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First Drive: Mercedes-Benz AMG GT GT S Premium 2dr Auto (2015-2017)

£115,000 when new

Car specifications

Budget
£115,000
Brake horsepower
510bhp
Fuel consumption
30.1mpg
0–62 mph
3.80s
CO2
219g/km
Max speed
193Mph
Insurance Group
50E

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Ah, the Son Of SLS. You’ve already driven this, right?

We have. Paul Horrell gave the Merc a shakedown in California late last year, but what’s new is that we’re now driving a right-hand-drive car in the UK.

I apologise if you’re part of our international contingent, because what follows will have little relevance to you, but us Brits like to get our knickers in a twist about cars feeling different in the UK, so here we are.

Remind me of the Big Numbers?

It’s Merc’s Porsche 911 rival, based on the SLS chassis, but shorter and without gullwing doors. The old 6.2-litre nat asp V8 has swung its last haymaker, killed by legislation, so now we have a dry-sump 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, but still driving the rear wheels only through a seven-speed double-clutch gearbox.

The numbers generated by this top-line S version are healthy enough: 503bhp at 6,250rpm and 479lb ft from 1750-4750rpm.

Power’s a bit down on the 562bhp SLS, but torque’s identical and delivered much lower down, and the numbers put the GT into direct competition with the Jag F-Type R (542bhp/501lb ft) and standard Porsche 911 Turbo (513bhp/486lb ft). And oh, OK, we can also include the Nissan GT-R in that line-up (542bhp/466lb ft).

The internet gets angry when you forget the GT-R.

It does, although I thought we’d settled the GT-R versus GT debate when James revealed on the TV show that the GT’s Dunsfold lap time in the hands of the Stig (1.17.5) was 0.3 seconds faster than the GT-R’s. Only apparently that GT-R was four years old, thus making the internet even more angry.

Point is, the Merc GT was enormously fast at the track: quicker than an old SLS Black, FOUR seconds quicker than the Jag, and ahead of a host of other stuff including the Koenigsegg CCX. Fast.

So it’s sporty, then?

It is. Merc doesn’t have the back catalogue of driver-focused sporty stuff that, say, Porsche does, so feels compelled to show how sporty its new cars are by making them very sporty indeed. The result is that the GT is not as easy to live with as a 911.

You’re hemmed into a tight driving position by a high centre console and relatively close windscreen. There’s not much elbow or headroom and you’re immediately aware of the GT’s width and lengthy prow.

It’s just as well you don’t need to do much with the gearlever, because it’s mounted so far back on the console that you need a second elbow to operate it.

It’s a handsome cockpit, though, nicely assembled and attractively laid out. More emphasis on the sporty side means all the buttons on that tall centre console control aspects of the driving, from exhaust noise and damper settings to manual gears and traction control.

Personally I’d have found it more useful to have one of them as a dedicated FF/RWD (that’s fast-forward/rewind, not a setting that allows you to switch the driven wheels) button for the infotainment, but then I suppose I’m meant to be listening to the engine. Which, to be fair, does sound mega.

Even though it’s turbocharged?

Merc seems to have got the knack of this better than almost anyone. The blown V8 is properly grumbly and rowdy at low speed, and does the full wounded buffalo as it bellows towards the top end. It’s the sort of sound that could get you into trouble, because you want to stay on the throttle to keep listening.


How is it around town?

Not great. The GT is very wide, and the low seat and high scuttle makes it difficult to place accurately. You seem to be forever craning your neck over the wheel. The throttle response is a bit off in Comfort mode, so you end up cycling to Sport or setting it all up yourself in the Individual setting.

This is the best idea actually, because - oddly - the settings that work best in town are also the ones that work best for a bit of B-road action. This basically consists of putting everything into its sportiest, except the dampers, which need to be left as soft as possible. This is basically the default setting for almost every configurable German sports car.

Avoid Race mode for the engine, as it’s a bit too abrupt and snatchy, but Sport+ is fine as the throttle wakes up, and the extra precision actually makes it easier to modulate. Go for manual gears too, if you can be bothered. Stops the gearbox being too frantic around town.

And when you get out of town?

Noisy on the motorway, but it tracks straight and true, plus the torque means you can leave it in seventh and still haul hard. And you can make the road noise disappear by turning the Burmester up loud, although you might arrive home slightly deaf.

Then you get to your favourite local road. For me, that’s the B4494. There’s no doubting the GT’s speed. It’s vastly fast, throwing itself down the road with no sense of self-preservation. Some fast cars have power deliveries that are more circumspect, but this is just a full-on headbutt at the horizon.

There’s no doubting the GT’s grip either - it’ll maintain velocity with extraordinary prowess - and there’s a good strong electric safety net to catch you if it does start to lose traction.

And will it?

Yep, the little orange uh-oh light does flicker pretty regularly. Let’s make one thing clear: it’s much more sorted than the old SLS. That was a hairy-arsed thing at times, a bit cantankerous with a fearsomely sharp front axle and the rear that couldn’t quite do enough to keep up.

This is from the same school - it’s a long bonneted, rear drive coupe after all - but here the masses are more centralised and better controlled. The engine sits remarkably far back, for instance and our car had the active engine and transmission mounts which help to prevent the mass of the heavy oily bits creating a problem of its own.

So the GT will get itself down a tricky road without getting spooked too badly, but I found the steering a little flighty. It doesn’t have great feedback and is a little light and vague just off-centre, before weighting up if you nudge it a bit further.

It just means you can’t place it quite as accurately as you’d like to be able to with a car that feels as wide as this one.

So is it better than a 911? And, of course, that GT-R?

I’ll fail to answer both those questions to start with by saying it’s harder and sharper than its closest conceptual rival, the Jaguar F-Type R.

It’s very, very different to a GT-R, slower down a road, not quite as well balanced, but delivering a more raucous experience.

The rival that matters is the Porsche 911, and the AMG GT doesn’t have the same precision, litheness and feel that give the Porsche the edge in my mental notebook.

However, if it’s drama, excitement and raw edginess that floats your boat, the GT is the one to go for. It’s an epic device.

What do you think?

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