Blis­ter­ing Benz makes the earth move

This track-fo­cused sil­ver-starred new­comer can be a wild­cat or a for­giv­ing pussy­cat and it’s all your choice, says DAVE MOORE.

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS -

Mercedes-Benz has launched its most con­vinc­ing attack yet on the Porsche 911, go­ing for the top-slot mod­els with a fully-honed sports coupe that ar­rives on the mar­ket in all singing and danc­ingAMG­form this month, with a less pow­er­ful ver­sion due later in the year, to deal with lower ech­e­lon ver­sions of the Zuf­fen­hausen flyer.

The Mercedes-AMG GT S is spawned from the stunning but gim­micky SLS and uses some mag­ne­sium and alu­minium com­po­nen­try from that car, which used gull­wing doors de­spite hav­ing no need of them, un­like that first 300SL that couldn’t use any other type of door so wide were its sills. The GT S is 92mm shorter than the much more ex­pen­sive SLS, about the same width and some 27mm taller. It rides on a 50mm shorter wheel­base, and on tracks nar­rower by 2mmat the front and 1mmat the rear. at 2630mm.

Es­chew­ing the fancy doors, which, truth be known could be a real pain in the back­side in tight multi-level carparks, the new GT S pro­vides rather less of ev­ery­thing when com­pared with its pre­de­ces­sors. It has less weight, a lot of it tossed over­board with those doors, a smaller and yet just as pow­er­ful and mu­si­cal en­gine, with a mighty new seven-speed au­to­matic gear­box and it comes up with a two golf­bag boot - try that with the SLS - and a chas­sis so beau­ti­fully honed that it can be a plush-rid­ing pussy­cat one minute and a cor­ner-con­sum­ing beast the next.

It’s not that pre­vi­ous 911-tar­get­ted Benz of­fer­ings have been un­wieldy in any way. Far from it, in fact some have been joy­ously en­gag­ing drives, it’s just that this new baby is that much closer to that Porsche-shaped bulls­eye, an ar­che­typal turn-key su­per­car.

While the de­li­ciously sim­ple (did some­one say Porsche-like) shape is a so­lar gold dou­ble-take that you can’t take your eyes off, with no frip­peries save for a naff but nec­es­sary rear spoiler on the top Edi­tion 1 ver­sions, the new power unit is the real star of the show. It’s an all-new twin-tur­bocharged di­rect-in­jected four-litre V8, up to 2.5-litres smaller than some pre­vi­ousAMGof­fer­ings.

The en­gine’s blow­ers are tucked neatly into the val­ley be­tween the cylin­ders which makes the en­gine more com­pact, and en­hances the whole car’s weight dis­tri­bu­tion and po­lar in­er­tia - es­sen­tial if a car­maker wants the best gen­eral and on the limit han­dling char­ac­ter­is­tics.

The de­sign also en­sures su­perquick re­sponses from the tur­bocharg­ers and low ex­haust gas emis­sions thanks to op­ti­mum air flow for the close-cou­pled cat­alytic con­vert­ers. Dry sump lu­bri­ca­tion also en­sures good oil sup­ply even with high lat­eral forces and al­lows the en­gine to be in­stalled lower in the chas­sis, fur­ther im­prov­ing the GT S’ cen­tre of grav­ity.

The new power unit which is des­ig­nated M178 at AMG’s Af­fal­ter­bach pplant, makes 375kW at a heady and sonorous 6000 to 6500rpm, while the max­i­mum torque value of 650Nm is avail­able in a great broad wedge of ef­fort all the way from 1750 and 4750rpm. While its fac­tory-posted 3.7-sec­ond zero to 100kmh is more or less what you’d ex­pect from a 150kg car with that kind of power and torque avail­able, the EU-rated 9.4L/100km and 219g/km CO2 is prob­a­bly not, be­ing bet­ter than you get from a most six-cylin­der Aussie sedans. With slightly less tur­bocharger pres­sure, the same V8 power unit pro­vides the stan­dard GT with 335kW at 6000rpm and 600Nm of torque be­tween 1600rpm and 5000rpm.

Although the GT S is right in the thick of Porsche 911 bud­gets - with good rea­son - and asks a lot less than someAMGprod­ucts, the model is sure to be the one time Benz tun­ing arm, now im­por­tant per­for­mance sub-brand’s poster child.

With other ap­point­ments in Australia af­ter I’d driven it, Mercedes-AMG were con­fi­dent enough in the car’s ba­sic sound­ness that they al­lowed me full-rein in one of just two right hand drive GT S mod­els in the south­ern hemi­sphere car at the Nor­well track’s tight-but-ter­rific chi­canery in Queens­land. Af­ter some train­ing and in­struc­tion laps that is, and af­ter hav­ing signed my life away and ab­solv­ing the or­gan­is­ers of any re­spon­si­bil­ity should the un­think­able oc­cur.

Thank­fully, the car is a bril­liantly bal­anced and re­spon­sive unit, with a flex-free, hewn from solid chas­sis that is un­per­turbed by my ama­teur­ish saw­ing at the wheel, not ex­pect­ing the car and its per­for­mance to be quite as ac­ces­si­ble as they are. That said, once you get your con­fi­dence and some smooth­ness into your in­ter­ac­tion with the car, it starts to pile on ve­loc­i­ties that mean you ar­rive at once pie-in-thesky brak­ing points with a real need to slow down, as my in­struc­tor’s stac­cato ’brake - brake - brake,’ re­quest makes well known.

At first it’s a sim­ple: steer, ac­cel­er­ate, brake ex­er­cise with the long golden nose of the car hoover­ing-in the pock­marks on the less than per­fect track sur­face. Then as you get used to the enor­mous lev­els of grip - even over those bumps - it’s a case of work­ing the en­gine much more into the equa­tion al­low­ing it to have has much to do with the steer­ing process as the wheel in front of you. A de­light­fully lin­ear throt­tle ac­tion al­lows me to gen­tly move the tail and change the turn-in re­ac­tion with some aplomb, though I was warned not to be too cocky. Moi, a sixty-five yearold, cocky? Well yes, ac­tu­ally. There would be few who could ex­ploit theAMGGT S’s pow­er­house and chas­sis with­out con­sid­er­ably more train­ing than I, but that wouldn’t be to say that it wasn’t en­joy­able, as the well-sorted steer­ing obeyed its driver’s in­put with­out much more than a hint of un­der­steer and even that was ban­ished with just a blip of throt­tle and a tiny wrist­turn of counter-steer.

Un­der­neath the GT S’s gor­geous lines is a for­giv­ing race-bred space­frame, dou­ble-wish­bone chas­sis.

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