One of the cars I’ve been wanting to get behind the wheel of since its unveiling late last year is the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT S. I finally got my chance at the Midwest Automotive Media Association Spring Rally at Road America on a chilly day under cloudy skies that seemed to perfectly complement the $146,330 super coupe’s Selenite Grey paint scheme.
All I can say is it was worth the wait.
Given the nature of the event – one lap of the famed road course nestled in the kettles of Eastern Wisconsin – I was only able to spend about 10 minutes in the car, but that was enough to understand that the GT S is something special.
After I strapped myself in behind the leather wrapped performance steering wheel, I introduced myself to the AMG factory driver who was to be my guide for the lap. He took me through the car’s features including the drive mode selector which we set to sport, the mid-range option, for our lap. Another highlight was the 7-speed dual clutch transmission with paddle shifters. This F1 inspired unit is housed with the rear differential between the rear wheels. Moving the transmission to the rear, along with mounting the 503 horsepower 4.0 L Twin Turbo V8 so most of its weight is behind the front wheels, gives the GT S a 47%/53% rear-biased weight distribution that makes the car extremely easy to handle and very quick on the track.
I pulled the GT S to the end of pit lane and waited for the starter’s instruction. As soon as he gave me the okay, I hammered the throttle to get a sense of the car’s power. Take up was immediate with no noticeable turbo lag and we rocketed to race speeds in no time, entering turn one at a very comfortable 80 miles per hour. Pulling hard through the corner I accelerated to over 100, straightening out turn two and heading into turn three. This was my first chance to test the 15-inch composite disc brakes with 6-piston calipers up front. They hauled us down to 60 miles per hour very comfortably, telling me I could go deeper into the next corner if I wanted.
Coming out of turn three at Road America is a full-throttle affair, letting the car drift through the apex to the far side of the track, and the GT S responded both powerfully and predictably as I pushed my right foot to the floor. Then it’s a mostly straight shot down a fairly steep hill through a the slight bend that is turn four and into turn five, one of the more troublesome spots on the track. Because of this, the organizers of the event put some cones on the long straight, limiting speeds just a bit, but even with this makeshift chicane, we topped out at 135 miles per hour before having to slow to around 40 for the tight 100 degree left hander. Again the GT S let me know there was more to be had and if I had the opportunity for a second lap, I would have braked a little later and entered the corner a little faster.
The next section of the course really showed off the car’s balance. Coming over the hill into a blind left hander right after passing under the Corvette Bridge, the car gets a little light, but there’s plenty of grip to execute the corner. Then after a right and a left it’s into the Carousel for a long, high-speed right hand turn. Typically, I enter the Carousel around 60 miles per hour but in the GT S I felt comfortable starting faster. A quick check of the speedometer showed 69 miles per hour upon entry and the car felt solid and balanced as I accelerated through leaving the turn around 95 miles per hour. Again the course was slightly modified for our test, and I wasn’t able to drive the GT S through the notorious Kink, but after another chicane I was able to really push the car through Kettle Bottoms again topping out at well over 130 before standing on the brakes to slow us for a reasonable entry speed into Canada Corner. Then it was my favorite section of the course, a series of rhythmic high speed turns as you go up the hill into the final corner where I got a great feel for the light, but direct steering. Unfortunately at that point my lap was over and I had to head into the pits after one terrific lap.
What I learned is that 503 horsepower is perfect for a car this light, agile and stable. The rear weight bias helps keep the power down and means the car doesn’t push into corners as long as you’ve done your braking early. Inside, the car is purposeful – designed for the driver first – but comfortable. It’s one of the easiest cars to drive fast that I’ve ever been in.
Needless to say, I’m looking forward to spending more time with the AMG GT S anytime the good folks at Mercedes-Benz will let me.