But Mercedes’s 503-bhp biturbo V8 is much less ubiquitous than its German compatriot. This year, Porsche will sell more 911s than Mercedes will sell AMGs.
But sometimes the number sold has nothing to do with whether it’s a good car. As it happens, this is a good car. If you know you want a Mercedes, and you know you don’t need that Mercedes to be an SUV, you might as well choose the AMG GT S.
The AMG GT S is the halo car that recalls the gullwing SL that Mercedes made in the 1960s. I say halo because while it’s financially out of reach for most of us, in theory at least, its sexy allure is what initially might attract young new fans to the brand.
The AMG GT S shows what can be done when cost isn’t (as much) a concern and when Formula 1 racing technology is more directly applied to production vehicles. It’s a car to dream about.
In fact, I’m a firm believer that, if you can afford it, you should buy the things you dream about.
The AMG GT S goes from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and hits 197 mph. It has carbon-fibre accents throughout the car, including on the side vents.
Buy the AMG GT S because it’s faster and more fun to drive than any other production car Mercedes makes. It comes standard with a 7-speed AMG-built transmission and paddle shifters that push its sleek aluminum rocket body to a top speed a wink away from 200 mph.
The 4-wheel double-wishbone suspension and low chassis are tuned to racing precision; when you drive it, you feel like you’re redlining on something major, like this is the purest sports car Mercedes has ever made. And it is.
There are three drive modes and AMG adaptive carbon-fibre brakes, a carbon-fibre drive shaft, standard crash avoidance, and a performance exhaust system that you’ll hear in your sleep at night.
The Race mode is the most aggressive, and if you’re not careful, the AMG GT S will get away from you, fishtailing forward as it gulps asphalt like a greyhound gulps water after a run.
Did I mention this beast starts with a deafening CRUNCH? It doesn’t rumble or growl like a Ferrari or Jaguar. This one grinds into gear, like a locomotive rousing from stasis, angles colliding underneath the hood. It does not feel quite as nimble around corners as a 911 does — it’s a couple hundred pounds heavier and two inches longer than its less expensive German counterpart — but on the straight it feels incredibly, bluntly direct, more masculine, more serious.
Buy the AMG GT S because it’s the most visually stunning Mercedes on offer, too — it’s different enough from the crowd to stand out, but it doesn’t beg for attention. That can get exhausting. Several strangers tried to guess its price when I drove it last week in New York, and they overshot by a hundred thousand euros.
This is not a swooped, curved song of a car like an F-Type or an Aston Martin. The AMG GT has a too-long nose, with sneering side vents and a softly rounded rear. It almost begs car columnists to compare it to something dirty.
You can choose gloss or matte paintwork (the “solar beam yellow” of the model I had cost a few grand extra) and among three styling packages and six wheel choices to go with its full-LED headlights, airplane-worthy air vents, and automatic rear spoiler.
The carbon-fibre trim on the sides and rear of the car also cost extra. Adaptive high-beam lights, 19-inch front/20-inch rear wheels, and LED daytime running headlights come standard.
Inside, the oblong but effective AMG Dynamic Select controller in the centre by your elbow is the first thing you’ll notice.
It feels a little like an oversize computer mouse to use and allows you to choose one of four modes, and shows the corresponding throttle maps, gear changes, and suspension setups, among other things, on the centre control screen.
The model I drove also had an AMG-exclusive interior trim, an exclusive interior package with Napa leather seats, roof-liner and ambient lighting, illuminated door sills, and an AMG dynamic package with performance-grade steering wheel and twin yellow cluster dials at front.
Those extras are unnecessary, really, but they’re there if you want them, and they go far to make the car feel like your own.
The interior of the car feels like a spacious cockpit. The rest of the console is lined all down either side with silver round buttons that look like the underside of an octopus arm. There’s even a button to enhance the exhaust notes — I recommend using it a lot.
What I do not recommend is driving this train on cobblestone or pockmarked side streets. I also recommend you plan accordingly when you take this car away for the weekend — it does have a rear ledge that, without having to open the boot, allows access to a small storage area inside the car, but it does not have a back seat, and the boot itself offers a puny space.
Otherwise, the leg- and headroom feel at least as generous as that in the 911, if not more so. Tall males with broad shoulders and long legs will be fine.
All this to say: The Mercedes AMG GT S is not nice. It’s loud and impractical and low and stiff and expensive. It’s not popular like a 911. But feel the fury of its AMG racing power just once, and you’ll know it’s good. Very good. And that makes all the difference.