Merc's GT meets SA roads and track
Pretoria - We’re about to head out onto Gerotek’s high-speed oval when one of the instructors from AMG’s Driver Academy says: “Aim for around 180. We’ve found the car’s comfortable going into the corners at that speed”.
I observe a few cocked eyebrows from fellow journalists, who clearly think this guy’s lost his marbles. I’ve been around here in a few fast cars, so I know it’s not impossible, but 180’s an impressive target nonetheless. Even more impressive, however, was that the new AMG GT was comfortable going into the oval’s steeply banked bends at well over 200.
This is the second super sportscar developed in house by Merc’s tuning juggernaut AMG after the now discontinued SLS, and like its precursor it’s jam-packed with race-bred parts. Right from the tip of its front splitter to the trailing edge of its extendable rear wing, the AMG GT is laden with things to make it go fast, so it’s understandable that Mercedes brought us to a testing facility to demonstrate exactly what it’s capable of.
A TRUE TRACK TOOL
And it didn’t stop there. At the GT’s South African media launch last week we also visited Zwartkops Raceway to find out how it handles around a place it was designed for. And it does so phenomenally. Lap times on the day would be competitive in the Extreme Supercars National Challenge race series where purpose-built machines with roll cages and slick tyres rub fenders and bang mirrors.
I could go on for ages about things like dry-sump lubrication systems which allow the GT’s 4-litre twin-turbo engine to sit 55mm lower in the chassis. Or its transaxle gearbox setup which offers a 47 to 53 percent weight split between front and rear axles. Or its dynamic motor mounts which soften and harden depending on drive settings. And let’s not forget carbon prop shafts, 5kg ceramic brake discs, 231kg aluminium space frames, air-water intercoolors and double wishbone suspension.
All these things add up to one serious performance car, and AMG’s test crew lapped the Nürburgring Nordschleife for more than 33 000km making sure it was all tuned to perfection before unleashing it on the public. They did a fine job too. With either Sport Plus or Race modes selected, the GT is a feisty beast intent on hard-charging into corners, sinking in its teeth, and then scampering off to find another apex to latch onto.
BUT IS IT COMFY ON THE ROAD?
Mercedes says it’s very important for the GT to work well on track because that’s where its customers will take it. But I just can’t see that happening very often. While this car would be perfectly suited to occasional track days I reckon its natural habitat, at least in our market, is with the weekday businessman. And here’s the best part ... it’s perfect there too.
Unlike the SLS, the GT gets a practical 350 litre boot where Merc says two golf bags will stow easily. Or at least one of those giant ones like buyers of super sportscars pay guys to carry around for them. The GT’s cabin is a luxurious place with swathes of leather and alcantara set off with classy aluminium or carbonfibre finishes all sculpted in much the same way as new C- and S-Classes. Where an SLS, 911 GT3 or Nissan GT-R would be terrible places to spend traffic jams, this would be marvellous.
Set the Dynamic Drive Control to Comfort mode and the AMG GT transforms into a supple cruiser, happy to tootle through speedhumped suburbs in reasonable comfort. Keep a light right foot and the front-mid-mounted V8 calmly gurgles away, while the DCT gearbox (probably the best ever transmission in a Mercedes) lazily ticks up and down through its seven gears.
But there’s a happy middle ground as well. On those lucky occasions when the fast lane clears up, or you’re first to arrive at a robot, the GT S can tap its wild side and in an instant all 375kW and 650Nm (or 340/600 if you go for the standard version) are channelled through the rear wheels. Turbolag simply doesn’t exist here, and right from 1 500rpm the GT snakes and squirms under boost, fires through its gears with almost zero hesitation, and reels in the horizon, all the while a husky eight-cylinder soundtrack pours from the pipes. An optional exhaust flap button is worth every cent of R32 000. Trust me. The AMG GT is the all-rounder the SLS never was. It’s faster, better equipped and much more comfortable. You’ll battle to find a car that can balance lap times with everyday usability like this car can.
GT - R1 651 850
GT S - R1 991 670
GT S Edition 1 - R2 202 670Star Motoring