Every few years, another automaker announces it has cracked the code. AMG GT S
And judging by the new 2016 AMG GT, there are few companies better equipped than Mercedes-Benz to do just that.
The AMG GT (or the "Mercedes-AMG GT," as the company is calling it) could be viewed as a successor to the now discontinued SLS AMG. But it's a more refined yet considerably less costly successor. And whereas the brawny SLS AMG was a temperamental-handling sports car that could punish even experienced drivers when pushed hard, the AMG GT's smoother, more predictable responses and more compact dimensions provide greater driver confidence. As such, you'll probably find the 2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT a more enjoyable companion than the SLS both for everyday driving adventures and the occasional track day.
Of course, anyone familiar with Mercedes' high-performance AMG division will know that the GT packs plenty of heat as well. The S version has a turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 that applies its 503 horsepower to the rear wheels through a rear-mounted seven-speed automated manual transaxle. The result is a 0-60-mph sprint in a claimed 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 193 mph.
Plenty of other cutting-edge technologies have been used in the AMG GT as well. The lightweight body and underlying structure are made almost entirely out of aluminum. There are active motor and transmission mounts that vary their stiffness to suit the driving situation, variable-ratio power steering that automatically adjusts based on both speed and lateral G-forces, and powerful optional carbon-ceramic disc brakes. The result is a car that corners, steers and stops like a true performance machine, stacking up very well against other sports cars in this rarefied segment.
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT is a two-seat sports car with a hatchback body style. It is currently offered in a single "S" model. A slightly less powerful (and less expensive) AMG GT variant will debut later.
Standard equipment on the AMG GT S includes 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels, an electronically controlled rear differential, an adaptive suspension, a dynamic exhaust system with driver-selectable settings, LED headlights, automatic high-beam headlight control, auto-dimming outside mirrors, a power-operated trunk lid, a pop-up rear spoiler, front and rear parking sensors and keyless ignition and entry.
Inside, you'll find dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated sport seats, driver memory settings, adaptive cruise control, an 8-inch central display, a rearview camera, the Mercedes COMAND control system with a built-in touchpad, a navigation system, voice controls, and a 10-speaker Burmester surround-sound audio system with a CD player, HD radio, a USB/audio interface and satellite radio.
Options include a Lane Tracking package that bundles blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assist systems. An available AMG Dynamic Plus package includes revised engine tuning (for a wider engine power band), adaptive engine and transmission mounts, even more performance-oriented suspension tuning and a sport steering wheel. The mbrace telematics package and a Mercedes apps package are also offered. Other options include upgraded Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, carbon-ceramic brakes, an 11-speaker Burmester surround-sound audio system, premium leather upholstery and various exterior and interior trim upgrades.
Once you get past the shortcomings noted above and actually get settled into the driver seat, the beauty of the 2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT S becomes readily apparent. The old SLS AMG's V8 was well known for its stout power and memorable soundtrack, and the new turbo V8 is a fine successor. Nail the gas and that muscular V8 delivers a level of propulsion that few other cars can match. There's even a button that, when pushed, opens a bypass valve in the exhaust system to amp up the V8's full-throated roar. The seven-speed gearbox is excellent and provides quick gearchanges in normal driving, though we've found the Race mode's programming for track duty isn't always perfect.
Drive the 2016 AMG GT S on a challenging road (or road course) and you'll find it impressively well balanced and very engaging. This is a car with communicative steering and adept handling. Whereas earlier AMG offerings had all the delicacy of a chainsaw when carving up a back road, the GT feels like a far more precise instrument when you're pushing hard. Driven more sedately, the AMG GT S is a pretty civilized beast, but its ride quality is certainly on the firm side. In particular, watch out for the AMG Dynamic Plus package's stiffened suspension. Even with the adaptive dampers on their most supple setting, impacts are transmitted through the seats with an un-Mercedes-like harshness.
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT's cockpit is a thing of beauty. The design, materials and workmanship are all top-notch. Buyers have the ability to customize the space with different upholstery materials, contrasting stitching and trim choices that include matte or glossy carbon fiber. The 8-inch display boasts crisp graphics, but it looks a bit like an iPad perched atop the center vents and is one of the few inelegant touches in an otherwise stunning cabin.
Mercedes' latest version of the COMAND interface controls what appears on that display. Floating above the traditional dial controller is a touchpad that mimics tablet and trackpad gestures like swiping, pinching and tapping. You can also trace letters and numbers on the surface (when inputting a street address, for example), though this feature is mainly aimed at buyers whose primary language does not use the Roman alphabet. Although the new touchpad takes some getting used to, COMAND remains one of the best infotainment systems available.
The seats are well-bolstered for sporty driving, but their thin padding makes the AMG GT just uncomfortable enough that you wouldn't necessarily want to take it on a really long road trip. Taller drivers might not be able to slide or recline the seatback far enough to get comfortable. Outward visibility is limited by the thick A-pillars, low windshield header and long hood.
There's a useful amount of cargo space under the hatch, though at 12.4 cubic feet, it's slightly less than a Porsche 911's capacity. Soft luggage bags are a good choice to best fit the unusual shape, but you can squeeze a couple golf bags in there if you need to.
Visit Soho Motor Cars online at www.sohomotorcars.com to see more pictures of this vehicle or call us at 281-501-8298 today to schedule your test drive.
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