2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S road test review (India)
The alarm rang at 4am. Suresh wanted me to meet him on the highway at five. He had identified a spot on one of our favourite mountain roads and wanted to reach there before sunrise - in time to frame the AMG GT S and the rising ball of fire on the horizon. While he was setting up the frame, a mild growl echoed through the valley. Even at a distance and out of sight, you could tell a car was coming up... fast... all cylinders firing! And as it emerged through the tree cover on the winding roads, I felt my knees go weak as if this was my first sportscar experience. Everything felt right with the world! It could have been the orange sky making the AMG GT S look like a drop of the sun, rolling down the road, or the 'solarbeam' shade creating a lively contrast against the green cover. This day was going to be bright, it was going to be fun!
The SLS AMG roots are evident in the silhouette and the facial structure
Design and styling
The new age of Mercedes-Benz designs look good with their curvaceous forms and organic themes. But that form moulds itself better to a roadster than the sedans and the SUVs. Having begun life as a baby-SLS, the GT does a great job of grafting the SLS roots with Merc's current design philosophy. The shape and size of the grille, the long bonnet and the narrow glass house are much like the discontinued flagship supercar. But the organic theme makes the bold wheel arches and the curvaceous rump take visual precedence over everything else.
The little chrome diamonds in the grille lost in between those LED-laden eyes and the bright bodywork are utterly gorgeous The large windshields merge seamlessly with the panoramic roof to rival the Targa effect. The trade off is conventionally hinged doors unlike the gull-wings on the SLS. So no more pulling off ligaments in your arm and back if you are under six-feet tall. Black wheels are as good as standard on the more hardcore AMGs of recent times and this new baby gets similar treatment, though you can choose the less dramatic options as well.
The diamond grille gets lost behind the imposing emblem
The GT has a smaller footprint than the SLS, which puts its shape and size in the category of the 911 and the F-type coup. But it manages to have a distinctive design that mates a muscle car look to a focussed sportscar one. It also has minimalist design for its vents, creases and lines. In fact, the simplicity of its design is what makes the GT gorgeous.
Drivetrain and performance
The GT is pure petrol propulsion but in a departure from convention, the AMG GT S chucks the naturally aspirated engine for one with forced induction. It runs the new 4.0-litre biturbo V8 from the W205 C 63 AMG. Like AMG's recent championship-winning F1 engines, the turbines and exhaust headers are mounted between the cylinder banks to reduce the time taken for the exhaust gases to travel from the ports to the intake charger. The result is power on tap with linear acceleration - flat out or roll on. Sadly, there are no wastegate wheezes or power surges that are typical to turbocharged supercars. I wouldn't mind a few whistles like the CLA 45.
Not that impractical a sportscar with its 285-litre boot space. Can easily swallow a weekend's worth of luggage
The AMG GT gets launch control as well, though the procedure isn't as simple as in a Porsche. You need to engage the Race Mode, position the steering wheel to its centre position, then depress the brake pedal firmly with the left foot and pull in both the paddle shifters. If you have done everything right and if the conditions seem favourable to the car, the launch control will be made available. You can then activate it by letting go of the shifter paddles and then pulling in the upshift paddle. Once activated, the car will ask you to depress the accelerator firmly and letting go of the brake pedal will rocket the car ahead. With launch control, the GT can manage the nought to 100kmph sprint in a sensational 3.8s. We managed 4.0s and the sprint is quite dramatic. The idea of the launch control is also to minimise wheelspin and while it does that job well, the GT squirms a bit when it catapults itself and that certainly massages your need for speed. In fact, in our test car, every time I would subject the car to hard acceleration, the fabric screen for the panoramic roof would slide back a couple of inches!
The GT in the S tune gets an output of 510PS and 650Nm compared to the regular GT's 460PS/600Nm tune. The GT S can achieve a top speed closer to the 310kmph mark in its stock guise. I doubt if you can achieve the latter even on the back straight of the Buddh International Circuit though. You can give it a try if you are willing to put the brakes to test. Our car came with bronze brake callipers, which indicate that it uses the optional carbon ceramic brakes. The S gets 401mm and 360mm cross-drilled ventilated discs at the front and rear, respectively. They come into their zone only upon warming up, but once they do, they drop the anchors quickly and progressively. Like its acceleration, the GT's deceleration has a bit of drama too and the rear tends to fishtail a bit when braking hard from high triple digit speeds.
Chassis and dynamics
The chassis setup is simply amazing. The spaceframe uses aluminium alloys for a lightweight construction while certain steel components ensure rigidity and endurance. The wheels are aluminium too. The aforementioned brakes and the carbon fibre driveshaft drop weight further. The driveshaft weighs about 4kg, which otherwise weighs about 8-12kg for similar front-mid engined or rear wheel drive cars. The lightness of the components is evident in the way the AMG GT moves. It feels light and agile on its feet, with lightning quick reflexes. The steering has a big role in imparting that feeling. In fact, it feels so unbelievably light you might get a sense of vagueness the first time you use it. Get used to that feeling though and you will soon realise how inch perfect it is. The steering also gains weight progressively as the speed or the input increases so at speeds, the directness is sharper and more pronounced
This car can catch you unawares, given the combination of those lightning quick throttle and steering responses. You don't want to be fooling around in urban conditions, so trust me, you want to stay alert. The length of the GT's hood needs getting used to, to carefully manoeuvre the car in city. The flared wheel arches and the hump in the bonnet do act like aids to help you judge the length and corners of the nose, but the narrow glasshouse means that the A-pillar rakes diagonally inward towards the driver. It is slim and doesn't hinder visibility when driving on the track but in city conditions, you need to keep an eye out.
AMG has given this car a 47-53 per cent front-rear weight distribution. While the engine has active mounts that adapt damping in a fraction of a second, the suspension adjusts itself on the fly depending on the characteristics of the road (slightly slow to adapt as it relies on the feedback from the road surface and doesn't get the advanced gadgetry of the radar-based road mapping in India). The result is that the GT has minimal body roll or nose dive. In the larger scheme of things, this means that the car can maintain better traction out of corners or under acceleration without the electronic assists having to kick in often.
500 horses isn't a joke, but the GT's breed is good-humoured and can play along well when you decide to have fun. The engine, chassis, suspension and gearbox can be altered for response and feedback through Comfort, Sport and Race modes. Activate the Sport handling and the rear end will allow a certain degree of slip on the tyres when you cane the throttle hard. The road hugging nature of the car lets you remain in control unless you do something extremely stupid. Switch to Race Mode and you will be amazed at how stiff the suspension gets, taking the handling characteristics to more extreme levels. The steering feedback is precise throughout all the modes, but the sportier modes make it more communicative.
The trade off of the stiffer setup is that you feel and hear jitters in the cabin on every rut or pebble the wheels go over. But none of it unsettles the car as the electronics iron out all the shocks that can upset the dynamics. And that is pleasantly surprising - since this is one three-pointed star that firmly chooses dynamics over comfort. Get the S 63 coup if you want it the other way round. The GT is a rear wheel-driven car, there is hardly any unexpected understeer of any sort. It loves to wag its tail too, just that little bit to prevent itself from becoming too serious like a Porsche. But an untamed cat like the F-type it certainly isn't. AMG seem to have achieved that golden balance between the two.
It isn't a maniac like the SLS, that wants to eat its own tyres and I miss that nature on this baby. But like the SLS, it feels alive. So alive, in fact, that it even has moods for its engine sounds - little purrs at slow speeds and ferocious roars when it is excited.
Features and convenience
The GT's cabin is a mix of the SLS AMG and S-Class' design themes. The tunnel console gets the push button starter and switches for toggling the suspension, gearbox, and engine responses and they are laid out in a fashion similar to the SLS. Meanwhile, the dashboard fascia draws inspiration from the S and creates a snug wraparound effect for the driver. I was amazed at how the elegant dashboard of the S-Class can look so sinister and sporty in the S 63 AMG coup by simply changing the colours and textures of the fascia. The AMG GT takes that to a whole new level. The lacquered carbon fibre bits gel superbly with the satin finish of the metal inserts. The subtle inclusion of Alcantara adds more class. I did not like the lighter shade of leather upholstery that was used in our tester as it was already soiled. But the upholstery can be customised and I would select the black Nappa instead with yellow stitching.
The Mercedes-AMG GT's cabin is a mix of the SLS AMG and S-Class' design themes
The sportily-bolstered seats fit quite well, but adjustable or active bolstering could have been more welcome, especially given my waistline! The electrical adjustments for the seats are at the base unlike the Mercedes-typical placement on the door. No matter what your seating position, the gear selector can be a tad difficult to reach as it is set quite far backward. It isn't a big deal when you have to make gear selections only a couple of times on your drive, but can get quite cumbersome in tight parking spots or while making three-point manoeuvres. But save for this little ergonomic issue, if you will, the cabin of the GT is one of the most roomy and plush designs you will come across in this segment.
Behind the seats is the gearbox unit and the rear axle. Its compact construction allows a hatchback-equivalent boot that can take an entire golf kit or a weekend's worth of luggage. At the front, the engine sits rather close to the ground, thanks to its dry sump that does away with the oil pan. Its low-set mounting drops the centre of gravity to lend the GT with better ground-hugging characteristics. And it works! A hump in our regular testing road, which I generally take at less than 80kmph to avoid unsettling the car, seemed harmless to the GT even at triple digit speeds.
Overall, the AMG GT is a car that you can connect with in just a few minutes behind the wheel. Having said that, it is not as easy a car to drive everyday as a Porsche. It's meant for special occasions, like when you'd like to wake the neighborhood! Its bright and blazing hot, and not just because our test car came in that shade of yellow. I think the AMG GT is so lively, it deserves a name. 'GT' sounds like a mere classification. I would call it Solaris. A drop of the rising sun!
Imported from Manual Input
|2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S|
|Type||3982cc biturbo V8 petrol|
|Transmission||7-speed dual clutch|
|Valvetrain||4 valves per cylinder|
|Power to weight||310PS/tonne|
|Chassis & Dimensions|
|Suspension F/R||Adaptive Suspension with electronically controlled damping|
|Brakes F/R||401mm discs / 360mm ventilated discs|
|Tyres (F&R)||265/35-ZR19 & 295/30-ZR20|
|Fuel tank capacity||65 litres|
|Performance & Efficiency|
|Top speed||268kmph (tested)|
|Price||Rs 2.4 crore (ex-Delhi)|
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