Ride and Handling
Open the bonnet and you will see what looks like an engine cover, but it hides no such thing. Look behind the big piece of black plastic, up towards the windscreen, and you will see the actual location of the engine. It is one of the most extreme examples of a mid-front-engined layout ever to grace a road car and you can feel it in the handling. The front end response is incredibly quick, the nose darting into corners at the slightest provocation.
With the dampers in the most comfortable of their three settings there is a nice bit of roll, but ramp them up further and the AMG GT S corners incredibly flat and very fast. It is perhaps the direction changes that are the most impressive thing, with the whole car slicing one way then the other with no need for any pause in the middle. This lateral stiffness can initially make the car feel quite aggressive at the limit, really fighting not to lose grip, but actually the electronically controlled LSD (it’s purely mechanical in the lesser GT) smoothes the transition into slip very well.
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The one note of caution in the AMG GT S is the steering. It is extremely quick, which you get used to, but it is also extremely light and at times this can leave you feeling a bit removed from what the grip levels are at the front wheels. The sensations improve once you have some lock on, but heading down a straight towards a corner you can be a little nervous about that initial input. Of course this isn’t a problem on track and if you have an inclination towards oversteer, then the AMG GT S will indulge you for as long as it has tyres and fuel.
On both road and track the performance of the AMG GT S never feels anything less than ballistic. Despite being turbocharged, the throttle response is fantastic, punching you out of every corner and actually matching the alacrity of the handling. The V8 then hauls with an unrelenting ferocity down the straights, reeling in the horizon in an almost surreal fashion. With the exhaust button pressed, all this is of course overlaid with a soundtrack that gargles blood and thunder like some sort of tetchy Norse god.
Where fast Mercedes of the past have often fallen a little short is in the gearshift. However, AMG has got it sorted with the GT. The seven-speed dual-clutch ‘box now cracks through upshifts as smartly as you like, but more importantly it will also down-shift when you ask it to. It still can’t quite match a Ferrari ‘box for overall downshift speed and theatre but the mere fact we’re comparing it to that means it is a huge step on.
The GT C and track-inspired GT R take things to another level, with more power and features such as rear-wheel steering to refine the experience. In both models, the feature provides the driver with the impression that the car has a shorter wheelbase, with the front wheels being closer than they actually are. At speeds up to 62mph the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels, and above 62mph they turn in the same direction as the fronts, making the car more stable.
'Over a demanding stretch of the road, the AMG GT is brilliantly resolved. It feels tied into the road surface and it has enormous levels of body control. That helps it stay flat in direction changes and composed over undulations, which invites the driver to keep pushing harder and harder.
The long bonnet – with the front wheels mounted way out ahead – takes a moment to get used to, but with the engine located more or less beneath the dashboard there’s never any sense of resistance from the front end on turn in. Instead, the car feels agile and supremely well balanced.
The steering is the only real dynamic weakness. In fact, it’s hugely precise with a linear, natural rate of response, but it doesn’t drip with feel, which means the driver must learn to trust the vast reserves of grip at the front axle. The rear axle, meanwhile, finds plenty of grip itself, which makes the AMG GT feel stable and secure when pressing on. Traction is very impressive indeed for a car with so much torque on offer, even in damp conditions.' Dan Prosser, road test editor.