Take one Mercedes twin-turbo V8. Give it a stupid, ungodly amount of power. Take the noise straight out of a Camaro SS. And then make the entire thing look like an enormous dick. That’s the Mercedes-AMG GT S, and I think I’m in love with it.
(Full Disclosure: Mercedes wanted me to drive the AMG GT S so bad that I asked for one when I went to a recent wedding in Miami for the weekend. I paid for the plane ticket and the Air BnB, Mercedes paid for a tank of gas. And I guess the car.)
Yes, I know, you might think it’s easy to fall in love with a car that costs $154,200. For that price, you damn well better be in love with it, right?
But that actually couldn’t be further from the truth. Consider the Always and Eternal Lord Of Our Hearts, the Miata, which at just under 25 grand isn’t exactly going to set a Miami club-goer’s hair on fire.
The more expensive a car tends to be, the more car companies seem to focus on making them more more. More power. More electronics. More bells and whistles. More steering modes. More throttle input selections. More things removing you from the road. More designers trying to make a car look appealing to everyone, and taking all the drama out of it.
So how do you make a car this expensive, this wild, this over-the-top, and still make it absolutely great?
I’m still not sure how Mercedes did it, but the Mercedes-AMG GT S, incredibly dumb name and all, is great.
Greatness, of course, has to be contextualized. The AMG GT, of course, has got some context, too. Within Mercedes itself, the company’s made a slew of ridiculous two-seater velocity demons over the past decade or so, beyond even the normal pinnacle that makes up the AMG nameplate. There was the SLR, made in conjunction with McLaren, and the SLS, made in conjunction with itself.
But these were flashy, elongated symbols of success, costing many hundreds of thousands of dollars and coming complete with absurd, ridiculous doors that opened up and/or away in various guises. You might buy one to pair nicely with a Ferrari, but even then, the company never planned to sell more than a few thousand at most.
Which is fine, for small companies like Ferrari. But Mercedes is a juggernaut. It can’t just beat Ferrari. It needs to beat Jaguar, and Porsche, at the coupe-for-around-a-hundred-grand game.
And holy hell, I do think it’s done it.
I didn’t want to like the Mercedes-AMG GT S, for a lot of reasons. Its name is off-putting, an amalgam of letters that sounds more like a computer chip serial code than name for a car. I thought it might be an attempt at a sporty coupe for general-practice doctors from a car company that makes big and heavy yachts for thoracic surgeons.
With its 503 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque coming from a turbocharged, 4.0-liter V8 engine, it would surely be simultaneously overpowered but dull to drive in corners, like a shot of non-alcoholic Jägermeister.
Its exterior, on first look and to those around you, is entirely reminiscent of male genitalia in a way that screams that you have some unresolved adequacy issues. The “long-hood-short-deck” combo is considered the gold standard of grand touring, and yet here, it’s taken to extremes, with a proboscis stretched out in front like a piece of Laffy Taffy.
But then you look at it from other angles, and everything somehow starts looking right. The sides are nicely scooped and swooped. The occupants sit damn near over the rear wheels. That front end, while fully festooned with air intakes, isn’t cartoonish.
And I started thinking about how wrong I was. Because unlike with many cars, merely being in the AMG GT’s presence gives a sense of occasion.
That ridiculous snout is ridiculous with purpose, as the whole engine sits behind the front axle. It’s low and wide, which helps with that whole track thing. And, of course, there’s that noise.
Less primal than the scream of the F-Type’s V8, and much more of a bellow than anything in a 911, it’s more like carrying around an old-school American eight-pot around with you wherever you go, except that this muscle car has a button that actually makes things louder.
Plus that button just looks like a twin-barreled cannon carried around by a demented robot.
And that’s before you even drive it. Folding yourself in isn’t exactly easy – again, another reminder that this isn’t just some car. If you’re over 6'2" or so, you might even have a problem fitting. But if you put your butt down first, then swivel the legs in, you’ve got it.
Foot on the brake, press the ENGINE START/STOP button, make sure the loud exhaust is in the “on” position, because the quiet setting is mostly just for unexpected funerals and pre-getaway crime, and then make sure the parking brake is off.
And then, well, it’s a bit like driving around an enormous cat that really doesn’t want to be caught napping. The whole thing feels a bit like it’s straining at the reins at all times, not because it’s unsettled or unruly, but because it’s capable of so much more than just tooling around in traffic.
The machine vibrates with life. That monstrous V8—fitted with the Dynamic Plus Package, as mine was, with a wider peak power band once you put it into RACE mode—just begs for you to put it into full song. The seven-speed dual-clutch gear box shifts faster than lightning, with perfect blips on the overrun adding to the snorts and chortles from the engine, popping blissfully along as it goes, and the carbon-ceramic brakes, grabby when cold and at low-speeds serve as a constant reminder:
C’mon. Faster. Let’s go. Push harder. You can do better. C’mon. Faster.
The steering wheel chatters at you as you go along, letting you even read the Bott’s Dots on the road like your only muse is the protagonist of the Princess and the Pea. It’s direct and communicative, and even though you sit approximately 900 miles from the tip of the car, you still know at all times what the front of the car is doing.
Even though most of my time was spent on the highway and crawling along in Miami traffic, it never, ever got unsorted. Hit an odd bump, and you still know exactly what’s going on. Nothing fazes it, and nothing fazes you.
And that’s when you realize, sure, it’s got “GT” in the name. But between all of that pent-up energy, the suspension that’s on the firm side even in comfort mode, the center-locking wheels on enormous tires, and the ridiculous looks, it’s not a grand tourer at all. It’s a racer waiting to be broken free of the shackles that mere mortals conceive of when they think of roads.
Yeah, I guess it’s got enough black and red leather in there to make you think you’re in one of Miami’s more interesting nightclubs. And I guess that, in true GT form, you would definitely be one of the more interesting people when you show up at one of those more interesting nightclubs.
But I don’t care. It’s a car that you not only want to drive, it wants to be driven right back at you. And there’s nothing I could possibly want more.