Under the skin: Mercedes-AMG ply sober elegance with the new GT
Genuinely beautiful contemporary cars are rather scarce on the ground. Cast your eyes around you at any international motor show and the general impression is that manufacturers want to stand out and be seen, rather than win beauty contests. The consumer predilection for big heavy SUVs and crossovers doesn't help, nor do safety laws and legislation that punish low, lithe and lean designs in favour of bluff-fronted, identically proportioned vehicles that are differentiated only by their badges and superficial styling flourishes.
Someone at Mercedes-AMG hasn't been listening. The new GT is the latest product from the company’s AMG division, the department dedicated to engine fettling and chassis tuning that lurks behind the German manufacturer's prestigious facade and transforms choice cars into track-focused monsters. The first 'pure' AMG car – as opposed to models tweaked into existence from existing Mercedes stock – was the SLR, a collaboration with McLaren. This was followed by the SLS, a gull-winged super coupé that proved a strangely inelegant homage to its 1950s forebears, despite its supreme competence and brutish character.
In comparison, the new GT goes all out to enrapture the eye before it's even turned a wheel in anger. For this is a very beautiful car, inside and out. True performance enthusiasts are known for putting up with a bit of aesthetic incompetence if all the oily bits work as advertised, and to let the heart rule the head with a purely aesthetic choice is somewhat frowned upon. But should you acquire an AMG-GT with little care for how it goes, you won’t be disappointed, for under the skin is the purest of sports cars.
The GT has character and charm. Doing away with its predecessor’s gull-wing doors allows for a more conventional, teardrop-shaped passenger cabin behind the long, long bonnet. From the sports seats, the bonnet seems to stretch away forever, with the shark-like front profile and concave grille tucked away out of sight. Mercedes has resisted the temptation to add too many scoops and ducts and the overall effect is akin to the great coachbuilt classics of the post-war years – not the be-winged, scalpel-sharp objects that have come to define the modern supercar.
Make no mistake, however, for the AMG-GT – especially in flagship ‘S’ trim – is very much in the supercar club. It’s priced to sit in a relatively eclectic market segment, where the options range from mid-engined German minimalism (the Audi R8) to bespoke British traditionalism (the Bentley Continental GT). All have character – and all are bold statements that bring with them the carefully packed cultural baggage of branding and heritage. And yet out of this stellar line-up, the AMG-GT still stands out for reasons of taste. Mercedes has recently rediscovered how to deftly apply sober elegance – an ability almost unmatched amongst car makers. The GT encapsulates this approach. In fact, the car’s most uncouth quality is the raucous scream of the engine and exhaust. While fun for a while, it’s a characteristic that’s fast going the way of the traditional cigarette – the alternatives are getting so good that clinging to the original looks increasingly bloody-minded.
Of course, there are places where a screaming V8 – with twin-turbo-chargers, no less – and a race-tuned steering system remain unequalled. Find the right road (or better still, track, given the dedicated ‘Race’ setting that’s prominently placed on the curvaceous dashboard) and the GT will thrill like no other. Right now, the GT’s combination of novelty, beauty and prowess makes it a welcome sight wherever it goes. From the driver’s seat, the view is even better.