New Mercedes AMG GT first ride: In the SL-based flagship with AMG’s CEO.
We experience the stiffened, overhauled V8 coupé ahead of its September arrival
No model reflects the ascendancy of Mercedes-AMG in recent years quite as well as the GT.
Launched in 2014 as a successor to the SLS, the classically proportioned V8 coupé and roadster model has established itself as a true rival to the Porsche 911 and many others in the supercar ranks.
Against a backdrop of new electric models, it is an AMG car from the old school – one that, by remaining true to many of the brand’s traditional values, resonates strongly with enthusiasts. But ever since AMG confirmed that the upcoming, C192-generation version would be twinned with the latest SL, there has been an endless stream of speculation about the new car.
Would the 2023 follow-up be bigger, heavier, and, perhaps, less focused than the original? Would the specter of tough new EU emissions laws strangle the performance potential of its engine and lead to an altogether gentler GT? Some have even suggested we might have already seen the best of the GT.
In pursuit of answers to these questions and more, we joined AMG’s new CEO, Michael Schiebe – who also heads Mercedes’ other ‘Top End Vehicle’ brands, G-Class, and Maybach – for a ride in a near-finished prototype.
“Before you ask, yes, we’re only going to build it as a coupé,” he said, immediately.
“There is absolutely no shame in it sharing its DNA with the SL, which takes the roadster role in our portfolio.” The two AMG cars are based on the same Modular Sport Architecture platform, a lightweight space frame-style structure that uses a combination of aluminum, steel, magnesium, and plastic composites.
Schiebe said the new GT will be even more rigid than the SL, which is to be expected, given that it has a fixed roof and other additional stiffening measures, including some rather substantial engine bay bracing.
Dimensionally, the new GT has grown. There are no official details yet, but expect it to mirror the latest SL with a length of around 4705mm, which is 159mm longer than the old model.
The wheelbase has increased by 70mm to 2700mm too, and the interior (essentially identical to the SL’s) has been repackaged, which provides the scope for a set of rear seats and a much larger boot.
“The feedback we got from customers was to keep the performance but broaden the scope to make it a more amicable car in everyday driving conditions. We’ve got people who use the GT for weekend trips and longer,” said Schiebe.
There are significant changes to the drivetrain too. Initial models will retain AMG’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 engine. Schiebe would not go into detail yet but said it has been engineered with Euro 7 emissions regulations in mind. He also hinted at electrified models further down the line: “They are not planned from the beginning but we’re well prepared to bring them online when the regulatory framework demands it.”
Will the new GT line-up encompass as many models as its predecessor, which, at last count, ran to 11? “Wait and see,” said Schiebe, adding: “We already offer the SL in 43, 55, and 63 models.” In a development brought to the SL, the previous Speedshift MCT seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle of the first-generation GT is replaced by a nine-speed gearbox mounted directly to the engine.
As before, it offers both manual and automatic shifting. An even greater change in engineering philosophy for the GT comes with the adoption of a fully variable four-wheel-drive system in place of the traditional rear-wheel drive.
What is noticeable from the passenger seat while hammering along empty roads near AMG’s base later on is just how close the new model feels to the original. Despite larger dimensions, a more spacious interior, and a heavily reworked drivetrain, it still feels like a GT.
There is the same deep staccato engine sound, the same elongated view down the bonnet, and the same exuberant accelerative force under load in Sport Plus mode.
It is traditionally AMG in character. Schiebe admitted the larger dimensions, the new interior layout, and the addition of four-wheel drive have inevitably increased weight. However, he is confident the new GT is every bit as dynamically adept as its predecessor, if not more so.
He said the decision to go with four-wheel drive opens up a new dimension for the GT. “We have a fully variable apportioning of power front to rear. That means that you can not only decide to drive to the Alps in June or July, but also in October or November, perhaps even January or February – because you feel safe,” he said.
The double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, with variable damping control and active anti-roll functions, is uniquely tuned. The new GT is firmer than the SL, but it gives the impression that it delivers greater compliance and better absorption of road shock than the original model.
On the way back to AMG’s HQ in Affalterbach over undulating country roads, Schiebe identified what he believes to be the defining characteristics of the company’s new flagship. “It is still a supercar with an ability to excite and engage the driver on a
very high level,” he said. “But it now has greater comfort and ease of use. It is a more agreeable car on an everyday basis.”
Everything else you need to know about the new AMG GT
A second generation of the Mercedes-AMG GT sports coupé will be launched this year, following the arrival of the closely related seventh-generation SL roadster.
Development of the SL was, for the first time, handled entirely by the Mercedes-AMG performance division in Affalterbach – and the GT will essentially serve as a hard-top coupé version of that car, sharing the bulk of its underpinnings.
As such, the stylistic differences – even through the camouflage worn at this testing stage – look to be limited chiefly to a more rakish rear roofline and a bespoke treatment for the front grille. When it is revealed, unique wheel designs, paint colors, and option packs could be introduced to further differentiate the cars.
The current-generation GT is exclusively a two-seater, but with the SL adopting a pair of rear seats for the first time in several generations and direct rivals in the form of the Porsche 911 and Ferrari Roma carrying a pair of child-sized buckets in the rear, AMG will offer the car with rear seating.
The GT will follow largely the same formula as its convertible sibling. It rides on the same all-new aluminum platform, claimed to boost transverse rigidity by 50%, which allows the engine and axles to be mounted lower in the chassis.
It will also use the same twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 as the two SL variants already revealed, although likely in just the more potent state of tune, with 577 kW and 590 Nm for a sub-4.0 sec 0-100 km/h time and a top speed nudging 200 mph. A plug-in hybrid GT 63e variant should follow soon after, using a variation of the 831 kW electrified V8 deployed in the new Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door Coupé PHEV.
It remains to be seen if the hard-top car will weigh substantially less than the 1970 kg SL 63, but more details are expected as the car’s launch date nears.
Additional reporting by Felix Page