New GT more so­phis­ti­cated than SLS

The Star Early Edition - - NEW MODELS - JESSE ADAMS

The Mercedes-AMG GT is laden with rac­ing this and high-per­for­mance that, but first im­pres­sions are per­haps more of so­phis­ti­ca­tion than screech­ing rub­ber. There’s a raw, ex­otic­ness as­so­ci­ated with the SLS that’s no­tably ab­sent in the GT and not only be­cause of tra­di­tional side-hinged doors. The cabin seems much more up­per class than its pre­de­ces­sor, trimmed im­mac­u­lately with plush leathers, swanky suedes and per­fectly pol­ished fin­ishes.

Seems almost in­ap­pro­pri­ate to hoon a larney lounge suite around a track. Think F16 fighter-jet cock­pit fin­ished in five-star lux­ury. There’s a wide cen­tre tun­nel, and along its breadth is a feast of but­tons and knobs to con­trol and cus­tomise drive set­ting all-sorts.

This is also where the en­gine’s start but­ton is lo­cated, and when pushed a sharp bark from the pipes re­as­sures that although the cabin may look Johnny Blue, the driv­e­train’s all Jose Cuervo.

This all-new 4-litre twin-turbo V8 fires with much the same vo­cal­ity as the big­ger 5.5 in cur­rent 63 AMG mod­els, but with maybe just a touch less bari­tone and bass. An op­tional, but must-have, ac­tive ex­haust flap can also raise the rau­cous­ness at the push of a but­ton.

Power stats are quoted at 375kW/650Nm for the range-top­ping GT “S” model, and give the two-seater coupé a 3.8-sec­ond 0100km/h sprint abil­ity and a top speed of 310km/h. A less pow­er­ful non-S ver­sion comes with 340kW/650Nm, and re­spec­tive 4 sec- ond and 304km/h fig­ures.

The new mo­tor’s tur­bos are placed inside the en­gine’s V where shorter in­take and ex­haust plumb­ing make for bet­ter ef­fi­ciency and quicker pedal re­sponse. And it works.

Full throt­tle down La­guna Seca’s pit straight re­vealed a very nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated power de­liv­ery that’ll press you into the seat­back with re­lent­less force. None of the surg­ing swoosh usu­ally found in highly-tuned tur­bos.

A new seven-speed dual-clutch trans­mis­sion, again po­si­tioned at the back axle snaps through gears with sharp up and down kicks, but long ra­tios and a huge torque spread mean in­fre­quent shifts.

This 4-litre revs with a hoarse howl up to a 7 000rpm red­line, but I found it best to up-change early and make most use of its hefty midrange power­band – es­pe­cially so out of cor­ners where it’s quicker to build power slowly from low revs in or­der to keep the rear end in check. Put foot too soon and the tail will eas­ily sweep into a smokey, but eas­ily con­trol­lable slide.

Sus­pen­sion is a race­car-like dou­ble wish­bone setup at front and rear, and the power-steer­ing sys­tem, though elec­tron­i­cally as­sisted, is ex­cel­lently weighted. An elec­tronic lock­ing diff comes stan­dard in the GT S and the nor­mal GT gets a me­chan­i­cal limited-slip unit. Our test cars were also equipped with op­tional car­bon ce­ramic discs which weren’t fussed with La­guna’s plen­ti­ful hard-brak­ing zones.

Other go-fast good­ies in­clude a dry-sump lu­bri­ca­tion sys­tem which al­lows the mo­tor to be mounted low in the chas­sis, a Race Start launch con­trol se­quence, a mostly alu­minium space­frame body which weighs just 231kg on its own, a rear spoiler which raises at 120km/h, and a sim­i­lar car­bon torque tube drive­shaft to what’s in the SLS.

The car took La­guna Seca in its stride, lap­ping long and hard be­hind a pace car driven at full tilt by five-time DTM champ Bernd Sch­nei­der. It proved its met­tle as a su­per sportscar, but per­haps its best party trick is its abil­ity to morph into a cool grand tourer com­fort­able for mega mileage at the twists of some di­als. Ad­justable AMG Ride Con­trol shocks, pre­set Dy­namic Se­lect driv­ing pro­grammes and ac­tive en­gine mounts which soften and harden de­pend­ing on set­ting, cre­ate mul­ti­ple cars in one. This car can blud­geon, in­cise or pan­der. Your choice.

Ex­pect the top GT S to ar­rive in SA around April next year. The nor­mal GT should land soon after that. Lo­cal pric­ing isn’t yet con­firmed, but in Europe it’s priced be­low Merc’s own SL63 AMG, which here costs just over R2-mil­lion.

Watch us lap La­guna Seca in the GT at iol.io/b8ygf

New Mercedes-AMG GT han­dles like a dream but can also cruise com­fort­ably if needed. Cock­pit is a trea­sure trove of switchgear.

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