► ‘Entry-level’ AMG GT now on sale in UK
► ‘Entry-level’ 456bhp, 4.0sec 0-62, 189mph
► Great looks, great noise… great chassis?
I fear that no-one is going to buy this car – which seems a ridiculous thing to say given how gorgeous it looks in the pictures. But I just can’t help thinking if you’re going to spurn the obvious Porsche 911 and purchase a Mercedes-AMG GT, you’re going to go the whole hog, so to speak, and pay the extra £13,300 for the full-fat, 503bhp S version, rather than ‘make do’ with this newly introduced entry-level model and its ‘mere’ 456bhp…
Read CAR's review of the S version here.
Oh come on, don’t be ridiculous – does the extra 47bhp really make such a difference?
In raw performance terms, perhaps not. The regular AMG GT still sprints 0-62mph in 4.0sec and eventually tops out at 189mph – that’s just 0.2sec and 4mph slower than the GT S, despite coming in 37lb ft short as well. It also produces a similarly luxuriant gurgling symphony of V8 noises as the current range leader, thanks to having essentially the same ‘hot-in-V’ bi-turbo 4.0-litre bent eight tucked away under its long, long bonnet.
As a basic prelude to passion, it’s impossible to overstate just how seductive this combination of muscular thrust, dirty talking combustion and stirring physical proportions is; if you’ve any high-octane blood in your veins at all you’ll want to fall in love as soon as you’ve dropped into the low-slung sport seat’s embrace, looked out over the aircraft carrier landing deck and fired the cylinders. It’s like the very automotive definition of voluptuous – indulgent, curvaceous and seemingly so ready to go. So what if the S has got a little extra under the hood, the fundamentals are essentially all present and correct. Aren’t they?
I’m sensing conflict. What’s the problem?
The first hint that life with the AMG GT isn’t going to be all sweetness and light and burnt rubber comes from the ride, as on the roads around Cambridgeshire this car quickly became positively irritating. This would be fair enough if there was a definite pay-off whenever you turned the wick up, but unfortunately the standard fixed-rate dampers of the regular GT just don’t seem to cope with gnarly British tarmac very well at all – crashing into depressions and jittering over bumps in a manner that steals away your confidence very quickly.
And confidence is quite important in a car as wide as this one, especially when it also has such strange steering weighting. Given this is an old-school hydraulically-assisted setup (like the central tub, the steering carries over to the GT from the SLS before it) it feels bizarrely like a badly programmed electrically-assisted system at first. But almost as if Mercedes was aiming for the light and floaty sensations you get from an older 911, in the GT S we had out on CAR’s 2015 Sports Car Giant Test this managed the similarly remarkable trick of dialling in to ever greater degrees of conviction the faster you drove, becoming an intrinsic character feature of the GT S experience. I’ll make no bones about this – I adored it.
The trouble is, in the regular GT the suspension feels like it wants to trip you up way before you reach the velocities necessary to achieve this steering nirvana. Three-stage adaptive damping is £1,495 extra, which might help, but not only is this included as standard on the GT S, the pricier model also gets the option of a more focused AMG Dynamics Plus package unavailable to entry-level buyers. This is the combo that impressed us on the SCGT in Wales.
Any other differences between the two versions of the AMG GT?
The GT has 19-inch wheels all round as standard, though our test car was upgraded to 20-inch rears like the GT S, and a regular mechanical locking limited slip diff rather than a fancy electronically controlled one. It also misses out on the GT S’s marginally bigger front brakes, lightweight lithium ion battery, an additional ‘race’ setting for the seven-speed automatic transmission and some minor trim differentiation.
As per AMG usual, that gearbox isn’t quite as snappy under manual control as you would quite like it to be, but to be honest this is easier to adjust to than the general design of the cabin. Dominated by the enormous central tunnel (thanks SLS…), this features a wanton excess of style over ergonomics, including a gear selector that’s practically behind you, and the far and wide distribution of the buttons. Gladly, you soon learn to find the button for the exhaust by feel – probably the first thing you’ll reach for after ignition. Ba-da-vroom.
Pretty simple really: wanted to love it, sadly didn’t. The AMG GT is a fantastic looking machine, in my humble opinion, and the S with the Dynamic Plus package is an utterly captivating joy to drive. But the regular car isn’t as adept, and nor does it pull off some sort of ‘comfortable Grand Tourer’ routine as an alternative. Find the extra cash, or go for a PPI – which is to say a Predictable Porsche Investment…