The Korean company has gone all stars and stripes
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£110,805 when new
Ooh, the new AMG GT. A half-price SLS? If you mean it feels like a cheapened version of that fancy-doored old intimidator, then, er, no. It actually feels better in many ways. Big talk. So what sort of car is it? Well it costs 911 money, or 911 Turbo money for this S version: £110,495 plus £11,985 for the three option packs I’ll be mentioning. It’s a two-seater with its V8 in the front-mid position, which also puts the GT toe-to-toe with the Jaguar F-Type R and Corvette and Aston Martin Vantage. It’s a trad layout, and the AMG GT certainly tickles some very old-school sports-car pleasure centres. But be in no doubt it’s high-tech too. Start from the beginning please.
Well, some of the GT is actually closely descended from the SLS. The central part of the aluminium body structure is closely related. Almost all the body is aluminium, by the way, helping to keep it light. The front suspension is also from the SLS, though the rear end is new. It’s the same width as the SLS (and feels wide for sure) but handily shorter both in the wheelbase and overall. Thanks to a hatchback, it can carry a useful amount of stuff. Of course the outside is all-new, and it has normal doors instead of gullwings, which again cuts weight. And though we loved the drama of the gullwings, we’d have to admit they were a bit of an ache to use. So overall the GT is just 1570kg. That’s about 100kg less than the aluminium F-Type R or the mixed-metal 4WD Porsche Turbo. What about the engine? The turbo V8 might only be four litres, but it’s immensely charismatic, and makes 510bhp in the S model. (The ‘basic’ GT, on sale six months later, is 462bhp, only because of lower boost.) Sure, there’s noticeable lag below about 3500rpm, and the revs run out at a disappointingly moderate (but par for a turbo) 7000rpm. In between those two, though, you’ve got an engine that answers the accelerator with quick and epic force. And it sounds like an AMG engine always has, all hard-edged V8 baritone bark. It’s not silly though: if you don’t press the loud pipes button it’ll proceed without shaking the windows of every house in the parish. The rival Jag, in particular, is embarrassingly indiscreet if you’re leaving your own street early in the morning. The tech of the new AMG engine bears a quick look. Its twin turbos are packed into the centre of the V, right under the bonnet, so the intake side of the cylinder heads is outboard. This makes the whole engine more compact. There’s also a dry sump, to lower the crank, and help lubrication in hard cornering. Because it’s so small, the engine can be dropped down and moved back well behind the front wheel centreline. That’s great for the car’s agility. Also, the gearbox is at the back axle, so overall the weight bias is strongly to the rear. Sure enough, you get keen turning into corners and terrific traction out of them them. Any more cleverness? Much. Among others, the optional adaptive powertrain mounts. As well as standard adaptive suspension dampers on the S, there are optional electronically controlled mounts for the engine at the front and gearbox at the back. These are firmed up when you’re swinging the wheel or the car’s riding a crest or dip, but stay soft for refinement going gently. I didn’t get to drive a car without them, but clearly keeping these substantial weights from flopping about in the car will have a major effect. And the GT S does feel brilliantly controlled through the sort of transitions we’re talking about. There’s an e-diff, as is par for the course on new cars like this. AMG seems to have done an especially good job of its calibration: it locks up just the right amount if you find yourself lifting off in the first part a bend, so the back wheels follow a reassuringly stable and buttoned-in line, and you can concentrate on steering for the exit. And there’s an option of carbon-ceramic brakes. Though I wouldn’t tick them unless you have some sort of inferiority complex, or are planning to head for the track a lot. They’re infuriatingly grabby at the top of their travel. Sounds as if you like the chassis? The old SLS had reactions so whipcrack they scared me. The GT S still reacts fast, which is good. But it’s much happier to impart informative sensations before it does anything at the extremes. And it’s more controllable when it does start to slip. The steering isn’t too nervous off-centre, and car pivots quickly but progressively into any curve. Plus there’s plenty of good old-fashioned steering feel as you load it up. And yes you get plenty of choice about the attitude via the right pedal. The GT isn’t twitchy, and there’s lots of traction to keep things neat. This AMG never gets sloppy, as you’re sitting on taut springs and iron-control dampers. What joy all this reassurance brings, as it tells you where the limits are, and invites you nudge to them, and gradually broach them, without needing supernatural skills. Oh and you can do all that while still keeping the ESP in its ‘sport’ rather than death-or-glory ‘off’ position. And fast? Oh yes. AMG actually quotes a 0-60 time as well as a 0-62. They’re 3.6 and 3.8 seconds: properly, properly fast. The engine’s massive torque in the mid-ranges means it’s not even that fussy about what gear it’s in, which is just as well because you meet an infuriating delay when you pull the up paddle near the redline. I kept bouncing off the limiter in manual mode. On the road you won’t be giving the accelerator its maximum excursion for long, because 100mph is something that happens in just a few beats of your - thumping - heart. Sounds pretty convincing. As a very fast sports car, it is. But AMG also makes lofty claims for the GT as everyday transport, and there it stumbles. Those adaptive powertrain mounts come as an option pack that also firms up the suspension. Firm eh? It’s borderline hard, banging about in suburban driving and across potholes, even if it does relax as you speed up. This, by the way, is in ‘comfort’ suspension mode. Then you’re tiptoeing around those over-keen brakes, and bleeding off the other foot to anticipate a transmission that doesn’t release or engage its clutch smoothly enough for gentle stops and departures. Especially when the accelerator tips in too urgently for that sort of driving. One of the great delights of a Porsche, strangely, is the way its powertrain behaves with unmatched precision when you’re going slowly. In the same circumstances the AMG feels short of comportment. And on coarse surfaces its road noise is diabolical, which is a pity as it frets away at the efforts of the magnificent (if optional) Burmester stereo. Cabin looks a nice place to be, though? Oh yes. The leccy seats have loads of support and enough adjustment, and there’s a good view out, so the basics are covered. Plus it’s beautifully built, with a great choice of materials. It parades very definite sports-car priorities in its control layout. The area around the transmission lever is almost entirely occupied by mode buttons for suspension damping, exhaust flaps, ESP setting and transmission setup, plus the portmanteau comfort/sport/race knob that affects all these and more. No menu-diving for those then. Instead, stereo functions that would normally go on knobs are elbowed aside, reached only via screen menus or voice activation. So despite the name, it’s sports-car front and centre, and GT a little way back? Yup. AMG is desperate to prove that despite all those overpowered elephantine barges that carry its name, the G and the S and the GL, the real essence of the company is the living heart of a bunch of racers. This car is their flag-waver. And at that it does a rather wonderful job.
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