2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S

The Mercedes-AMG GT is a disruptor in the segment of luxury sports cars. It is in catch-up mode, but it has the attention of anyone driving a Porsche 911 Carrera, Audi R8, Jaguar F-Type or any other two-door, two-seat power player in the price range of $100,000 to $200,000.

The GT is luxury class, but it is the AMG influence that steers it clear of the disdainful disclaimer of “grand touring car.” In standard driving mode, the GT can be quite comfortable and quiet. The cabin is broad with more shoulder room than the competition.

Dial up Sport, Sport-plus or Race mode and dig deeper into the intensity of the AMG speed work. The pipes open, the shift points flash quicker than lightning, the suspension melts to embrace the road and the steering has better feel than the tactile input long provided by BMW.

The GT S gets its giant-killing potential from a rather modest in size, twin-turbo, direct-injection 4.0 liter V-8. But it is a thrust animal with 503 horsepower at 6,250 rpm and 479 foot-pounds of torque from 1,750-4,750 rpm. Mercedes cites 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds.

Next spring, the standard model GT goes on sale at slightly less cost for a slightly less potent package of 456 horsepower and 443 foot-pounds of torque and a 0-60 time of 3.9 seconds.

The GT S starts at $130,825, including the $925 freight charge from Sindelfingen, Germany. Today’s tester stickered at $153,760, which is where I expect most of these cars will finish up. There were nearly $14,000 in style upgrades, such as matte finish silver paint, black Nappa leather and Dinamica roof liner, which added $8,750. The panorama roof was $1,260 and a Burmester surround-sound audio system was $4,500 (but I’ve heard better sound from systems costing much less).

The AMG Dynamic Plus Package seemed appropriate for the S model and reasonable at $2,600 for its electrically actuated engine and transaxle mounts (for that graceful suspension action), a sharpened suspension and steering profile, performance steering wheel (trimmed in Dinamica microfiber), yellow instrument cluster dials and a higher redline (6,500 rpm) in Race and Manual modes.

The GT’s tech credentials are impressive. The aluminum body shell weighs just 509 pounds. The wet curb weight, with driver, fuel and luggage is 3,695 pounds. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission can be AMG fierce or calming in how the gearing can immediately finesse every drop of power. It also is the only dual-clutch I’ve tested that has a manual feel to engaging first gear, almost as if the driver is using a clutch. After that, the response is quick and forceful when needed. Launch power is balanced through an electric limited slip rear differential and routed to the rear wheels by a carbon fiber composite drive shaft (torque tube) weighing just 8.3 pounds.

The standard brakes have internally vented and perforated 15.4-inch front discs and 14.2-inch rear. A ceramic high-performance compound brake system ($8,950) would be smart for track use because of the disc’s improved fade resistance. The package adds 15.8-inch front rotors and 14.2-inch at the rear. Ceramics save about five pounds each over the steel rotors, which weigh about 21 pounds each.

Fuel economy is 16 mpg city, 22 highway and 18 mpg combined on premium. I was averaging between 18 and 19 mpg in a week of driving.

Grabbing this disruptor by the scruff of the neck is painless. It’s how the steering wheel fits fat and full in the hand. It’s how smoothly the hydraulic steering rolls with minimal input. It’s the bark and grumble on start-up as the engine settles into power mode. And then there’s the rowdy wail of the pipes on acceleration.

I tested the GT S at a media event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with cars upfitted with the ceramic brakes, a fixed spoiler and more. The car made me a better driver and I went through the “corkscrew” corner faster than in any other sports car I’ve tested there, including the AMG SLS.

On the road, the GT S is more Aston Martin in fit and finesse than a Porsche 911. But the Porsche feels like the lighter, more nimble car. The GT’s turning circle of 37.7 feet is handy enough, but about a foot wider than the 911.

The center console is a cluttered mess, but with good cup holders and ports to charge a phone. The seats are heated but not ventilated. The infotainment software is dated and awkward to navigate and I never did get my iPhone to sync. The hatchback allows a very usable 12.3 cubic feet of trunk space.

The GT is not a visceral experience — this isn’t a butt-on-the-floor, go-kart experience. This is high-performance done richly that gratifies and rewards with sound, sight and sensation.

Mark Maynard is online at mark.maynard@utsandiego.com. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage