You’ve heard our thoughts on the new Mercedes AMG GT at the official unveiling in Affalterbach earlier this week, but what about the people behind it? We asked four key members of the team that created the car for an insight into their favourite parts of AMG’s new 911 fighter – and managed to speak to a certain F1 star about it as well.
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1) Thomas Ramsteiner, V8 engine development: 'The crankcase'
Think AMG and you think horsepower – lots of it, and at loud volume. The GT gets a brand new 456-503bhp twin-turbo V8 and Thomas Ramsteiner, AMG’s head of V8 engine development, immediately points out the key feature: ‘hot in v’ turbo placement. This moves the turbos into the space between cylinder banks for improved efficiency, but at the cost of highly concentrated heat. ‘Keeping it cool was the greatest technical challenge,’ he says. ‘But it was worth it.’
That’s not his favourite part, though. Instead he picks the crankcase for its optimised ‘shape, strength and weight’. It also does the handy job of marrying a pair of 2.0-litre AMG four-cylinder blocks together to create the new 4.0-litre. Refusing to be drawn on just how much power the V8 might produce in the future, Ramsteiner tell us to ‘look at the output of the four-cylinder and think about it.’ For the record the four-pot produces 355bhp.
2) Robert Lesnik, director of exterior design: 'The backside'
While performance is important, plenty will judge the AMG GT by its appearance, from your colleagues in the boardroom to the van driver at the traffic lights. As director of exterior design Robert Lesnik puts it, ‘Mr Moers [AMG’s boss; we’ll come back to him] will say it drives better than it looks. But I’m a designer – it still has to look good.’
The proportions are ‘typical Mercedes sports car’, with an upright windscreen and cab-backward profile. If you think it looks like a 911, wait until you see it alongside a 300SL – then the heritage becomes clear, ‘something so unique we don’t need to copy it,’ says Lesnik. Embodying Merc’s new ‘sensual purity’ design language, surfaces are curved and lines are few. ‘You want to touch it. You have to touch it.’
Lesnik highlights the rear shoulderline as the most extreme example, but picks the entire rear end as his favourite aspect. Dominated by a big three-pointed star, and with the number plate tucked away in the bumper, it’s different to other modern Mercedes (excepting the similarly new S-Class Coupe) and deliberately harks back to the classic 300SL.
3) Hartmut Sinkwitz, director of interior design: 'The centre console'
On the inside it’s all about creating a sports car ambience. According to interior design director Hartmut Sinkwitz, this traditionally means an emphasis on width – something the GT certainly doesn’t shy away from, as it is not only based on the SLS platform, it follows the aircraft wing dashboard design of this and other more recent sporting Mercedes. Think of the air vents as engines.
Where the GT takes a different stand is with the horizontal centre console, and it’s not hard to guess this is Sinkwitz’s favourite element. Enormously wide and unusually high, it completely divides the cabin. So extreme, the design team worried it was ‘too provocative’ to make production.
No need. ‘Everyone loved it as a pure, sporting statement,’ says Sinkwitz. Details including the button layout that echoes the engine under the bonnet and a ‘black diamond’ trim option that took three years to make production-feasible add further frisson.
4)Tobias Moers, chairman of the management board Mercedes-AMG: 'The steering wheel. And the throttle!'
And so we come to Tobias Moers, AMG’s chairman of the board – and he really does have a kind of Germanic Sinatra swagger, complete with sharky grin and the underlying sense that you’d better not upset him.
This man is a legendary petrolhead, so when he gets on stage to introduce the GT and says ‘we do not strive for growth at any price’ and that the new car is ‘loyal to the brand promise of driving performance’ it’s easy to believe him. Moers remains very much true to form when it comes to what he likes best about the GT. Smiling like a 20-tyres-a-day track fiend, he says, ‘The steering wheel. And the throttle.'
There’s a pause. 'And occasionally the brakes.'
5) Nico Rosberg, racing driver for Mercedes Petronas AMG Formula One team: 'The noise'
The man at the wheel of the AMG GT when it finally mounts the stage in front of the world’s assembled media is none other than current Formula One world championship leader, Nico Rosberg. Once he’s finished sharing selfies with Bernd Schneider and what seems like every aforementioned hack, dazzling all with his happy charm and language skills in the process, we manage to grab a quick word.
Our question is a little unfair, since he’s literally only driven the GT through a bunch of fireworks and into the limelight. But he thinks for a moment – then his face lights up: 'Probably the button that makes it louder!'