Consider the 2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S an outrageously rapid instrument of analog high fidelity in a world that is embracing digital feedback. Its micrometer-precise responses to throttle and steering inputs are unlike those we've experienced in any other AMG product.
In the words of AMG, it's a genuine driver's car — a pure sports car. After driving the GT, we can't disagree.
What Is It?
The 2016 Mercedes-AMG GT is a two-seat sports car that will be sold in two trims: GT and GT S. Both versions are serious performance cars similar to the Porsche 911 and Corvette Stingray.
Though both GT models share underpinnings (the cabin, mostly) with the outgoing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG supercar, they ride on a 2-inch-shorter wheelbase and utilize an all-new engine.
Targeting the 911 is no small task, and AMG shows little restraint in its pursuit of balancing radical capability and everyday road-worthiness. The GT S's wheelbase is 7 inches longer than the Porsche's but shorter than the Stingray's. A 911 Turbo S is about the same height as the GT, but the Mercedes is 122 pounds lighter (3,461 vs. 3,583).
What Kind of Power Does It Have?
It's under the hood, however, where the real rivalry is fought. Both GT and GT S trims utilize a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8. The all-new engine packages its turbochargers inside the V8's cylinder banks, which enhances both efficiency and emissions. Dry-sump lubrication eliminates the oil pan, thereby lowering the engine in the chassis, while direct fuel injection adds power and efficiency.
In GT trim it produces 456 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. GT S models are more powerful, making 503 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. Both utilize a seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle packaged between the rear wheels to produce a 47/53 fore/aft weight distribution.
Though base GT models come with passive dampers and a mechanical limited-slip differential, GT S models come with electronically controlled dampers and an electronically controlled limited slip. AMG's Dynamic Select drive mode adjuster tweaks throttle response, steering effort, shift speed and, on GT S trims, suspension damping and differential response. Five settings are available: Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Race and an Individual mode that permits customized settings.
Carbon-ceramic brakes are optional on both models. The GT S model also offers more extreme performance options like active engine and transaxle mounts, more negative camber in the front suspension and stiffer springs and dampers when fitted with the optional AMG Dynamic Plus package. Forged wheels and super-sticky R compound Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires are also available for the GT S, but our tester wore Michelin Pilot Super Sports.
How Does It Drive on the Track?
Race mode, though instantly involving on the track (the only place it should be engaged), isn't perfect. We were drawn quickly to the idea that the GT S can select the appropriate gear in nearly any situation, but, in practice, this isn't always the case.
There's speed, novelty and a solid measure of surplus processing power to spend elsewhere if the car can do the entire job itself. And in most cases the GT S does exactly that — rev-matching downshifts and popping off upshifts with weapons-grade precision at exactly the right time. But occasionally it would find itself a gear too high and order a downshift after we'd already committed to full throttle, which was both annoying and slower than shifting ourselves.
Even so, everything else about the GT S (from the way it manages its weight to the way it explodes from corners) is both confident and involving. The line between the edge of grip and the edge of control is a broad one painted by the hands of capable drivers and engineers.
The brakes, too — carbon-ceramic rotors on our test car — were among the most confident we've used, slowing the big sports car time and again without any indication that they were working hard.
That this car is tuned to produce fine-edge control and absolute speed is obvious when its limits are probed. Walk the GT's front tires to the edge of grip and its steering communicates clearly where the line lies. Balance among front-tire, rear-tire and four-tire slides is completely adjustable. What's more, the car's three-stage stability control stays at bay in Race mode unless it's genuinely needed.
How Does It Drive on the Street?
The hand-built engine lacks subtlety to the same extent that it lacks calm when driven in anger. Of course it can be damped to socially responsible levels via variable exhaust flaps using a dedicated button on the center console. The flaps are also employed more or less aggressively depending on the drive mode selected.
There's little point in utilizing Sport+ mode on most back roads, as it's too stiff to be even remotely practical, which is where customizing your own settings becomes critically important. We did just that and found that relaxing the dampers allowed the compliance needed, while still providing the body control, steering and powertrain responses we wanted for back-road pounding.
The dual-clutch transmission manages to be an ally most of the time — even during situations that demand fine control at low speeds. Drive the GT S in Comfort mode and it is relatively smooth-riding. Though you'll not mistake the ride for that of a luxury car, it's livable enough that anyone accustomed to modern performance cars won't likely complain.
What's the Interior Like?
A mix of carbon fiber, synthetic suede, leather and satin-finish aluminum covers every surface inside the cockpit. Everything that moves is space-program precise.
The seats are firm and well bolstered and utilize sticky suede on the seatback and seat bottom, which makes them genuinely functional when it comes to holding their occupants in place. The racecar-inspired flat-bottom steering wheel looks cool but makes little sense outside of a Formula 1 car.
An optionally available panoramic glass roof is slick but adds weight up high, which isn't ideal for maximum performance. Early production Edition One models come exclusively with a carbon-fiber roof.
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. Soft bags are a good choice to best fit the unusual shape.
How Much Will It Cost?
Though official pricing isn't available yet, the AMG GT will be priced similarly to the Porsche 911 and 911 Turbo. Expect the GT to come in under $120,000, and the GT S to begin around $130,000 and increase from there.
What Safety Features Are Offered?
In addition to multistage stability control, ABS and eight airbags, the GT offers various autonomous braking features as standard equipment. You'll pay extra for a back-up camera, however.
The optional Lane Tracking package includes lane-keeping assist and blind-spot assist, though the latter can be had by itself. The optional PreSafe system pretensions seatbelts and closes the windows and sunroof if the car senses an imminent collision.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06: If you're shopping this segment for value, the Z06 is the obvious choice. It's the most powerful and least costly car here. It's also among the most focused driver's cars on offer today. Hard to beat that combo.
2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe: Though the F-Type isn't as focused as a driver's car, its striking styling and bonkers engine make it undeniably desirable. It offers more power than the GT and costs less.
2015 Porsche 911 Turbo: Similar weight, power and dynamic targets make Porsche's 911 Turbo the GT's closest competitor. Because the 911 Turbo offers similarly stunning performance and everyday drivability, it should be weighed carefully if you're considering the AMG.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
Mercedes-AMG has successfully landed the GT in the small niche of track-capable cars we'd have no trouble driving every day. Balancing the demands of track capability with the needs of a commuting and pleasure car is no small feat, yet the GT manages both capably.
Also, there will (at least initially) be some small measure of exclusivity in owning an AMG GT or GT S. Every Newport Ned has a 911, after all.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
As a true two-seater, the GT lacks both the 911's rear seats and the Corvette's massive cargo area. If carrying the occasional (small) rear-seat passenger is a need for your everyday supercar, you'll be better served by the Porsche. And if a genuinely large cargo area means something, the Corvette is a better choice.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.