The treats of San Francisco

Cal­i­for­nia dream­ing comes true as our man puts the su­per­charged AMG GT S through its paces

Herald Sun - Motoring - - PRESTIGE - JOSHUA DOWLING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING ED­I­TOR joshua.dowling@news.com.au

FIRE­WORKS, thun­der and a dose of Nascar. That’s what the new AMG GT-S sounds like when its ex­haust snaps, crack­les and pops.

It might look like Mercedes-Benz’s an­swer to the Porsche 911 but there is no mis­tak­ing what pow­ers this ma­chine, or where the noise is com­ing from. Event start­ing it gives you goose­bumps.

The long bon­net seems to stretch for­ever but most of the real es­tate un­der­neath is taken up by the company’s new­est en­gine: a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 that will also power the com­ing AMG C63 sedan. Con­ve­niently, the driver is sand­wiched be­tween two of the most glo­ri­ous sounds in the au­to­mo­tive business: the roar of the en­gine and the bark of the ex­haust. It’s sur­round sound for car buffs.

It com­pletes the 0 to 100km/h dash in just 3.8 seconds.

Which is why I feel more alive than usual. Not just be­cause the AMG GT-S is de­light­ing the senses but be­cause, quite frankly, it’s scar­ing the wits out of me.

We’re on the twisty and per­ilous La­guna Seca race­track on the Cal­i­for­nia coast, a twohour drive south of San Francisco.

And rain is on the way. I much pre­fer it when the thun­der is com­ing from the ex­haust rather than the clouds.

We get one clean ses­sion

be­fore it starts. Then we can’t be ex­actly sure how much grip will be avail­able on each cor­ner.

A wig­gle here and there in the wet will raise the heart rate even fur­ther and get the sweat trick­ling down from un­der the hel­met.

Amid the rain and the ap­pre­hen­sion, some­thing amaz­ing hap­pens. The GT S makes the driver look much bet­ter driver than he re­ally is.

So ad­vanced is the sta­bil­ity con­trol — it has five set­tings — that, pro­vid­ing you’re not fla­grantly de­fy­ing physics, it will save you time after time, dab­bing the brakes on each cor­ner as re­quired to keep car and pi­lot on the black­top.

Overdo it and you will still crash. If you’re not a com­plete lu­natic you can post lap times to fool the best of them.

Then the adrenalin rush is over and it’s time to hit the open road — not just any road but High­way One. Much of Cal­i­for­nia’s Pa­cific Coast High­way and the many ar­ter­ies that feed it are as smooth as a race­track; some cor­ners are even banked like a com­pe­ti­tion cir­cuit but I be­have our­selves.

At first, the steer­ing in the GT S feels too sharp, too re­spon­sive, but it takes all of 10 min­utes to get ac­cus­tomed to it.

To cruise along more dis­creetly and with a lit­tle more com­fort, I sim­ply turn the drive mode dial to com­fort and the throt­tle is less ag­gres­sive, the sus­pen­sion a lit­tle softer and the steer­ing a lit­tle gen­tler.

Switch up to Sport Plus and it’s as if I’ve got an at­tack dog on a short lead. A tap on the ac­cel­er­a­tor and it feels as if it wants to lift the front wheels.

The F1-style car­bon ce­ramic brakes, mean­while, work with breathtaking ef­fi­ciency.

VALUE

Pric­ing is yet to be con­firmed but it’s ex­pected to cost from $270,000 plus on-roads (about $300K drive-away) when it goes on sale in Aus­tralia in the mid­dle of next year.

That’s $200,000 less than the SLS Gull­wing, with which it shares DNA, and smack in the mid­dle of Porsche 911 ter­ri­tory ($208,000-$466,000). The dif­fer­ence, how­ever, is that the Benz will de­liver a much big­ger bang for the same bucks.

TECH­NOL­OGY

The AMG GT S may look like the suc­ces­sor to the SLS Gull­wing but only about 15 per cent of the struc­ture, the floor and bulk­heads, is common. More than 90 per cent of the body and core struc­ture is light­weight alu­minium. The re­sult is a near-per­fect weight dis­tri­bu­tion, which makes it more neu­tral and eas­ier to drive.

DE­SIGN

AMG wants to be con­sid­ered in the same company as Fer­rari and Porsche so it de­signed the GT S to look like the cars it will go after.

The cabin feels like that of a race car — plus leather seats, air­con­di­tion­ing, top-end audio with nav­i­ga­tion and power ad­justable sports seats to find the op­ti­mum po­si­tion.

Vi­sion all around is sur­pris­ingly good, even though the rear win­dow is quite small ... not that many cars or driv­ers will stay in the rear-view mir­ror of this beast.

SAFETY

Well taken care of: six airbags (two in the front, two in the seats and two “cur­tain” airbags in the roof) plus sta­bil­ity con­trol and brakes, re­spec­tively among the smartest and big­gest in the business.

VER­DICT

Only the brave should ap­ply.

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