The 2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT S is a supercar designed to challenge the Porsche 911 and does so convincingly. The new AMG GT even resembles the 911, especially in the rear, which looks like a straight lift from the iconic Porsche.
The 2016 AMG GT is similar to the 2010-2015 SLS AMG in some ways, but there are many differences. Normal doors are used on the new AMG GT, replacing the gullwing doors on the SLS AMG.
The new AMG GT is powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8. It boasts 503 horsepower, which is less than what was delivered by the naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V8 in the SLS AMG, but the turbochargers in the new 4.0-liter help it deliver its strong torque, peaking at 479 pound-feet, across a wider power band.
A revised structure, shorter, more rigid than before gives the new AMG GT the most impressive handling in AMG history, and that’s saying a lot. The Mercedes-Benz gets traditional hydraulic steering, giving it brilliant road feel. We think it rivals that of the current 991 Porsche 911.
The Mercedes-Benz AMG GT S may offer comparable performance and handling to a Porsche 911 but they could not be more different.
For starters, the Mercedes-Benz has its engine in front, instead of in the rear. The engine is moved rearward from that of the previous SLS, closer to the driver, closer to the middle of the car.
The two-seat AMG GT S has a snug cabin swathed in quality leather, real metals, and premium plastics.
The seats, however, felt somewhat awkward, with firm side bolsters, an excessively sway-backed lumbar support, and limited range of recline. The passenger seat is worse; there’s less legroom, limiting the ability to recline. Optional sport seats help but don’t add legroom. The AMG GT may not be the best choice for long-legged drivers.
The AMG GT offers improved handling over the previous SLS AMG. There’s less oversteer, better balance. The Dynamic Plus package contributes to the improved handling. The driver can steer the car using the throttle and brakes. The hydraulic steering offers better feel with more feedback than the newer electric steering systems, including that of the Porsche 911. A new Race mode opens up the exhaust, changes the engine and transmission mapping, and tightens up the suspension.
At Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca we had a chance to test drive the AMG GT. Squeeze the throttle when exiting the tight Turn 11 and accelerate up the front straight. By the time you pass Start/Finish and go under the bridge you are fast traffic. Hitting the kink that is Turn 1 while cresting the hill is now a serious moment when it wasn’t so serious in a slower car.
Coming down the hill to Turn 2, brake, downshift, trail off the brakes while turning in and the AMG GT S begins to rotate predictably, allowing you to straighten the wheel as you nudge the first apex, then the second, rolling back to throttle to squirt toward Turn 3. The AMG GT S feels much more like a true sports car than we would have expected from this 3500-pound GT.
Round the 90-degree Turn 3, accelerate onto the straight and grab fourth gear. The dual-clutch gearbox shifts lightning-quick. This is one of the most responsive gearboxes we’ve ever tested.
Brush the brakes for the fast Turn 4, hammer the curbing at the apex and drift out onto the curb at the exit, you are now accelerating very rapidly, topping 125 mph before braking hard for Turn 5. Downshift and squeeze the throttle down as you accelerate out to the edge of the track, heading up hill and under the bridge toward Turn 6.
Brake and downshift for Turn 6, which sucks you down to the apex. Drifting to the edge of the track, the AMG engine powers you up the steep hill toward the Corkscrew.
Over the curbing on the left, hard on the brakes, trailing over the crest and more curbing on the right, down two gears to third, a quick left-right as the world falls away, easing back to full throttle as you head toward Turn 9, grabbing fourth gear along the way. From the middle of the track, brake lightly, turn in and squeeze on the throttle as you head steeply downhill, hit the apex and drift out to the exit. On the brakes for Turn 10, then accelerate as you head toward the tight Turn 11 before starting another lap.
Back in civilization, stop-and-go traffic can be managed with the adaptive cruise control. Ride quality is relatively firm, but in Comfort mode, it’s pleasant enough, even over rough pavement. Wind and road noise are minimal, allowing you to hear the Burmester surround sound system all the better.
The AMG GT S is a good alternative to a Porsche Carrera S, especially for someone who wants something different. This latest AMG has come closer to offering a true 911 competitor than most imagined. In terms of pure driving enjoyment, it may offer a better value.
Driving impressions by Nelson Ireson. Mitch McCullough contributed to this report.