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Review of the 2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT S: Ready For A Title Fight!

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On: Thu, Oct 6, 2016 at 11:01AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Review of the 2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT S:  Ready For A Title Fight!

Throughout the annals of automotive history there have been few cars that last more than a few model cycles. But, the ones that do have proven to be something special indeed. Two examples of these ageless wonders would be the Chevrolet Corvette and the Porsche 911. Both have done battle for decades like Rocky and Apollo. The Porsche has always exhibited the Apollo-like grace and lightness on its feet. It is, and has been, a very nimble, agile, strong, and athletic example of engineering that sometimes, through its owners, or perhaps through its own company’s niche, has come across as condescending (in true Apollo Creed-fashion). Owners and fanatics cast aspersions on any and all challengers to the Porsche throne, and, for a time, they were right to question the efforts of its competitors.

The Corvette on the other hand, has been the true Rocky Balboa of sports car world. Its overhead valve engine has been taunted as “Neanderthal” and “archaic” compared to some of the dual-overhead cam modern marvels it has gone up against. But, much like Balboa, what it lacks in sophistication, it makes up for in brute force. While those fancy-pants engines were busy running at 10,000 RPM and Indy car-level compression ratios for their tiny motors, the big, bad Chevy was busy busting heads with good old-fashioned displacement that created something many of those other cars didn’t have: Torque. The Vette smacked around the unsuspecting Porsche for several rounds before the German fighter could get back on its feet and regain its bearings.

And so this battle has waged for more than half a century, and, in that time, there have been many other challengers to the title that these two titans have shared over the years. And while some of those competitors may have offered the power to beat one or both of these two, none have been able to exhibit the unyielding staying power that both the Corvette and 911 have been able muster up for so long. The list is nearly endless: The Ford Thunderbird in the ‘50s, then the Shelby Cobra in the ‘60s, then Nissan 240Z in the ‘70s, then DeLorean, M3, and Audi Quattro of the ‘80s, then the 3000GT, Acura NSX, Nissan 300ZX, Toyota Supra, Mazda RX-7, and Dodge Viper of the ‘90s and then the mighty Nissan GT-R, Ford GT, BMW M5, Lotus Elise, and even some in-fighting from their own companies in the form of the Porsche Cayman and Cadillac CTS-V in the 2000s.

And just past the halfway point of the ‘10s, the battle rages on. Some of these models rage on, while most of them are defunct. One car, however, has debuted in 2016 that may just have what it takes to dethrone the dynamic duo. Another German, but this time in the form of a Mercedes.The 2016 AMG GT S is something special, and isn’t afraid to prove it.

While it may look like an iteration of the already short-lived and loved SLS, the GT S is a wholly different car. It did carry over the SLS’ gorgeous looks and some basic tech, but, aside from the long-hood, short-deck mid-engine rear-drive layout, the GT S is some three inches shorter, and an inch taller, and almost 300 pounds lighter. In short, the GT S is a trim prize fighter waiting for its chance at a title shot.

Let’s just start with the important stuff. While the SLS’ naturally aspirated V8 is gone, and, with it, that amazing growl it had, the GT S does bring a very impressive 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 that makes a stupefying 503-horsepower and massive 479 pound-feet of torque. Thanks to nifty tricks like a dry-sump oil system which allows the engine to sit lower in its cradle, thereby reducing the car’s center of gravity by about two inches, and the Nanoslide technology that AMG applied to the cylinder bores that is straight out of its Formula 1 racing R&D department, the GT S comes ready with a seriously evolved motor. All that power is funneled through a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic and to the rear wheels in a hurry, while weight bias is a very driver friendly 47/53 front/rear.

The chassis and suspension are an amalgamation of aluminum, magnesium, and carbon fiber that work in harmony to produce an amazing gratifying grand-touring experience. The steering knuckles, wheel hubs, and wishbones are all made from forged aluminum, while the radiator support is lightweight magnesium, and the driveshaft is made from carbon-fiber, weighing in at a scant nine pounds, while the brakes also employ carbon-ceramic technology that have the grip for slowing a freight train if need be. The engine and transmission mounts are magnetorheological and can be electronically controlled to give either stiff or more forgiving feedback (checking in at around 1000 times per second), depending on what kind of demands the driver is putting on the car.

Inside, the AMG GT S feels like… well, a six-figure Mercedes. It offers a plethora of luxury materials to titillate, and yet somehow paradoxically calm, your senses at the same time. Sink slightly into the firm and supportive quilted leather seats and take in the high-gloss carbon and matte-silver fiberglass of the interior, and you’ll feel like you are in your own small very expensive, very quick bubble. Of course, the low-seat position and high belt line also add to the feeling in a not-so-great way, but the visibility is good, and the feeling isn’t quite as claustrophobic as the first Gen 5 Camaro was in 2009. The infotainment system is very intuitive and the Burmeister stereo is seconded only by the electronically variable exhaust flaps being wide open. This car is a made to drive.

But the big question is “What’ll she do?” Basically, she will whoop your ass. Despite some claims of the GT S being slower than anticipated, it isn’t. This gorgeous machine rockets from 0–60 mph in a mere 3.0 flat, 0–100 mph in only 6.9 seconds, through the quarter mile in a scant 11.2 seconds @ 127 mph and on up to a top speed of a governor-limited (seriously?) 193 mind-melting mph. Those numbers are not only enough to put a standard Corvette and 911 to shame, they are enough to make a 911 Turbo and Vette ZO6 stand up and start nervously sweating. Not only that, the GT S can handle too—how does 1.05 g on the skidpad sound? Credit the very sticky 265/35ZR-19 front and 295/30ZR-20 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s as well an amazingly stiff suspension for that handling number around the twisties. Braking from 70–0 mph takes only 141 feet, which is also quite impressive, albeit not quite as much as its acceleration numbers… but still. In terms of fuel mileage, if that kind of thing matters to you with a class of car like this, it comes in at 16/24 city/highway mpg. Not great, not awful, and for a 500-horsepower performance car, it is a small price to pay.

So what have we learned? Well, the AMG GT S has the pedigree, ability, and engineering to beat down an unsuspecting Corvette or Porsche without a moment’s hesitation. It also has the poise, the power, and the panache to draw a cult-like following much like both its American and fellow German rivals. And while its base price of $130,200 puts it more in league with the Porsche, odds are you’ll have to upgrade from the base $60,000 Corvette Stingray to at least the $90k ZO6 if you want to be able to even stay on the same road as the AMG GT S.

Ultimately, the bottom line is we have to wait and see. While the Corvette and Porsche continue their Rocky and Apollo battle through the ages, only time will tell just what character the AMG GT S will play in this supercar saga. If it can establish a strong following of devotees, then it may end up being one of the memorable superstars in the fight—the Ivan Drago character that finally defeats the loud-mouth Porsche once and for all. But, if it comes and goes in only a matter of years, like so many others have done through the decades, it may end up being just another one-off competitor that will ultimately become relatively forgettable… say someone like Mason “The Line” Dixon from Rocky Balboa… no one remembers him as having any importance or significance. So, we will watch with all the passion of a fanatical audience as this prize fight goes on for a few rounds, and, in a few years, we will see if the AMG GT S can be one of the fighters that can actually go to distance with the champs.

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