…After parking up the S63 and having one last look around the sumptuous cabin, I got out and headed back into the main dealer for a coffee as I had about 15 minutes until I was supposed to take the AMG GT-S out. I went straight to the make-shift breakfast bar and ordered a latte. Right behind the table was a brand new GLE63 Coupe, a car I have really liked since I first read about them. I wondered over and jumped into the driver’s seat while I waited for my coffee. It was all very typical Mercedes AMG inside, the same feel as just about everything in the range from the snug and compact A45 up to the bigger, wider and more carbon-draped CLS63 and E63 Lots of suede, red stitching, carbon and buttons… I still liked it though. It was a tank, and in my opinion, better looking that the rival BMW X6.
After a few minutes, my coffee arrived so I thought it would be a good idea to get out of the dealer-fresh display car and drink up as I’d just been given the nod from my AMG guy that the GT-S was about ready to go. The coffee was good, but not as good as what was waiting for me outside…
The AMG GT has been on my hit-list for a long line. I have been desperate to get behind the wheel of one. I was a huge, huge fan of it’s predecessor, the stunningly outrageous SLS AMG. I loved the mad muscle car approach Mercedes AMG went with to create the SLS, everything about it was awesome in my eyes. It was a car for people who had money to buy Astons, Bentleys or Ferraris but thought they were too normal. The Gullwing doors were a beautiful touch and a lovely homage to the original 300 SL. I still haven’t driven one though, the closest I have been is firing one up in dealership when my step father and I were doing a bit of potential car shopping a few years back. But I still remember how it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end when that ferocious V8 exploded into life.
Having not driven the SLS before this, it would be impossible to compare the two, I really liked the styling of the new GT-S, but I still think the SLS wins for me, those doors just do it for me. I could however, compare it to a lot of other cars I have driven like various Porsches and the Nissan GT-R. All of which had done nothing but impress me.
When we stepped out, the GT-S just looked great. The morning mist had cleared properly and the sun was out in full effect. The metallic grey body just popped in the sunlight and it exaggerated the beautiful lines. This car was pretty. So very, very pretty. Even in an understated colour, it looked fantastic. We had a little walk around to appreciate its design and shape and then we got in and went over a few of the buttons and controls including the various drivers settings and active exhaust controls. Obviously being a 12-year-old boy at heart, it was Sport+ mode and exhaust flaps wide open… It sounded magical. A lot of people like different engine/exhaust sounds for different reasons. Some love the scream of a highly tuned mid-engined V8 in a Ferrari, others like the angry bark of Lambourghini’s V12 but I just love a good old-fashioned deep and angry snarl of a front mounted V8. Muscle cars are my thing, I’ll never get over that. I have always preferred the rock you get when you rev a big front mounted engine over the accuracy of one mounted behind you. The AMG GT-S sounded just as I imaged, and it only got better as we rolled out of the dealer.
For the first mile or so I had to ride shotgun but that gave me time to have a look around the cabin and play with a few switches. Like the S63, it had the top spec Burmester sound system, but I had no interest in the sound quality of the stereo right then. It was very familiar inside, like the GLE, the C63 and all the others, but just a bit nicer. I was surprised at how wide it was. It’s not a big car to look at outside but it felt like the was loads of room between me and the instructor and the centre console was bigger than the one in my S class. The seat gave the perfect amount of support but were still very comfortable, not as plush as the seats in the S class but also not as hard as the ones in the C63, they had got them bang on for a car like this. A car you can throw a weekend bag in and blast across the border.
We pulled up just outside Cambridge Airport and I hopped out and headed round to the driver’s side. The drivers position is near perfect. I have always said that the Nissan GT-R was the best car I have driven with respect to driving position, control access, speed and power and over all driver satisfaction – it was only really let down by its mid-90’s interior quality, in my eyes. But the GT was feeling good, dare I say better… The centre console wraps around you and everything is where you need/want it to be. The wheel is in the perfect position and the paddles have a lovely, high quality feel to them. In cars like the Bentley GT, it always felt like if you got too carried away with the paddles they might snap off, but these felt solid and gave really satisfying feedback when clicked. For the first part of the drive it was slow and there was a bit of traffic so we played with the driver’s settings a bit and the instructor was demonstrating how tame and inconspicuous the car could be at low speeds. It was nice and smooth and no trouble at all through the traffic but it was almost a bit to “normal”. It blended in with the grey, silver and white cars around it like a 911 does these days. This is nice I suppose as most of the target audience will be company directors and executives who don’t want people taking their jealously of the successful out on your pride and joy, but at the same time, I still feel sometimes that the point of any £100k+ car is to stand out from the regular guy in his diesel “AMG” kitted E class… However, this little concern was quickly corrected when the traffic cleared and we were greeted with a straight stretch of empty road… Sport+ mode re-engaged and exhaust flaps open again, it was time to see just how good this new twin-turbo 4.0 litre V8 with its super clever “Hot V” really is.
It was good, stupidly good in fact. It pulled through the gears like a train and the overrun made the sound of a shotgun. Even writing about it makes me all warm and fuzzy again. 502 bhp, wonderfully equal weight distribution, well weighted steering all lead to me being planted back in my seat and the speed just kept rising. Triple figures appear on the dash quicker than you really need to know and it just kept going… Overtaking was effortless, you literally just ease out and pull the trigger and you’re past about 6 cars and safely back in right lane. This was quickly chasing the GT-R in my “perfect drivers car” rankings, in fact, it wasn’t, it had now overtaken the GT-R the same way we just overtook two lorries and a pensioner in a Honda Jazz. Another BIG bonus of this car was its brakes, because as good as big power, quick acceleration (0-60 in around 3.7 second, just in case you wanted to know!) and lots of noise is, you also need to bring this thing to a stop at some point. The car is light, very light, 90% of its body is aluminium but it still needs good stoppers, and fortunately for me and the guy sitting next to me, it has a great set of stoppers on it! The huge 15″+ front discs were strong and responsive without the intense sharp jolt you get from the optional carbon ceramics. There weren’t really any bendy bits to test the new fancy diff that the S model has apart from a roundabout at the far end of the route, and it just wasn’t practical or safe to push it round there, but we still gave it a bit of welly and just stuck to the road. Apparently the full “hairy chest” Race mode makes situations like that a bit more fun, but there was no way they were going to let me play with that setting on a public road… and rightly so, it would have only ended badly!
Out of the two cars I drove that day, I would definitely say the AMG GT-S was the one I would want to drive home in. I loved the S63, it was so luxurious and so well finished but it was still a big heavy motorway mile muncher with a big heart, it was a car built to carry golf clubs and business men with the added bonus of thumping great engine where as the GT-S was designed and built purposely to be a sports car, to take on the almighty Porsche 911… Every other AMG is a derivative of a normal Mercedes that you can buy with a diesel engine (I know, apart from the S class coupe!) while the GT-S was a sports car from the get go. There are no insurance salesmen driving a 2.0 litre GT with an AMG kit and fake exhaust. And to be honest, as much as I raved on about how the S63 is possibly better than a Bentley, I think if I was going to buy one, I;d still probably end up in a Bentley, but with the GT-S, I think I would take one over a 911. In fact I’d take one over a lot of cars in that price bracket, it was just a great car with all the power and balance of a supercar with the bonus of just the right amount of practicality. I could chuck a suitcase in the boot and head for Italy knowing it would get me there as quickly as a Ferrari could but there wouldn’t be that constant worry of what might blow up or will it overheat and catch fire if we stuck in a jam. It’s close to being the perfect all-rounder, my only real criticism is it is a bit too wide and almost a bit to plain-looking. It needs one wacky feature to make it stand out a bit over the SL350s and Carrera 2s out there – Basically, it’s just the SLS, but I most certainly would not say to another go in one, maybe on a track.