2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S review

Mercedes-AMG's GT S is a modern supercar with vintage soul

The Mercedes AMG GT S is a perfect mix of exotic luxury and performance.
The Mercedes AMG GT S is a perfect mix of exotic luxury and performance.
The Mercedes AMG GT S is a perfect mix of exotic luxury and performance.

Highs

  • Stunning, distinct driving characteristics
  • Powerful exhaust soundtrack
  • Remarkably stylish exterior
  • Rigid chassis
  • Fairly priced for what you get

Lows

  • Stiffness makes the ride jarring
  • Tight cabin with little storage space

Quick, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say the word “Mercedes?”

Odds are that word was something like “luxurious,” but chances are even better that in that moment of synapse-firing, the best your brain came up with was “German.”

I thought the same thing. I suspect the reason is because we tend to cast cars from German automakers in the same light: serious, sophisticated and well engineered. With Mercedes-Benz, it goes even further because we expect them to be even more luxurious and comfortable than the other precision driving machines that come out of Germany.

This is why Mercedes occasionally relies on its AMG sport division to produce a very loud reminder that beyond the plush extravagance of its famed sedans, Mercedes is more than capable of creating something dynamic, sporty, and seductive.

Enter the Mercedes-AMG GT S: the world’s wake up call that, in case you forgot, Germany can do performance and exotic just as well as anyone else.

Anything you can do…

The AMG GT S is the automaker’s showpiece, housing a 4.0-liter biturbo V8 that churns up 503 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. Power is routed to the rear wheels by way of a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

2016 Mercedes AMG GT S
Alex Kalogianni/Digital Trends
Alex Kalogianni/Digital Trends

Like its predecessor, the SLS AMG, the GT S sports a distinctive long hood and short tail. It doesn’t feel like an homage to the classics, but is certainly inspired by them. The gullwing doors were cut, but they’re quickly forgotten as the sleek form of the GT S hypnotizes all who behold it. A lightweight aluminum space frame, weighing little more than 514 pounds, is what the sports car’s slippery curves are crafted from. While seductive, it’s intimidating at first glance due to the wide, intense fascia at the front end and fluid design that’s worthy of its Silver Arrow heritage.

Mission control

Slipping inside, the cockpit of the AMG GT S bears the hallmarks of contemporary Mercedes vehicles, but, naturally, sports a style uniquely its own. The symmetrical layout has just about all the controls needed running down a silver chrome-cased center console. These controls flank the gear lever and “Comand” infotainment interface. This is the driver’s gateway to all the car’s settings, from Bluetooth device pairing to how long you’d prefer the lights to stay on after locking it.

It doesn’t feel like an homage to the classics, but is certainly inspired by them.

While many drivers will make use of the navigation and radio functions, in a car like the AMG GT S, more attention is paid to inputs like the dynamic select dial, where throttle response, adaptive suspension, and exhaust valves can be adjusted. These presets can make the GT S as docile as possible for a raucous, attention-demanding powerhouse.

Ditching the gullwing design also means not having to accommodate the massive roof-mounted hinges, meaning driver and passenger have much more headroom than the preceding sports car. The cabin is still tightly packed around the driver, but a fixed panoramic glass roof alleviates the claustrophobic nature of the interior. Drivers and their passenger are tightly swaddled in fine, Nappa leather-covered AMG performance seats and are treated to their favorite music playlists pumped through a Burmester surround sound system — if you find a place to put your phone, that is. While the AMG features dual USB ports for phone charging and audio, the armrest storage compartment exists purely to accommodate that and very little else.

2016-Mercedes-AMG-GT-S_002

Speaking of storage, you’ll need to pack light. Cargo space in the rear of the car won’t accommodate much more than a couple overnight bags.

You don’t simply start the AMG GT S; you engage its launch sequence. Every ignition feels like an occasion as you listen to the breathy burble channel through the pipes underneath. It’s the first taste of what to expect from the drive, and I immediately wanted more.

Just like old times

The notion that Mercedes vehicles prioritize comfort is left in the dust with every press of the throttle. Every road contour reminds my spine of the chassis’s rigidity. Even with the adaptive suspension set to its most comfortable setting, it’s clear that Mercedes-AMG isn’t messing around with a pretend performance car. Indeed, the ride in this modern GT was evocative of the ones experienced in classic sports cars: rock solid, yet fanciful. It’s a distinct feeling that separates it from coupe-and-sedan Mercedes brethren, which adopt performance rather than being bred with it.

And yet, it never eschews its elegance. In the right hands, the AMG becomes an instrument, played masterfully with the right foot. Flutter serenely through switchbacks or jazz it up with heavy blaring notes with every stamp of the pedal; the choice is yours, but the music you make together will be sublime either way.

We are the music makers…

Regardless of your preferred style, the 4.0-liter AMG biturbo V8 is the most gratifying element in your automotive composition. 503 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque send the GT S from 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds. Its stiffness and low center of gravity, combined with the four-wheel double wishbone independent suspension means back road bends feel as supple and smooth as the upholstery you’re sitting on.

Backroad bends feel as supple and smooth as the upholstery you’re sitting on.

Backroads are a tease, and yet, they’re where the GT S is at its finest. Carving through lush scenery is the backdrop this car was meant for. Every glimpse of it that passers-by capture is itself a gorgeous, loud moment of beauty. Driving it made me feel like the conductor of a masterful symphony.

I never particularly liked tracking Mercedes vehicles, particularly the SLS. It’s not because they lack capability, but it feels out of its element. The SLS, in particular, felt heavy and unsuited for such activities. Tracking an AMG feels like dressing up in a finely tailored suit and then running a 10K. With the AMG GT S, the experience is similar, but is more fluid in its execution.

The company we keep

What’s interesting is that the AMG GT S isn’t set aloft atop a pedestal of hyper exclusivity. Instead, the sporty Benz keeps good company alongside cars like Audi’s R8 and Porsche 911 — cars meant to be relatively attainable and driven daily. It starts at a price of $129,900, but my tester added up to $146,330 with all the goods. This sets it in the middle of cars costing between $100,000 to $200,000. It’s not as subtle as the Porsche, but has a look more refined for occasions outside of track than the Audi — at least, if you resist getting it in Solarbeam yellow.

It carries the spirit of the grand tourers of old with it, but it remains a fully modern experience. What it trades in for comfort is made up for in providing the stellar driving experience we’ll all dreamed of. Ever fantasize of taking a vintage racer through spirited, a picturesque jaunt? This is what the AMG GT S delivers, but with all the modern amenities.

Conclusion

A rare thing happened at the end of my test run with the AMG GT S: I got sad. By week’s end, the Mercedes had left an indelible impression on me. The combination of its beautiful curves, throaty exhaust warble, and distinct driving experience caused something inside me to stir. This effervescence of emotion is rare nowadays, with performance cars focusing on clinical precision. This car executes its function with amazing capability and does so with trunk-loads of charm. I cant think of a louder wake up call than that.

Highs

  • Stunning, distinct driving characteristics
  • Powerful exhaust soundtrack
  • Remarkably stylish exterior
  • Rigid chassis
  • Fairly priced for what you get

Lows

  • Stiffness makes the ride jarring
  • Tight cabin with little storage space
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