Tobias Moers, chairman of Mercedes-AMG GmbH, wishes his division to not merely be known as Benz’s factory speed shop for their luxury sedans and SUVs but as a legitimate constructor of sports cars.
“If you want to be taken seriously as a sports-car brand, you have to develop your own car,” he says.
Meaning the old SLR McLaren that Mercedes co-developed together with McLaren and all those hotted-up E-classes, S-classes and G-wagens wearing AMG badges don’t count.
But the discontinued gullwing SLS AMG supercar, which was the first car, developed entirely by AMG-does.
And for its second work, AMG brings us the 2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S that according to Moers will enter them into an attractive segment where the new car will be placed against “world-class competitors” like the Audi R8, the Porsche 911, and Jaguar F-Type coupe.
They all are hard competitors, but the 2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S has quite a few things going for it:
The start is with the body…
…the GT is placed on a shortened version of the SLS’ aluminum spaceframe with a magnesium front support.
The structure and the body is 93 percent aluminum. One of the things that is not aluminum is the trunk lid, which is steel. A refreshed version of the SLS’s seven speed dual-clutch sequential manual transaxle supplied by Getrag also makes the jump over to the GT from the supercar…
…but instead of harnessing power from a 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8, it’s now working with a new AMG-developed 4.0- liter twin-turbocharged V8 with 456 hp in the base GT and 503 hp in the range-topping GT S.
The new engine includes:
“hot inside V” layout for its two turbochargers, which imply that they are mounted inside the V portion of the engine to produce a more compact package and produce an optimum response.
Also, the engine is dry-sump lubricated to ensure and provide necessary oil supply under high lateral g-forces.
Handling is helped by a 47 percent front and 53 percent rear weight distribution.
This model has double-wishbone front and rear with available adaptive damping suspension (standard on GT S). A mechanical limited slip differential comes with the GT, and an electronically controlled locker comes with the GT S.
Also, there are carbon-ceramic brakes available.
Still, different from the SLS…
…a rather rough-riding car because of its heavy performance focus – the GT aims to behave more like, as its name implies, a grand-touring car such as the R8 pr the 911.
A comfort setting for suspension, engine behavior and steering can be chosen through the rotary dial on the center console.
This setting has also the task to softens dynamic magnetic engine and transmission mounts that will grant more dampening properties.
Without a doubt, everything can be stiffened in the high-performance sport, race and sport-plus modes. The cabin is covered with soft leathers, Alcantara and carbon fiber, and outfitted with a premium Burmester sound system.
The steering has a dead spot on center, but there is a great quantity of heft tuned into the hydraulic system.
Generally speaking, the dual-clutch transmission operates very well with quick shifting in full automatic mode, but there have been several occasions where it got hung up between gear changes and then slammed into gear, jolting the entire car.
The seating position in this model reminds us of the SLS…
…and like the SLS, includes comfy and heavily bolstered seats.
The cabin is remaining quiet enough, which give the opportunity for us to easily have a discussion with our co-driver without raising our voices.
The airplane inspired design of all of the controls makes them easy and simple to operate, and everything is clearly marked.
When the sportplus is selected, this car is offering oodles of performance for the street with snappy throttle reaction coming from a rumbly V8 that is punchy everywhere in the rev range.
There’s no turbo lag to speak of, and surprisingly, there is audible turbo whirrs and whooshes that you can pick up in the cabin even when you’re leaning on the throttle.
The sounds its making while driving is like an angry German muscle car, especially with the active exhaust on, which causes it to backfire when you lift-off the gas.
Manually selecting gears with the nice-sized steering wheel paddles are incredibly fast, and also the car tracks confidently through corners.
The transmission amazed us with crisp upshifts and excellent rev matching on downshifts.
The 503 hp had been controllable on the track, but with peak torque available at just 1,750 rpm…
…rolling onto the throttle smoothly out of corners is best-otherwise, traction control cuts power.
Put the car in a turn, and there is plenty of grip on tap from the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires (265/35 ZR-19 front and 295/30 ZR-20 rear), which makes hitting your marks easy.
It’s really a communicative car that informs you once the front tires are approaching their limits through the steering wheel.
Under hard braking:
the car stayed composed, which is always comforting at Laguna Seca.
After the arriving of 2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S in dealerships in April (the base GT follows a year later), it will take a rawer driving experience to the segment.
That really should satisfy enthusiasts who have complained about the 911 getting a lot of a grand-touring car.
Also, it signifies the start of a Mercedes-Benz performance-car family that Moers promises will grow with the expected arrivals of a roadster and even higher-performance variants of the GT.
We would expect really nothing less from a sports-car brand like Mercedes-AMG.
2016 MERCEDES-AMG GT S
STARTING PRICE: $135,000 (est)
DRIVETRAIN: 4.0-liter, 503-hp, 479-lb-ft twin-turbocharged V8; RWD, seven-speed dual-clutch sequential manual
CURB WEIGHT: 3,600 lb (est)
0-60 MPH: 3.7 sec (mfr)
FUEL ECONOMY (EPA CITY/HWY/COMBINED): 16/22/18 mpg (est)