, joggers and surfers. At the Golden Gate Bridge is a great place to test the reactions to the brand new AMG sportscar. People, young and old stop to take some photos and ask more about the car, that is not out in the US until March/April 2015.
The Golden Gate Bridge provides a stunning backdrop for a mini photo shoot, but that is not why we came all the way to California. The real destination for today is probably the most famous race track in the United States: Laguna Seca! Here German race champ Bernd Schneider and a bunch of other AMG GT Ss are waiting for us.
The route towards Laguna Seca leads us via a part of Highway 1, the legendary Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) that runs all along the American coastline. We join highway 1 still in urban San Francisco but soon we reads the shores of the Pacific Ocean and the road opens up to incredible beach and mountain panoramas.
As we cruise along the PCH we have a closer look at the interior features. The Mercedes-AMG follows a similar interior style as the most recent Mercedes-Benz models featuring aluminum details combined with shiny black surfaces and high quality leathers. The wide center console features controls for all essential driving and infotainment controls including the touch pad controller also found on the new C-Class.
The alcantara steering wheel has a good grip and again contains all essential controls for infotainment. Behind the steering wheel are two solid aluminum shift paddles. What we did miss is adaptive cruise control, AMG confirmed that this will not be available to begin with although this might be added to later model years. For us it doesn’t matter if we are in a sportscar or a SUV, a traffic jam is still a traffic jam and we love using adaptive cruise control in those circumstances.
It is no secret that Mercedes-AMG is aiming for one sportscar in particular: The Porsche 911. It took about 40 minutes since we left San Francisco until the first Porsche 911 showed up in our sights. For a few miles we drove along side the 911 Convertible until we stopped pretty much next to each other at a traffic light. Here the 911 driver urged me to roll the window down and excited screamed across that he likes the car and wonders if it is out yet because he hasn’t seen any yet?
I replied that is because it isn’t. The AMG GT will not be available in the US until the second quarter of 2015 and I told the Porsche driver we are on a press drive. We continued along the PCH with one AMG GT in front of him and another behind him. As we pulled in at the next petrol station, the 911 driver followed and we had a quick chat. He clearly loved the looks and interior of the AMG GT and after he sat in it he was sold, this would be his next car he said.
Later that day, Mel Grant, the Porsche driver we met on the PCH wrote me an email and insisted I mention this:
I was telling my wife the story, about a month ago, I said:“I must have this new Mercedes, but they will not be available until at least April 2015“! Then there I was, driving down the California Coast Highway, going to the fish market, and there was one in front of me, and one behind me! It was like a strange dream, because it’s the car I want, but they are not available yet!
I was telling her how Mercedes created this car to compete with the 911, and it worked on me. She laughed when I showed her the photo of the 3 cars lined up, and how the headline caption could be, “Mercedes surrounds and captures Porsche driver on California Coast road, and converts him into a Mercedes buyer!
Clearly part of the goal from Mercedes-AMG to build a sportscar that can compete with the benchmark car in this segment, the 911, is already achieved. That we witnessed it during our road test trip came as a surprise though.
Mercedes-AMG planned a coffee stop on the way to Laguna Seca a few miles inland from the highway and by coincidence this coffee stop can only be reached via some of the best roads in the entire Bay Area. The twisty little roads provide the ideal location to walk through some of the drive modes.
With the AMG rotary selector on the center console you can choose between Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and Race. Additionally its also possible to mix and match your own profile through the Individual setting but we start with comfort.
In comfort mode the suspension is already quite sporty so no worries about the cornering capabilities of the AMG GT S in this mode, they are more than in order. The engine, gearbox and exhaust are all set to comfort as well though so you will feel it won’t accelerate as aggressive and the gearbox will change up- sooner and down later. The exhaust note is nice but nothing your neighbor will ever complain about.
All this changes when you turn the wheel to Sport. It feels as if the AMG GT suddenly strengthens its muscles. The suspension tightens, reducing the travel on the dampers, and the throttle responds and gearbox behavior become far more sportier than before. Still this is a mode you can drive without too much drama. If you want drama turn the knob again to engage Sport+, this will also open the flaps in the exhaust to give you that raw and real AMG V8 sound. In Sport and Sport+ also the active drive train mounts will tighten. The first time a system like this is used to actively and dynamically improve the handling while driving under various conditions.
Now for race mode things get real interesting. Here the ESP is also switched down so you can drift it more easily. But even in Comfort and Sport(+) the ESP never gets in your way too much. The ESP setup is very refined so it will only really intrude when you cross the line by far, under normal circumstances it is very gentle.
The roads keep getting nicer and nicer and at the end of a beautiful twisty road is a small cafe where on this early Sunday morning local sportscar owners stop for a coffee and a break during their morning drives. As we pull up on the parking lot several owners of a McLaren 12C, Audi R8 and others come up to us and ask more about the AMG GT S. All genuinely seem to like the new development from Mercedes-AMG. When we continue on our journey the remaining crowd is all smiles when we leave the cafe with the exhaust wide open.
After a few more incredible roads (Skyline Boulevard and Highway 9) we reach Highway 1 once again. Around Santa Cruz the PCH widens to three lanes in each direction and remind us a little bit of some parts of the German autobahn, albeit with a bit rougher surface. On the autobahn the AMG GT is in its element, feeling very stable and with incredible acceleration between 80-120 km/h and far beyond this is a true autobahn monster.
One major thing left to test: How does it fare on track? Therefor we head to Laguna Seca Raceway just outside Monterey. Here DTM legend Bernd Schneider along was waiting for us along with 10 AMG GT S models. Laguna Seca is best know for the famous corkscrew corner, mastering this corner and the long left hand corner after it are key for a fast lap here.
The first few laps we drove in Sport+ mode with ESP on. For a rear-wheel drive car with 500+ hp it feels very well balanced and predictable, it allows your confidence to build extremely quick. After two laps we switch to Race mode, here the ESP is scaled back to ’emergency’ only, otherwise it will let the tires slip and slide at will. Especially the last corner brings incredible joy as you drift onto the main straight and race down over the blind crest towards the first corner.
On track the AMG GT S just feels right, it is incredibly quick and well balanced. It will only give you drama when you evoke it – and once you do it feels right and balanced in that too. This unlike a Jaguar F-Type Coupe R per example which will give you drama whether you want it or not.
The sound of the twin-turbo 4.0 liter V8 under stress fills the cockpit nicely and sounds unmistakably AMG. Again in comparison to a lot of other cars in this segment AMG has used natural sound of the V8 only. Apart from the flaps this is just how it sounds – no additional tricks to feed sound in the cockpit or any sound generator stuff for AMG.
On the way to our hotel for the night it is time to reflect on the AMG GT S. First of all the looks, front looks incredible to me, rear definitely needs the Edition 1 wing to give it a bit more presence. From the side it reminds me a lot of the Jaguar E-Type (one of the most beautiful cars ever built). I think Mercedes-AMG managed to design a more fitting successor to the E-Type with the AMG GT than Jaguar did with the F-Type.
The engine is a fabulous piece, it combines both ferocious track performance with excellent daily driver capabilities – and a good fuel economy too. The improved 7-speed double-clutch gearbox in the AMG GT is flawless. In other AMG models the gearbox has always been a point of criticism for me but the upgraded, improved SLS AMG gearbox in the GT S does the job as it should. Also AMG removed the unnecessary S-setting for the gearbox still available in so many cars today so all you get is D for automatic drive and manual for pedal use. The D program automatically adapts to the driving mode you chose with the rotary selector and your driving style – simple and effective.
The mechanical grip and down force are fabulous and if you compare it to the Jaguar F-Type Coupe R it is just so much better at putting the power down on the road and delivering the confidence needed for a high speed drive on the German autobahn and fast laps on any race track time and time again.
On the interior things get a little interesting. I do like the style of the new AMG, it looks fresh, sporty and luxurious at the same time. One issue I found though is the available space, measuring 1,90m (6”2) this is not the most comfortable car. Key problem is the chassis architecture with the back side of the tub running up right behind the seat. This reduces the leg space but also the angle at which you can have the rear of the seat. It lead to a choice of compromise where either I had decent leg space but sat too upright or had a good angle on the upper body but very cramped legs. On the passenger side things were even worse with even less space in the footwell.
The sporty performance seats do offer excellent side support but their one-size fit all measurement are not that great for people over 1,80 meter in length. Interior space is of course an issue I experience on many other cars in this segment as well – including the Jaguar F-Type, McLaren 650S and Audi R8. The Porsche 911 is a welcome exception here because the rear seats allow for the seat to be moved back and angled back as far as is necessary to fit even an NBA player behind the wheel.
In reality the cabin of the AMG GT will not be an issue for the regular person and with the available luggage space it will do a fine job as a GT car. Just for a small group of customers, those who are slightly taller or larger than average it doesn’t offer the long-journey Gran Turismo comfort that the name GT might suggest. It certainly is more sportscar than a Gran Turismo and in that sense AMG might redefine our association of the letters GT.
How about the competition?
Many have tried, very few have succeeded. This is true for breaking the hegemony of the Porsche 911 over the past decades. So how does the AMG GT S fare against what we could call the benchmark sportscar out there?
Actually the AMG GT does incredibly well. It can rival the 911 in refinement, precision and perfection, something the 911 has always managed to beat the competition on. More importantly it has two elements that we found less in the 911: emotion and character. In terms of performance it really depends which Porsche 911 model you put it up against. Compared to the Turbo S, the AMG GT doesn’t have the same brutal off-the-line acceleration due to RWD but once the car moves it is pretty damn quick. The interior is certainly more modern and appealing in the AMG GT and the natural sound of the AMG V8 is hard to beat. Practically the 911 has a broader offer, including all-wheel drive and more interior space.
The Jaguar F-Type Coupe R is less refined, more hooligan than the AMG GT. Where the AMG GT uses the natural sound of the turbocharged V8, Jaguar used every trick in the book to make the F-Type Coupe R sound like a monster. Where the AMG GT feels very balanced and gives you confidence the F-Type is raw and will make you drift whether you want it to or not. The AMG GT is certainly the better car.
Back to the Porsche comparison, overall the AMG GT is a proper competitor for the Porsche 911 – it will no doubt give Porsche a hard time in sales the coming years. And with new market entries like the McLaren Sport Series and the Maserati Alfieri and the new Audi R8 to arrive next year there are certainly interesting times ahead in this segment!
The AMG GT is without a doubt the best new sportscar in the segment and it is the first car in decades that could truly give the Porsche 911 a run for its money. Stunning looks with a well engineered engine-gearbox-chassis combination are enough to convince us, and even convince existing 911 drivers as we found out during our test drive. Overall we only found the limited interior space to be a drawback for some.
Deliveries for the 2015 Mercedes-AMG GT start from March 2015 with the AMG GT S and GT S Edition 1. First customer cars will be delivered in Europe, followed by the US and the rest of the world in the second quarter of 2015. The less powerful AMG GT will hit the market towards the end of 2015.