► Mercedes-AMG GTS driven in the UK
► GTS version gets extra power, chassis upgrades
► 503bhp, 3.8sec 0-62mph, 193mph, £110k
If you’re here to find out whether the Mercedes-AMG GTS is a credible 911 rival, skip straight to CAR’s in-depth comparison test here for the definitive Stuttgart versus Stuttgart playoff.
This is our chance to get to know the AMG GTS a little better on its own terms, in the UK. Specifically, north Wales, on some of the finest roads we know. No autobahns here.
Talk me through the Mercedes-AMG GT. What’s the technical story?
There might be something ever so slightly 911-ish about the roofline (cheeky Mercedes), but the AMG GT’s blueprints lie in the now-defunct SLS AMG. Underneath that smooth bodywork (hat-doff to the styling team for the clean surfacing, a welcome departure from the crinkle-cut theme of most current-era Mercs) lies a modified version of the SLS floorpan. No gullwing doors this time round, of course, partly to reduce weight and complexity but also to underline that the GT isn’t a direct SLS replacement – this is a different kind of car, chasing different buyers at a different (lower) price point.
It’s around 20mm narrower than the SLS – a good thing – and also approximately 50mm shorter in the wheelbase. A large proportion of the bodyshell is aluminium, like the SLS, with steel for the practicality-boosting tailgate, covering space for two sets of golf clubs. Not outright beautiful perhaps, but a dramatic, classic looking GT all the same. The cabin’s pushed rearwards by a seemingly endless bonnet but open it up and much of the engine bay’s taken up by induction gubbins and ancillaries – the engine itself doesn’t make an appearance until way behind the front axle line. Front-rear weight distribution’s a gymnast-worthy 47:53 balance.
Ah yes, the engine – this is that hot-inside-vee thing, isn’t it?
That’s the one. A 4.0-litre twin-turbo, brought into being by splicing two 2.0-litre A45 AMG units together. The name comes from the location of its turbos inside the valley of the cylinders, rather than a more conventional home outboard of each cylinder bank. A variation of the same engine is fitted to the current C63 supersaloon.
Sole transmission option is a seven-speed dual-clutch, the same one as the SLS. It’s good, but somehow doesn’t feel quite as snappy as it does in the Ferrari 458, to which it’s also fitted.
What’s the difference between the AMG GTS and a regular AMG GT?
About £13,000 and an extra 47bhp for starters. The GTS makes 503bhp versus the GT’s 456bhp and demolishes 0-62mph in 3.8sec, a two-tenth advantage. Top speed climbs by 4mph to 193mph. The S also gets a variety of chassis goodies, an electronically controlled limited slip diff and three-stage adaptive dampers (by Multimatic) as opposed to the purely mechanical diff and passive suspension in the GT, along with bigger brakes and tyres. Composite ceramic brakes are an option, as are dynamic engine and transmission mounts (which soften and stiffen automatically according to load) as part of the AMG Dynamic Plus package.
What’s it like inside?
On first impressions, not all that wonderful. Hemmed in by an overgrown transmission tunnel (a hangover from the SLS DNA) and obstructed by odd ergonomics (the gear selector’s positioned so far back you almost need to reach behind you to put the car in gear) it initially feels claustrophobic and awkward to see out of. A 911’s cabin is airier, roomier and more welcoming. But once you’ve got the AMG moving, the picture changes.
What at first seemed a dauntingly low, backward-set driving position feels perfect once you’re underway. Sitting back near the rear axle hardwires you straight into the GTS’s superb balance (that even-stevens weight distribution feels immediately evident), and the steering, horribly light and remote at low speeds, somehow becomes ever more accurate with speed. It’s a hydraulic setup rather than electric, carried over from the SLS platform, and constant-ratio, although slightly odd tuning makes it feel a little like a variable-rate rack. Body control, on admittedly smooth, fast roads, was exemplary and it’s a car you’ll quickly feel at ease with, and engaged by. Although the GTS is a largely very comfortable car on most roads, when the surface gets really tough, so does the ride – but it’s certainly liveable with.
And it’s certainly supercar fast, especially in the mid-range with 479lb ft spread nice and evenly from 1750 to 4750rpm and turbo lag noticeable by its absence. This is a turbocharged engine that does a good job of hiding it, with great throttle response in higher gears. From inside the cabin at least, the GT doesn’t sound quite as soulful as it looks, although the exhaust button (one of the many peppering that giant centre console) helps to transmit a little muscle car rumble and overrun popcorn to the cabin via switchable flaps within the exhaust.
We never expected the Mercedes-AMG GTS to be bad to drive. But I for one never expected it to be this good. Intoxicatingly fast, comfortable over long distances and blessed with balanced, accessible handling it manages to be both a relaxed grand tourer and an inspiring sports car. It’s a car you’d quickly feel at home driving, but would take far longer to tire of.
Good enough to justify the six-figure price tag? Depends on your point of view. It’s a better car than the £170k SLS it (indirectly) succeeds and, for now at least, it’s new and different enough to represent a credible alternative to established heroes from Porsche, Aston and beyond.