Mercedes’ speed­ing bullet

The 2016 AMG GT S two- seater is sleek, lean and fast — and even has Race mode.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Charles Flem­ing

The 2016 Mercedes AMG GT S is a hot rod.

More mus­cle car than lux­ury car, more Amer­i­can than Ger­man, it’s a wolf in wolf ’ s cloth­ing.

Sleek, low and lean, it looks fast and it is fast — zero to 60 in 3.7 sec­onds, with a top speed of 193 miles per hour.

Climb in­side the twodoor, two- seater — be­cause you do have to climb in­side — fire it up, and f ly.

The 4.0- liter bi- turbo V- 8 is a rocket mo­tor, pro­duc­ing 503 horse­power and 479 pound- feet of torque.

The ex­haust roar is leo­nine. When the car is in Sport or Sport+ mode, it howls. In Race mode, it screams.

The straight- line ac­cel-

er­a­tion is in­tense, as be­fits a front- en­gine, rear- wheeldrive V- 8. Mercedes says the long hood, high belt line and broad shoul­ders give the ve­hi­cle an “emo­tional ap­pear­ance.” The emo­tion would be ur­gency.

On the open road, the AMG GT S is a bullet. The han­dling and seven- speed gear­box are pre­cise, the elec­tronic steer­ing is speed- sen­si­tive, and the sus­pen­sion is tun­able for three modes of stiff­ness and feed­back. Trac­tion is han­dled by a rear- axle lock­ing dif­fer­en­tial.

On the twisties, the car steers a lit­tle longer than it is, be­cause of all that en­gine weight in front of the driver. On wide sweep­ers, though, the han­dling seems to im­prove with higher speeds.

There’s even a rear spoiler, which en­gages with a f lip of the switch in­side the cabin or, in Sport modes, ex­tends or re­tracts depend­ing on the ve­hi­cle’s speed.

Drive modes in­clude Sport and Sport+, a “C” set­ting, which on some cars means “Com­fort” but on this ve­hi­cle stands for “Con­trolled Ef­fi­ciency” and is meant to cut noise and in­crease mileage. There is also the re­fresh­ingly frank Race set­ting. A city street burnout is not a good idea, but the AMG GT S, in R mode, is up for it if you are.

The per­for­mance comes with com­pro­mise. The AMG GT S is built more for hot laps around La­guna Seca than a trip to La­guna Beach.

Mercedes says the car’s in­te­rior de­sign is meant to make you feel “like you are slip­ping into the cock­pit of a fighter jet.” That would be a re­ally small f ighter jet, the ex­trac­tion from which in­cludes not an “Eject” but­ton but a se­quence of moves in­volv­ing both feet, both hands and an abs work­out.

The low- slung, hand­stitched, nappa- leather seats are sculpted and tight­fit­ting. The sus­pen­sion is stiff and sharp — ex­cel­lent on a newly paved patch of Up­per Big Tu­junga Canyon Road, but mur­der on the pit­ted, pot- holed streets of Sil­ver Lake.

Rear and side vis­i­bil­ity are min­i­mal, but what’s there to look at? You’re not sight­see­ing. You are the sight.

Be­sides, sight­see­ing would sug­gest com­pan­ions and para­pher­na­lia. It wouldn’t be hard to coax a friend into the pas­sen­ger seat, but there’s no room for their stuff. You might be able to slip a tube of sun­screen into the space be­hind the seats, and just enough lug­gage in the trunk to get you away for a quick week­end. But if you were go­ing golf­ing, you’d be driv­ing some­thing else.

The ba­sic AMG GT — not yet avail­able in the U. S. — will come stan­dard with a host of as­sets, in­clud­ing high per­for­mance brakes, adap­tive sport sus­pen­sion, heated seats, a Burmester Sur­round Sound mu­sic sys­tem, and safety fea­tures for col­li­sion avoid­ance, as­sisted park­ing, au­to­matic brak­ing and more.

The AMG GT S ver­sion I drove had all that, and its base price of $ 130,825. But it was also f it­ted with car­bon f iber trim and body el­e­ments, se­lect in­te­rior ap­point­ments, spe­cial seat belts, cus­tom wheels, a “high- end” Burmester sound sys­tem, and an en­gine and sus­pen­sion “Dy- namic Plus” per­for­mance pack­age that Mercedes says is “ideal for as­pir­ing rac­ing driv­ers on closed- off cir­cuits.” All that drove the sticker to $ 153,080.

That’s a lot. But it’s not more than a com­pa­ra­ble Ger­man sports car, such as a higher- end Porsche 911 or Audi R8.

The AMG GT S sticker is well be­low the $ 230,900 Mercedes asks for the S63 AMG Coupe, which gets 621 horse­power out of a 6.0- liter V- 12 power plant.

Like that en­gine, the en­gines for the AMG GT and AMG GT S are built ac­cord­ing to what Mercedes calls the “one man, one en­gine” prin­ci­ple: Each power plant, when f in­ished, will bear the ac­tual engi­neer’s sig­na­ture on its en­gine plate.

The AMG GT S be­came avail­able to U. S. buy­ers in May. Cus­tomers who are at­tracted by the styling and han­dling, but f ind the price too high, will soon have a less ex­pen­sive op­tion. The 2017 AMG GT, with­out the S, will go on sale next spring. It will of­fer about 50 fewer horses, and go zero to 60 two- tenths of a sec­ond slower, but it will be priced at $ 130,825. And it’ll still bear that engi­neer’s sig­na­ture on the en­gine.

Cus­tomers who want to spend even more on an AMG GT S, though, may have to wait a while for a con­vert­ible ver­sion. Mercedes hints that one of those will be avail­able, at some point, as well.

Myung J. Chun Los An­ge­les Times

THE STRAIGHT- LINE ac­cel­er­a­tion of the 2016 Mercedes- AMG GT S is in­tense, as be­fits a front- en­gine, rear- wheel- drive V- 8.

Pho­tog r aphs by Myung J. Chun Los An­ge­les Times

A HOT ROD, the 2016 Mercedes- AMG GT S goes from zero to 60 in 3.7 sec­onds, with a top speed of 193 mph.

AN AR­RAY of di­als con­trols driv­ing and sus­pen­sion modes and cli­mate, nav­i­ga­tion and en­ter­tain­ment.

A RE­FRESH­INGLY frank “Race” set­ting is among the drive mode op­tions in the car.

THE HAN­DLING and seven- speed gear­box are pre­cise, and the elec­tronic steer­ing is speed- sen­si­tive.

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