Car reviews - Mercedes-AMG - GT - range
Overdue technology upgrades, eye-catching exterior styling, knockout engine-transmission combination, best-in-class exhaust note, loves to eat corners, GT R’s humongous grip
Room for improvement
Hefty price rises, misses out on MBUX infotainment system, AMG Performance seats aren’t comfortable, not exactly practical, firm suspension set-up isn’t the worst but will grind
Mercedes-AMG’s facelifted GT supercar successfully doesn’t fix what isn’t broken
25 Oct 2019
MERCEDES-AMG has been on a bit of a roll for a while now, churning out performance-focused models that deliver time and time again. But in its short history as a ‘standalone’ manufacturer, it has only produced two completely in-house products.
The first, of course, was the gullwinged SLS from a decade ago, and the other is its predecessor, the ever so slightly more conventional GT. For the latter, it’s facelift time, and thankfully Mercedes-AMG isn’t messing around.
Well, we say that, but Affalterbach hasn’t actually done that much to its flagship model this time around, and as we found out at the facelift’s national media launch in country Victoria, that’s no bad thing at all.
First drive impressions
You might not see the GT as often as the C63, but when you do, you sure as hell don’t miss it. Just look at it! A stretched bonnet leads to a low two-seat cabin that is promptly followed by a wide rear end. A true supercar? You bet.
Understandably, even trainspotters will be hard pressed to pick the facelifted GT from its predecessor, but look a little closer and the redesigned LED headlight clusters give it away. Bonus points if you can pick its darkened tail-lights out of a line-up, too.
The black rear diffuser of the GT S and GT C grades has also been tweaked and is completed with integrated quad trapezoidal exhaust tailpipes, while the GT R Coupe’s back end carries over. There’s also fresh sets of alloy wheels to pick from.
We’re not complaining, though. The GT is still a striking design that needs little in the way of tweaking, so it makes sense that Mercedes-AMG focused its efforts on the area its supercar needed the most love in: the interior.
It’s 2019 after all, so the analogue speedometer and tachometer (and the multi-function displayed wedged in between) have been swapped out in favour of a customisable 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that, in itself, makes the GT feel like a much fresher proposition.
To its left is a new 10.25-inch display that is powered by Mercedes-Benz’s Comand infotainment system. Wait, what? No MBUX? Curious, but the GT isn’t the first model to go without the German brand’s latest software, even if it’s available in older ‘new models’.
While we do lament the loss of MBUX’s handy always-on natural voice recognition, among its other features, the Comand set-up does support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so the most up-to-date software is just a cable away.
The central display is controlled by a redesigned touchpad that forms part of the GT’s overhauled centre console that has been pinched from its awkwardly named GT 4-Door Coupe sibling.
Adopting an even ‘V’ formation with eight ‘cylinders’ or coloured display buttons that alter transmission, chassis and exhaust settings, among others, the unique layout hints at what is lurking underneath the GT’s bonnet… but more on that later.
There’s also the fresh AMG Performance flat-bottom steering that was taken from – you guessed it – the GT 4-Door Coupe. It’s got touch-sensitive buttons and galvanised paddle-shifters as well as two cool round displays with three buttons that help the driver switch between the Dynamic Select drive modes and activate individual settings more easily.
As for the rest of the cabin, it’s business as usual, which means it’s suitably luxurious but short on practicality. The door bins are more likely flimsy leather pockets, the glovebox struggles to hold more than the manual, and rear storage compartment is rather inflexible.
It would be remiss of us not to mention the AMG Performance seats fitted to the GT C and GT R grades, which while very, very supportive, are not particularly comfortable if you plan on undertaking long-distance journeys with any sort of regularity.
Alright, enough of that, let’s get onto the fun stuff. As we hinted at earlier, there’s an unchanged bent eight mounted at the front of the GT, and what an engine it is.
This 4.0-litre twin-turbo unit is available in three states of tune: 384kW/670Nm (GT S), 410kW/680Nm (GT C) and 430kW/700Nm (GT R). That said, picking the difference between the latter two is difficult, as we found out at the facelifted GT’s national media launch.
A GT C Roadster and a GT R Coupe were available for us to test, and splitting the difference on public roads, even with the former’s 85kg weight penalty, is a hard thing to do.
On paper, the GT C Roadster only needs 3.7 seconds to sprint from standstill to 100km/h – an impressive feat made even more impressive by the fact that the GT R Coupe is only 0.1s quicker.
Either way, acceleration is nothing short of violent when on boost. In fact, it’s very easy to get a little carried away when overtaking as the level of in-gear punch on offer seemingly makes for effortless ability, so much so that a trip to your local racetrack is absolutely necessary at some stage to truly exploit the GT’s limits.
The V8 cannot be given all of the credit here, though, as its dancing partner, a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, is arguably in better form. Thanks to its ingenious calibration, it knows exactly what to do and when to do it.
Gear changes are predictably quick when the transmission is set to its most aggressive mode, but they’re also surprisingly smooth. Even better, the driver is left in full control when Manual is engaged.
You’ll definitely be a fan of the DIY approach when you realise it’s the best way to the enjoy the GT’s addictive bi-modal exhaust system. It’s genuinely hard to put into words the sensational job Mercedes-AMG has done to make a blown bent eight sound this good.
Don’t worry, the GT isn’t a one-trick pony as its talents go beyond its stellar engine-transmission combination. This is a supercar after all, so it shouldn’t be afraid of a corner or two. In fact, it eats them for breakfast.
The GT dances around bends like a well-trained ballerina, with this sensation exacerbated by the rear-axle steering that is standard on the two variants we sampled.
While it does pay to keep in mind the GT’s significant width (2007mm), it corners with utter confidence thanks to its exceptional body control, while the rear electronic limited-slip differential words hard to make it easy to get on the power earlier in the exit.
The GT R Coupe gets a special shout-out for its Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres that provide serious grip when warm in dry conditions. Introduce rain into the equation, though, and that’s a different story, so it’s important to know your tyre.
Speaking of knowing your limits, one of the facelifted GT’s key additions is AMG Dynamics, which expands the functionality of its electronic stability control (ESC) system to optimise rear-axle power distribution and steering characteristics.
Four levels of AMG Dynamics (Basic, Advanced, Pro and Master) are available, progressively improving high-speed stability by anticipating how the GT will react to different scenarios by using sensors to detect vehicle speed, steering angle and yaw rate, among other variables.
Naturally, we weren’t able to fully test AMG Dynamics on public roads, so we’ll save assessing its more playful settings for another day – on the track, of course – but the GT oozes composure, nonetheless.
This handling performance does come at a predictable cost, as the GT’s suspension set-up can be summed up in one word: firm.
Even with the adaptive dampers set to their softest settings, it’s a ‘communicative’ affair, and it becomes noticeably more so as you delve into the Sport and Sport Plus modes.
Less of an issue is the steering, which some may say is a touch too heavy at its lightest and far too hefty at its heaviest, but we like a bit of meat, especially when the set-up is this direct and offers this much feedback.
On the whole, the GT sounds pretty good, hey? So, how many dollars will get you behind the wheel of one? Quite a few more than before, unfortunately.
See, the entry-level GT Coupe is no more and the next-up GT S Coupe is now $10,372 dearer, at $311,142, so the price of admission is up a staggering $50,372!
And if you want to feel the wind through your hair as you drool listening to the V8 on song, the Roadster can now only be had in GT C form, which is up $14,472, to $355,242.
If it was our money to spend, we’d have the GT C Roadster in a heartbeat. On public roads, you lose very little to the $361,042 (+$10,272) GT R Coupe that really needs a racetrack to flourish on.
Either way, the GT is one of those cars, be it supercar or not, that just puts a massive smile on your face. If only we could actually afford one…
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Model release date: 1 October 2019
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