First drive: 2015 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT-S in the UAE
Mercedes-Benz make some very nice luxury cars. In fact, we really liked the new S-Class and the newer C-Class when we briefly drove them around town a few months ago. Mercedes-AMG make some very fast cars. In fact, they make those fast cars simply by upgrading their luxury cars with bigger engines and stiffer suspension. They go very fast in a straight line. But when you reach a corner, one of two things happen at the limit — if ESP is on, you are made to slow down and understeer forcefully, but if you turn off the ESP nannies, you oversteer in a flurry of tyre-smoke and spin-outs, unless you have Schumacher-grade skills. The AMG sedans and coupes based on their regular cars aren’t exactly the epitome of sports-car finesse and balance, given the limitation of having to base them off of their regular cars. But give the AMG team some leeway to build a bespoke sports car, and they can work wonders. The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG was their finest creation ever. And the indirect successor to that is the more accessible Mercedes-AMG GT — a car that we were desperately waiting to sample at this week’s annual AMG Performance Tour invitation-only event at the Yas Marina Circuit, after a barrage of laps in the usual AMG sedans and coupes.
Having driven the CLS 63 AMG, C 63 AMG Coupe and the SL 63 AMG one after the other, it was clear that the cars were more fun the smaller they got. They were all fast, throaty and hard brakers, with sharp responses and minimal feedback when driven within their limits. While only the SL could eke out a bit of oversteer thanks to its shorter wheelbase, all the cars had fairly restrictive stability-control systems, even in “Sport Plus” mode. We also tried the A45 AMG and the CLA 45 AMG, which were similar to the above cars, but with less of a kick at lower revs, a more Honda-esqe engine note, all-wheel-drive traction and and a spongier brake feel. Still, we’re sure these cars are more fun on the road than on the track, given their conservative safety nets.
Our final round at the track consisted of high-speed convoy laps in the all-new Mercedes-AMG GT S, the more potent version of the AMG GT line, and additionally with the “Edition 1” kit that includes a fixed wing, carbon-fibre roof, black wheels and other add-ons. It’s also got conventional doors and slightly more practicality than the gullwinged SLS AMG.
It’s a great-looking car, very generic in its long-bonnet sloping-roofline profile, but that’s no bad thing. Some say the rear imitates a Porsche 911, the latter ironically appearing in the GT’s TV commercials, but the front-engined rear-driven Mercedes is a rival rather than a copy.
For one, the AMG GT is powered by a V8 rather than a flat-6, a 4.0-litre turbocharged unit to be precise, making 503 hp and 650 Nm of torque in “S” guise. Mated to a smartly-programmed 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, the motor is aggressive in its power delivery when in sport mode, with a growling exhaust note that lets out the occasional snap-crackle-pop, though not nearly with as much drama as that of the Jaguar F-Type R.
The GT S is a very fast car, with a nice kick when accelerating out of slow turns, but it seems to run out of breath a bit, relatively speaking, when approaching the 200 kph mark, as the speed climbs much slower up there, as you speed down long straights. It’s at these track speeds that you realise the GT S really is playing two rungs below the 591 hp SLS AMG in the supercar stakes.
But as we said, the AMG GT is a more accessible car, even in terms of performance. Whereas the SLS could get a bit twitchy here and there, the GT holds its composure better, even when intentionally trail-braking into turns like we were doing in an attempt to induce oversteer. In “sport” mode, it did kick out the tail just that little bit, which made it a whole lot more fun than any other AMG vehicle we drove that day, and it was still completely safe and in control. We were banned from using “race” mode, which would’ve turned off more of the electronic nannies.
The steering and pedals are nicely weighted and pretty responsive, making it easy to dial in just the right amounts of input in and out of the corners at the tricky circuit. The brakes are expectedly strong and linear in their application. And body roll is almost unnoticeable, even in “comfort” mode. Grip levels are high, but exploring its limits are quite possible.
The Mercedes-AMG GT S is quite a car. Our only complaints are the small boot and a gear-selector that’s way too near your right elbow, although the latter never became an issue when we thrashed the car for what seemed like a countless number of laps, spread among three sessions. It’s very easy to drive this car fast on the track. As I kept going round and round, I couldn’t believe how “safe” I felt pushing this car in what felt like a real-life video game, chasing an instructor who didn’t really hold back. By the end of it all, I sat in the car for a minute to cool the brakes as well as myself. I was sweating profusely for some reason and it wasn’t even hot. It certainly wasn’t due to fear. I suppose this is how race-car drivers lose weight.
For prices and specs, visit the Mercedes-Benz buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury.