As we find on a stunning drive across Oman’s Musandam Peninsula, Mercedes’ new AMG GT S is much more than just a ‘baby SLS’…
|V8, twin-turbo, 3982cc
|503bhp @ 6250rpm
|479lb ft @ 1750-4750rpm
I’ll admit, as we hammer down this particular stretch of sinewy coastal road, I’m not in the best of moods. It’s certainly not down to the car, for this is the AMG GT, Mercedes’ replacement to the lunatic SLS AMG we first took for a spin last December and which has now landed in the Middle East. Boasting an all-new developed 4-litre biturbo V8, a front mid-engined layout, and some chassis-related bits and bobs from the now departed SLS, this is Mercedes’ long-awaited answer to the Porsche 911, Jaguar F-TYPE V8 R and the Audi R8 among others. So, clearly it’s going to be good.
Nor for that matter is my fractious mood down to the road, a stunning pass alongside the Arabian Gulf that stretches more than 40km across the Musandam Peninsula towards Khasab in Oman. It’s a semi-regular hunting ground for crankandpiston.com, and offers the kind of landscape John Constable would have weeped for.
No, my ire is in fact reserved for the time we’ve just spent getting through Omani border control, the sight of a Solarbeam Yellow $172K Mercedes sports car with carbon fibre accents, black double-spoke alloys, and a flurry of camera equipment raising the heart rates of border force officers for all the wrong reasons. Not only do we lose almost three hours filling in paperwork and explaining to multiple officials that we’re not here to quench our espionage thirsts, we also lose two bags of camera equipment, the local bobbies explaining that we can pick them up when we cross the border later that evening.
The time spent arguing, ironically, has at least giving me time to savour the looks of the new GT S. While perhaps not offering the same menacing theatre of the SLS (not least because the gullwing doors are gone), the GT does boast a much sleeker, more elegant look thanks to its über smooth bodylines. The short overhangs on this long wheelbase design and the slick rear wing give an aggression of their very own, and we’re still wondering how Stuttgart’s boffins at the design easel have created tail lamps so thin, they could have been drawn onto the bodywork. Merc’s new ‘baby’ certainly doesn’t disappoint. It’s stunning.
On the whole though, I’m pretty cheesed off with the border control nonsense, and ready to make the most of my time on the mountain whilst daylight is still on our side. Which is just as well, since planting the right foot unleashes – almost instantaneously – 503bhp from that biturbo V8. It’s an angry response that seems to ‘thump’ the AMG straight down the tarmac in typically bold AMG fashion. This is aided considerably by seamless upshifts from the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Indeed, we’re barely two kilometres in, and it’s already clear that the gearbox is superb, and that the GT – for all it’s dynamic power delivery – is much more than just a big, shouty engine.
That same V8 – which is currently deafening Omani residents for several kilometres with its dirty baritone notes – is mounted essentially under the dashboard for near perfect weight distribution, front to rear (47 and 53 per cent respectively). Both turbochargers meanwhile are mounted internally rather than on the outside of the cylinder banks as is traditional. This ‘hot inside V’ setup consequently allows more direct response from each turbocharger and lower exhaust gas emissions, but also permits a more compact – and consequently lighter – engine package for improved weight distribution and more efficient power delivery. Indeed, capable of 310kph and 0-100kph in less than four seconds, the performance speaks for itself.
As does the fact that our accompanying Hyundai Tucson crew car – on loan from one of the C&P wives under pain of colossal bollocking should we destroy the tyres on this run – has quite rapidly gotten smaller in the rearview mirror. Not that this overly concerns photographer Arun sitting next to me in the AMG, who, despite a couple of chewed fingernails concerning the missing equipment, is insistent that I pull over what seems like every 25 seconds to check out “a really cool location for shots.” Even in these semi-baking hot temperatures, the auburn rocks and occasional sandy beach do make for staggering locations, but I’m more concerned with getting back into the driver’s seat. And, yes, okay, the air-conditioning…
Indeed, as only the second fully in-house developed sports car from AMG, there’s been considerable work on the underside to make sure the GT is not a sagging mass of understeering jelly. The sports suspension for instance is aluminium double-wishbone across the board for more precise steering response and flatter cornering. The brakes are now larger at 360mm and internally vented for improved cooling and, ultimately, improved stopping ability, while the light-alloy wheels, 19in at the front and 20in at the back, are clad with performance savvy tyres for ‘track-levels’ of grip.
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