A few years ago, Mercedes for the first time on their own
gave us the brilliant Mercedes Benz SLS AMG. It was the first time that a full
blown performance car came out of the Mercedes factory that wasn’t in
collaboration with another company in a very, very long time. The SLS was a
twin turbo charged V8 muscle car that showed Americans what a true muscle car
can and should do. Mercedes also took a bold step in pitting it up against one
of the greatest Ferrari’s of modern times, the 458 Italia and it did brilliantly
Now however, they decided to build a new car as the
successor to the SLS with their AMG division to take another bold step to stand
in the firing line of an icon that has been refined and perfected over 50 years
and has received love and appreciation for its entire life, the Porsche 911.
What they came up with is the Mercedes AMG GT S. A brand new
supercar with a brand new and extremely light weight 4 litre biturbo V8 engine
which only weighs 209kgs dry, producing 510bhp and 650Nm of torque mounted at
the front. The turbos are mounted within the V of the engine to get a better
weight distribution in addition to being a dry sump. Therefore it can be
mounted low down to keep a lower centre of gravity. A trans-axle 7-speed AMG
Speedshift DCT at the rear has been carried over from the SLS, although it is
more refined and has been perfected to go with the engine’s power going to a
whole new rear axle with diff-lock specifically designed for this car. The
front axle however is the same as the SLS which is exactly what you need to
take on the Porsche thanks to a hydraulic steering rack instead of an
electronically assisted system. It has variable valves in the AMG Performance
Exhaust system that open up to let you hear that gargle of the engine sound as
you reach to 100kmph from a standstill in just 3.8 seconds in the loudest
So on a very busy day at the track we were all called to
take a small little test drive to the Buddh International Circuit and see what
all that actually felt like. However, due to a lot of people turning up, time
was minimal. By the time I got into the car, it was dark. Usually they close
down the track just before the sun goes down, but they made an exception if I
promised to behave. They also weren’t letting people go out alone on the track
in broad day light, let alone me in the dark. So they had asked me to follow a
former multiple DTM Champion, Bernd Schneider, who would be leading me in a CLA
45 AMG. At first I though it is going to be a slow lap and I will not be
allowed to over take him I will have to take it easy and lift off most of the
time. But with a back end of the CLA that looked so beautiful to stare at all
the way, I didn’t mind at all.
I didn’t have much time to understand what all the buttons
do, how you use them and what they are for, we just started our journey down
the pit lane with Schneider leading the way. So I left them in Race mode, the
dampers in full performance setting and I wasn’t allowed to turn the ESP off
because it was so dark. I’ll tell you why I was glad that I wasn’t allowed in
just a bit.
I’ll take you through the lap, corner by corner around the
track. With my headlights at full beam and not a single light on track to
illuminate anything, I have never been so grateful for headlights, some things
we just take for granted. I had a brilliant experience of what it’s like to be
racing in Le Mans at night. Seating position in the GT S is very low and you
can get a sense that you’re sitting between the front and rear wheels. Ok so
back to the driving.
Turn 1, exit the pit lane at relative speed we turn in hard
right and immediately I could feel the back starting to disobey. Turn 2, is a
steep climb with a left kink where I could feel the back again trying to step
out to brake into a blind right to Turn 3 which it felt quite happy and onto
the back straight. Clipped the apex just and full throttle onto the long
straight, the acceleration is just staggering, but unlike the SLS, it doesn’t
puke all the power over the rear axle, this one is a bit more linear. I could see nothing but the beautiful tail
lights of the CLA in front of me. I was closing in on the CLA as I expected so
had to lift off nearly half way onto the straight, I didn’t see the speedometer
to know the exact speed I had achieved as I was busy trying not to rear end the
car in front, but it was easily over 200kmph. Brake hard into Turn 4 to the 3rd
straight that didn’t seem too long in this car and on the brakes extremely
quick and drag the steering wheel to the left onto the challenging section of
the track Turn 6,7,8 & 9. At full beam, it was so dark, all I could see
were the entries up to the apex of the turns, the exit was completely blind.
From turn 5, 6, 7, I nailed them perfectly because of the adaptive suspension and
the feel of the steering wheel, so I gained some confidence and throttled up to
the 4WD CLA to keep up, braked hard and turned in for the Turn 8 and 9. I
probably clipped the sausage curb at the apex of Turn 9 and ended up having a
massive tank slapper at the exit. If it was up to me without the traction
control, I would have definitely spun out and hit something as I have seen this
happen countless times in my experience in that very section of the track.
Somehow me and the traction control managed to hold on and continue to fight
another day, but only just.
Followed by the massive tank slapper, was the long Turn 10
and 11 parabolic. I could see the CLA with its 4 wheel drive just pull away as
I struggled to keep up at half throttle throughout the long right hander. I
just couldn’t keep up as any more throttle would mean a full slide and I wasn’t
ready to take the risk at night in anyway. I could see the lead car already at
the next turn while I was still at the exit of the previous one. This time with
a lot of runoff area, I went for it just one last time, and managed to hold on
for the final 3 corners though thanks to the hydraulic steering wheel I was
able to manage the slides better, with an EPAS system, I don’t think id stand a
chance. Near to the final corner, I closed onto the CLA and back into the pits.
With this awesome experience I took away 5 major learnings.
Firstly, how good that CLA 45 AMG really is with that 4WD system which I didn’t
realise at first. Secondly, the AMG GT S is something truly handcrafted by
racing driver’s and it truly shows how perfect everything about it is. Thirdly,
the SLS would eat up its tyres in less than half the time the GT S ran on that
day so the tyres have way more grip and a longer life, though if you do treat
it like a lunatic, you will shred them easily. Fourthly, the weight reduction
and all the clever weight distribution done in the car is done so beautifully,
it handles just so perfectly. And lastly I learnt that most people who say that
Germans aren’t funny people, they are more of a serious bunch of people, have
no idea what they are talking about. The Germans do know how to have a lot of
fun, and how to have a bit of a laugh, the GT S proves my point.
4.0 litre, V8 biturbo with dry sump
AMG Speedshift DCT 7-speed sports transmission with paddleshift
Top speed (Kmph)
AMG ride control sport suspension
AMG High Performance Composite Braking System
Michelin 265/35 ZR19 (98Y)
Rear Wheel Drive
Price (ex-showroom Delhi)
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