Amidst a parade of classic AMGs and with Nico Rosberg at the wheel, Mercedes has finally unveiled the new AMG GT – the car it hopes will finally upset the dominance of Porsche’s 911 in the mid-size sports car market. The new AMG goes on sale in 503bhp GTS guise before the end of 2014 priced around £110,000, with a tamer 456bhp version arriving in early 2015 at around £95,000.
Click here for your chance to win the Mercedes AMG GT S in CAR magazine's amazing new competition!
First sight comes at AMG’s home in Affalterbach, Germany, a place so steeped in outrageous amounts of horsepower it’s a wonder the building doesn’t take off and go racing Audis on the autobahn at night. We've driven there in a fleet of AMGs on the eve of the global debut - read our blog on what AMG means here.
As we’ve already guessed from the spy photos, the GT is revealed as a hugely purposeful coupe, with acres of bonnet leading to an almost comically 911-esque rear. From the three-quarter view at least.
But there’s no engine back there. As with the SLS before it – AMG’s first in-house supercar and the platform donor here – the GT has a V8 tucked in the nose, just behind the front axle line. Downsizing has struck again, however, and where the SLS revelled in 6.2 litres of naturally aspirated ferociousness, the GT gets an all-new blown 4.0-litre, with twin turbos nestling neatly between its banks in ‘hot inside V’ configuration.
Mercedes AMG GT: all-new 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8
Smaller it might be, a disappointment this dry-sumped engine is not. In addition to 456bhp, the regular AMG GT swells with 443lb ft, can go 0-62mph in just 4.0sec and hits an electronically limited top speed of 189mph. The 503bhp GTS variant that goes on sale first punches out 479lb ft, scorches from 0-62mph in 3.8sec and has a maximum (limited) speed of 193mph.
It weighs 1570kg, 25kg less than a 911 Turbo. That's aluminum build for you.
The performance and projected pricing plugs the gap between the Turbo and lesser 911s, too, suggesting Mercedes is taking very careful aim here. The GTS is also a massive £60k less than the discontinued SLS AMG it sort of replaces – though AMG says it is also a very different kind of car.
It’s still front-engined and very much rear-wheel drive, though, the two linked via the same seven-speed paddle-shift gearbox as the SLS (and the Ferrari 458 Italia). It also sounds absolutely mighty, with fully variable exhaust flaps making the most of each and every one of those eight cylinders, as F1 ace Rosberg demonstrated with a grin as he drove it onto the stage. He then hopped out and asked AMG boss Tobias Moers if he could have one as a company car. Not until 2015, apparently.
The GT’s engine is related to the 2.0-litre turbo in the A45 AMG. That unusual turbo configuration is apparently good for efficiency but presents a challenge to cool – one that’s solved by trick air channels, including one that sucks air into the front of the engine from the high-pressure area at the base of the windscreen.
SLS platform, classic and modern, outside and in
Once you’ve got over the SLS-911 cut and shut silhouette (harsh?), the exterior details mix modern Mercedes with some classical – it’s not retro, we’re told – elements. The proportions, particularly the upright windscreen and long bonnet, hark back to the 300SL; what’s less obvious until you see them together is resemblance at the rear, with a big three-pointed star where we’re used to seeing the number plate on most modern Mercs. This resurrected styling element is now being used to denote coupes, having recently reappeared on the S-Class Coupe.
Use of the SLS platform hasn’t stopped AMG chopping 50mm out of the wheelbase, and together with the brevity of lines in the exterior design makes the GT seem much smaller. However it’s just 20mm narrower than its bigger forebear, which doesn’t bode particularly well for British B-roads. More conventional features include the disappointingly ordinary doors and the hatchback boot lid – both of which improve functionality, let’s be honest. The boot lid is one of the few elements of the car made from steel; the part would have been heavier in aluminium, which makes up 90% of the rest of the car. The front section is magnesium, to improve turn-in.
On the inside, the SLS origins rear their head again in the gargantuan width of the centre console. However, this is even more horizontal here, and is likely to become one of those love it or hate it features. The rest is modern Merc for the most part – iPad style screen, rotary COMAND controller and a strange surplus of air vents – but there are specific GT details. The non-digital dials, for example, and the roof-mounted switches that help to declutter the dash.
Has the AMG GT got the handling chops to take on the 911?
Speaking of non-digital, you may be surprised to learn that the AMG GT has hydraulically assisted steering – when was the last new performance car to feature anything but an electrically assisted set-up? This is a hangover from the SLS, it seems, and holds the intriguing promise of decent steering feel. We’ll have to wait and see.
The steering ratio itself is fixed, another pleasant surprise. Elsewhere, the chassis features double wishbone front suspension and a multi-link rear. There are selectable driving modes, including a new Individual mode for the first time, and a Race setting in the GT S for the fastest possible gearshifts. The GTS also gets electronically adjustable adaptive dampers and an electronic limited slip differential; the adaptive dampers are optional on the GT, which also makes do with a mechanical locking diff.
Thanks to the transaxle gearbox design, the GT achieves a traction optimising 47:53 front:rear weight bias. Many of the suspension components are forged aluminium, offsetting the unsprung weight of the standard 19-inch alloy wheels. Three-stage ESP will go all the way off, though the middle sport handling mode will best suit most enthusiastic drivers.
Asked if it the GT will beat the 911 on track, AMG boss Moers said: “I know the 911’s lap times. And ours are faster.”
Performance options maketh the machine…
Options of note include ceramic brakes, forged wheels and the GT S-only AMG Dynamic Plus package, which features active engine and transmission mounts, additional negative camber on the front suspension, stiffer springs and dampers, and speed sensitive sports steering. Spot a Dynamic Plus GT S by the yellow highlights in the instrument cluster and its unique ‘performance’ steering wheel.
In a cursory nod to environmentalists, the AMG GT’s engine is Euro 6 compliant, and it has stop-start as standard. CO2 emissions are 216g/km and 219g/km for the GT and GT S, respectively, with claimed economy of 30.4mpg and 30.0mpg.
A strict two-seater, the Mercedes AMG GT will have its work cut out to convince staunch 911 buyers to jump ship – though the fact that you can fit two sets of golf clubs in the 350-litre boot may help. It’s an attractive package, with what looks to be a keen performance to price ratio, that typically dramatic AMG sound track and properly head-turning looks. Tempted? Look out for more AMG GT news on CAR very soon…