Back in 2003, Mercedes-Benz sprang something of a surprise by entering the supercaR market with its Mercedes SLR McLaren - a luxury product aimed straight at the Ferrari/Lamborghini segment. It was a great-looking car and with its Formula 1 design influences and enormous amounts of power, it soon became a ‘must have’ among fans of this type of sportster. I drove the car extensively when it first appeared and was greatly impressed, though it did have a few niggling problems in some respects.
The car had a solid production run and various spinoff models kept it going until 2010, when Mercedes-Benz launched its successor - the gull-winged SLS AMG. I thought this was a better car and an amazing performer on a challenging track (I drove it at Laguna Seca). The McLaren I drove earlier had problems with squealing carbon ceramic brakes and poor drivability around town.
Now, after a comparatively short production run, the SLS is being replaced for 2015 by the Mercedes-AMG GT. I believe this one might be judged the most stylish of all M-B’s supercars, though it represents a new design approach. Gone are the gullwing doors of the SLS, replaced by conventional doors more like those of other Mercedes sports cars like the SL and SLK. This move will disappoint many, but most buyers will probably allow themselves a gasp of relief. Trick doors are fun and always draw a crowd, but they’re not at their best in tight parking situations. Conventional doors are also less costly to design and produce and this factor may well contribute towards the reasonable price tag promised for this model (at presstime, no prices had been confirmed). Another contributor to “affordability” could also be the instrument panel, which looks as though it has been borrowed from a CLA or new C-Class – no harm in that, it looks great.
Incidentally, this is the first car from the company to be called a Mercedes without the added ‘Benz.’ The bodywork is an interesting combination of aluminum spaceframe and steel panels, Mercedes having decided to use various materials in optimal locations, rather than going for a more common all-aluminum structure. The bonnet is long and sleek and the cockpit is positioned well back along its overall length. With broad shoulders and a relatively stubby trunk, the car looks wonderful and hints of Mercedes cars of years gone by can be found in the mesh side vents and blisters on the bonnet. The nose has the expected complex LED headlight arrays and the centre of the grill carries a huge Mercedes three-pointed star. No mistaking what this is when you see one in your rear view mirror!
The 4-litre AMG V-8 biturbo engine is mounted ‘front mid-engine’ style so it’s well back in the engine bay for the best possible weight distribution. The turbochargers are mounted internally, which is claimed as a first for a sports car powerplant. The engine develops 462-horsepower, but for those who’d like a bit more, there will be an ‘S’ version with 510 horses and uprated suspension.
As Mercedes fans will know, AMG is the ‘tuner’ arm of the company and produces all the engines for performance adaptations of most products in the various M-B ranges. The engines are not built on a conventional production line, but hand assembled by a single technician who rolls the engine round the shop on a trolley to the stations where various components are located. AMG is an amazing operation and looks more like a hospital operating theatre that an engine factory.
The transmission is a 7-speed dual clutch automatic and if my recent experiences with the Stuttgart manufacturer’s cars are any guide, it’ll shift faster than would be possible with a manual box. Again to aid weight distribution, the transmission is rear mounted in transaxle guise.
This is strictly a two-seater coupe, but I would imagine that a convertible will follow before too long. It has a decent cargo area under the rear hatch with lots of luggage space for a two-person road trip or it will accommodate a couple of golf bags. Mercedes-Benz is emphasizing that its new pride and joy is highly practical and offers exceptional comfort levels for long journeys. As expected, there’s a whole ‘alphabet soup’ of electronic safety and stability aids - the list is too long to cover here. This will certainly be as safe a car as could be imagined for a long drive, or any drive, for that matter.
The cockpit is a delight just to look at, never mind sit in. Two-tone leather trim sets off a fairly complicated instrument panel, though most controls will be familiar to anyone who’s driven a Mercedes-Benz (see also my earlier note).There are no less than five adjustable air vents ranged across the dash, so there’ll be no problem keeping cool in summer or warm if you’re headed to the ski slopes at this time of the year. Mercedes opted for ‘classic’ round gauges for the major instrument binnacle. Some of the detailing is in a ‘carbon fibre look’ material.
This will not be a limited production car, so it should be more easily available than its predecessors. It should be on the shopping list of anyone who’s searching the market for a prestige sports car with great individuality, character, performance and handling to match. Pricing is expected to be ‘more Porsche 911 than Lamborghini.’ Expect this car to have a very long run, possibly seven years or so, and to spawn many variants, including the expected convertible.
SPECS AT A GLANCE…
BODY STYLE: Two-door sports coupe
ENGINE: 4.0-litre V-8 biturbo
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual clutch automatic
ACCELERATION: Zero to 100 km/h in 3.8-seconds
FUEL ECONOMY: Not yet rated by Natural Resources Canada
PRICE: See Dealer