by Gerhard Horn
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GT is the best example of what the AMG division can do when given a blank cheque. This twin-turbo V8 coupe beast was not the division's first attempt at building a standalone car, however. That accolade belongs to the bonkers SLS, which remains the most veracious interpretation of an AMG, but only in the sense that it had too much power. Which in AMG-speak translates to just enough. The SLS's lifespan was short-lived, and though Mercedes-AMG will never admit it, chances are it was simply too ridiculous. The AMG GT replaces the SLS, but takes a new direction. It brings less power to the table, with 523 horsepower in base form from a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine, and gone are the gullwing doors. Instead, this has an air of finesse about the design and engineering, which is just as well, since its number one competitor is the Porsche 911.
The GT gets some rather stunning upgrades for 2021. The GT's power output is increased to 523 hp and 494 lb-ft, finally taking it above that 500 hp psychological barrier. This means the base model can now sprint to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and on a top speed of 194 mph. AMG Ride Control with adaptive damping is now standard fitment, including a "Race" drive mode. The 2021 GT also has red aluminum brake calipers and an electronic limited-slip rear differential. A Stealth Edition has been added to the roster as well, with bespoke styling elements comprising blacked-out brakes, wheels, front grille, a carbon fiber roof, and three stealthy black or grey paint options.
See trim levels and configurations:
The Mercedes-AMG GT coupe has the kind of styling we don't see too often anymore. It's reminiscent of classic 2-door sports cars, circa 1960 to 1970 - a long hood, with a short, stubby cabin situated as close to the rear wheels as possible. It has LED headlights and taillights, and you can get a fixed rear spoiler. We wouldn't, however. It would be a spoiler, ruining the indulgent lines of the GT. One of our favorite design features is how flush the rear is. The trunk lid, taillights, and rear bumper don't look like separate entities but rather one epic piece of metal that could only have been sculpted by hand. It's not, but we love that it seems that way. Unlike the SLS predecessor, this eschews gullwing doors in favor of standard frameless doors.
A new-for-2021 Stealth Edition comes equipped with the AMG Exterior Night Package as standard, black brake calipers, a dark chrome Panamericana grille, and 19-inch AMG Y-spoke alloys in place of the standard silver items of the same size, naturally finished in matte black.
The AMG GT has an overall length of 179.4 inches and a 103.5-inch wheelbase. It's 76.3 inches wide without the side mirrors, which means it already has two of the basic requirements for performance motoring - a longish wheelbase and a wide track. The rear track is 65 inches, while the front is slightly wider at 66.1 inches. To cope with the additional power, the GT C is even wider at the hips at 79 inches. You can thank the extra-wide rear fenders needed to cover the wider rear tires for that. The standard GT weighs a demonic 3,666 pounds, while the GT C has a curb weight of 3,792 lbs.
The Mercedes-AMG GT has a disappointingly limited color palette. Only nine colors are available, with Jupiter Red and Brilliant Blue being the most striking options. Mercedes-AMG is likely saving the more exuberant color options for the more ferocious GT Black Series and GT R, which we review separately. Black and Jupiter Red are no-cost options, while the metallic options go for $720 each. The three designo shades cost between $1,000 to $4,000. It's a pity Mercedes-AMG dropped the spectacular Solarbeam as an option; while it wasn't our cup of tea, we have to admit that the GT looked quite spectacular dressed in yellow.
Rather annoyingly, for Mercedes, at least, the new Porsche 911 Carrera used to be faster to 60 mph when equipped with the optional Sport Chrono Package. The Porsche could hit 60 in 3.8 seconds. "Zis was not acceptable," said Mercedes-AMG engineers. We all know 0-60 mph sprint times are irrelevant, but humans like to quantify things because it makes bragging so much easier. To this end, AMG added an extra 54 horsepower, and with the added ponies, the base GT now sprints from 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds. The 550-hp and 502-lb-ft GT C can do it in 3.6 seconds. Now you can confidently rock up at the local Cars & Coffee boasting about how fast your Merc is, unless someone arrives in a Carrera 4S, in which case you're back where you started. It's worth pointing out that the twin-turbo V8 in the GT provides a much better soundtrack than the Porsche's blown six-cylinder. AMG's engineers are masters of the V8 rumble, and no AMG does it better than the GT.
Both models use a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, sending power to the rear wheels only, although considering the next-gen Mercedes-AMG SL-Class will share a platform with the GT and boast AWD, the same system could eventually make its way to the GT.
Mercedes's decision to drop its naturally-aspirated V8 engine was a good one. The 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 is more compact and efficient. The 4.0 is still not as powerful, but it feels that way, thanks to the twin-turbo setup. AMG uses a "hot V" configuration, which means the turbos are much closer to the combustion chamber. As a result, turbo lag is minimal. The GT produces 523 hp and 494 lb-ft of torque, while the GT C dials it up to 550 hp and 502 lb-ft.
As a driving tool, the GT feels violent but less intimidating than the SLS. The seven-speed dual-clutch does a magnificent job, being both responsive and quick. In Sport Plus and Race modes, you find yourself always chasing the limiter, lifting off early to enjoy the echoes of unburnt fuel exploding in the exhaust. You're never found wanting for power, and dropping the hammer sees the GT rocket forward in kidney-bruising fashion, despite specs that don't stand out from the supercar crowd.
Compared to the SLS, the GT is a revelation. The former had a rather rudimentary traction control system and would simply cut the power. So you turned it off, and it would refuse to drive in a straight line. The SLS was so much of a handful that AMG had to dial back the track-focused model's torque.
The AMG GT is a beast of a sports car but much easier to tame. Both models now come with AMG Ride Control as standard. In addition to that, you get Dynamic Select and three-stage traction control. Comfort is for everyday cruising, while Sport allows you to hustle with all the safety nannies on. Sport+ opens all the valves in the exhaust system, puts the damping in its firmest setting, and reduces the hydraulic power steering assistance. In Race mode (standard from 2021, the stability control is switched to sport handling mode, which is a fancy way of saying it will let you slide around a bit but keep you from killing yourself.
The brakes are mighty, offering tremendous stopping power, but getting used to the dimensions is the trickiest part of the GT driving experience. The car's front feels a mile away, and it's disconcerting sitting so close to the rear axle. Once you get used to it, you'll notice how beautifully the wide track and sticky tires work together. It attacks corners with confidence and provides loads of feedback via the steering wheel. This alleviates many of the stresses related to the front being so far away because you at least know what it's doing.
One could easily live with the GT daily, which, to us at least, makes it a better car. Yes, the SLS provided a savage driving experience, and there is a particular time and place for that, but the GT competes in a segment where the competitors need to do it all. You can't go up against the mighty Porsche 911 with "going sideways is fun" as a unique selling point. Sadly, the GT falls short of the 911's levels of comfort and composure, and instead of adjusting to the road surface, it tries to beat it into submission, something it doesn't always succeed in doing.
The standard GT's power increase has had an impact on its estimated gas mileage. EPA-estimated figures for the GT are 15/20/17 mpg city/highway/combined, down from last year's 16/22/18 mpg. In comparison, the GT C is just one mile per gallon heavier on the highway, with EPA estimates of 15/19/17 mpg. Fortunately, the GT has a 19.8-gallon gas tank, which means a theoretical range of around 337 miles for both models.
It can be quite an inelegant mission to get into the GT. If you're young and flexible, it's easy, but if you can afford one, chances are you're neither of those things. Here's a top tip for you; use the bungee method. Simply turn your back, let go and hope gravity takes you toward the seat. Once seated, you notice two things: the first-class interior and the massive center console. In case you're wondering, it has to be that big because the driver and passenger are practically sitting right next to the prop shaft connecting the engine in the front to the gearbox in the back. Some find it too big, but to us, it looks muscular. We like the idea of sitting low down in a machine right next to mechanical components.
As one of the most expensive models in Merc's line-up, the GT is adorned only in premium materials. MB-Tex is standard in the GT, while the GT C has Nappa leather. The layout is driver-focused, as it should be. Thanks to the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and a drive-mode selector placed on the steering wheel, the rest of the interior feels like a sideshow. It's an opulent sideshow, but there's no doubt as to who the GT is trying to impress, and it's not the passenger.
As it always has been, the 2021 AMG GT is a strict 2-seater coupe. It does a good job, offering loads of room, though taller drivers might struggle to find a comfortable driving position. Oddly, the power seats have fewer adjustment options than you get in any regular Mercedes sedan. The focus is also on support rather than comfort, yet you can drive relatively long distances without feeling too beat up. As mentioned earlier, getting in and out is not a glamorous process. Forward visibility is good but restricted from the rear because of the petite rear window and small side mirrors. Luckily, a rearview camera and blind-spot assist are standard fitments.
Mercedes-Benz's MB-Tex upholstery is a genuinely upmarket material and perfectly acceptable as standard on a C-Class. But when you charge more than six figures for a car, throw in some leather as standard, why don't you? An exceptionally cheeky move from Mercedes essentially forces you to pay $1,900 extra for Nappa leather. At least the GT C comes standard with a leather interior.
The standard AMG Silver Chrome trim looks good, while the Piano Black option exhibits fingerprints too quickly. For the ultimate interior ambiance, it's worth paying extra for the gloss Carbon Fiber trim. The cabin's main problem is that it feels quite claustrophobic in a dark color, and the standard GT only has dark upholstery options available. The interior feels roomier in white, beige, or silver combined with black, which is only available in the GT C.
The GT has 10.1 cubic feet of cargo capacity. It's not incredibly generous, but enough for the weekly shopping and a weekend away for two. Perfect, since the car can only take two people anyway. Compared to its rivals, it's average. The mid-engined cars have severely limited cargo capacity, while other grand tourers like the Jaguar F-Type Coupe have a slightly larger trunk. The main rival is the Porsche 911, which has a tiny 4.6 cube frunk. The Porsche comes with rear seats, however. Few people use the 911 as a family car, so the back seats end up full of stuff anyway.
Interior storage is limited and only includes cupholders, a small center console bin, and tiny door pockets.Both driver and passenger get the royal treatment inside the GT. The seats are power-adjustable and come with three-stage heating and three memory settings. Useful features include parking cameras and sensors front and rear, adaptive high-beam assist, and an AMG Track Pace app that lets you record performance data. The GT C adds seat ventilation, keyless go, power decklid, blind-spot assist, lane-keep assist, and illuminated door sills. A Panoramic roof is also standard on the GT C, which helps alleviate the claustrophobic interior significantly.
Both driver and passenger get the royal treatment inside the GT. The seats are power-adjustable and come with three-stage heating and three memory settings. Useful features include parking cameras and sensors front and rear, adaptive high-beam assist, and an AMG Track Pace app that lets you record performance data. The GT C adds seat ventilation, keyless go, power decklid, blind-spot assist, lane-keep assist, and illuminated door sills. A Panoramic roof is also standard on the GT C, which helps alleviate the claustrophobic interior significantly.
The infotainment system is disappointing, to be brutally honest. As a halo model, you'd expect the GT to boast the latest MBUX technology, but alas. The GT still uses the old COMAND interface, which you interact with using either a rotary dial or touchpad. Neither works particularly well, and we'd much prefer a touchscreen.
Granted, the 10.25-inch color center display looks good, and it caters to Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation, Bluetooth streaming, twin USB ports, HD Radio, and SiriusXM. In the standard GT, the infotainment is mated to what Mercedes calls a "lightweight" sound system. Yet again, pretty poor for a six-figure car. The GT C comes with a 10-speaker Burmester system, while a model-specific 11-speaker Burmester 3D surround-sound system is available for both.
We like the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, opting to use it and the steering wheel-mounted controls rather than the COMAND setup.
The Mercedes-AMG seems to be a remarkably reliable and well-built car. It was recalled a few times in 2018, but the only recall for the 2020 MY was an inaccurate vehicle location for emergency services. This is part of a more extensive recall, affecting a total of 217 Mercedes products. 2021 models are yet to be recalled. Merc's AMG GT is covered by a four-year/50,000-mile warranty that also covers the powertrain.
Neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA has an official safety review of the AMG GT coupe as they tend not to crash expensive cars. Looking at Mercedes's history, it's reasonable to assume high safety levels. After all, we're talking about the company that gave the world many driver assistance firsts, including adaptive cruise control and night vision. The GT also has an extremely rigid body, which should hold up well in a crash.
Somehow, Mercedes managed to cram eight airbags into the GT's cabin in US-spec. Is there even space left over for the passengers after they go off? In addition to that, you get the three-stage stability control that's either on, slightly pared back, or very off. Beware the latter. In terms of driver assistance, the GT boasts active brake assist, attention assist, high-beam assist, pre-safe accident preparation, adaptive braking, and parking cameras/sensors front and rear. The GT C adds blind-spot and lane-keep assist. Surprisingly, adaptive cruise control is an optional extra on both cars. We'd expect this feature to be standard on something that's partly sold as a grand tourer.
There's this belief that AMG was finally allowed to let its hair down with the GT. Other AMG products have to fulfill multiple roles, while the GT has the simple task of being the most AMG model. In other words, the perfect storm of speed, brutality, noise, and pantomime. Erm, no. That was what the SLS was, and look how that worked out. Perfect car, if you were a suicidal nihilist. And let's not forget, the SLS was a $200k plus car.
The GT competes in the 911 bracket. It's called that because the 911 is the yardstick by which all other cars in the segment are measured, much like large luxury saloons are measured against the S-Class. To even be considered a competitor, the GT has to be comfortable enough for daily driving yet savage sufficient to provide the kind of thrills you expect when paying more than $100k for anything. Like a $100,000 boat or $100k worth of cocaine. The AMG GT has a firm ride and trunk space is limited, but it managed to build quite a 911 competitor in every other area. And the engineers did so without losing too much of what made the SLS so epic, like the brutal soundtrack and the beautiful long-hood design.
At the time of writing, Mercedes-Benz has still not yet confirmed the price of the Mercedes-AMG GT range for 2021 in the USA. However, we do expect an increase in price for the new model year when it goes on sale, particularly given the increase in power heaped upon the base model. For reference, in 2020, the price of the AMG GT was $115,900 while the GT C Coupe had an MSRP of $150,900, both excluding destination fees. For 2021, the latter cost has been increased to $1,095. Options will add to the price quickly, so we envision top-spec models being fully loaded to nearly $200k in value.
There are two models in the standard GT line-up, as we review the more powerful GT Black Series separately, leaving just the AMGT GT and GT C.
The GT and GT C gap used to be bigger, but thanks to the recent round of upgrades, they're much closer together. Both use a 4.0L twin-turbo V8, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. In the GT, the power output is 523 hp and 494 lb-ft, while the GT C produces 550 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque. AMG Ride Control with adaptive damping is now standard fitment on both models.
The GT's standard spec consists of 19-inch alloys, quad exhausts, and parking cameras/sensors front and rear. On the inside, it has a 10.25-inch center color display for the infotainment and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Luxury items include heated power-adjustable seats with MB-Tex and Dinamica upholstery, stainless steel trim, and dual-zone climate control.
The GT C has a meaner stance, thanks to 20-inch alloys at the rear and 19-inch alloys at the front. Its fenders are more flamboyantly flared to accommodate the extra track and tire width. Additional luxuries include Nappa leather, ventilated seats with memory function, power decklid release, and blind-spot detection.
In terms of options packages, there are a few. The AMG Aerodynamics Package comes with a deeper front splitter and a fixed rear spoiler. We wouldn't go this route for two reasons: the spoiler ruins the alluring lines, and you won't notice the difference unless you're a die-hard track-day enthusiast. The AMG Night Package adds gloss black exterior adornments. Other than that, it's pretty much standalone options, including ventilated seats and a Burmester sound system. The GT C can be equipped with an AMG Exterior Carbon Fiber Package, a high-end Burmester surround-sound system, and high-performance tires.
We were already fans of the base GT even before the recent upgrades. Now that it has more than 500 hp, an adaptive suspension, and an electronic limited-slip differential, it's an even bigger bargain. Relatively speaking, of course. We'd order it in Cirrus Silver with the 19/20-inch black forged cross-spoke alloy wheels for contrast. Add Red Pepper/Black Nappa leather and a Burmester sound system, and it's a job well done.
The Lexus LC is a compelling alternative to the GT. They are very alike in some ways, completely different in others. First, all the things Lexus gets right. It's more affordable than the GT. We know at this level affordability doesn't factor in, but $20,000 is a huge saving. As a cruiser, the Lexus is more accomplished. Yes, you lose some of the more entertaining handling characteristics, but the upside is a ride that's silky smooth and an interior that's much nicer than the Merc's. The Lexus may have a smaller 5.4 cube trunk, but it has unusable rear seats where you can also put some luggage. Engine-wise it has a 5.0-liter naturally-aspirated V8. It's not as fast, with the 0 to 60 mph sprint taking 4.4 seconds. However, that's only half the story. When it comes to character, the 5.0 is more than a match for the twin-turbo V8. If anything, it sounds even better. And it's not a fake noise either. It's real induction noise, visceral and angry.
The AMG offers a better driving experience as a sports coupe, but the Lexus is a better daily car. It's too close to call and we recommend you drive both to find out which one suits your particular needs best.
The 911 Carrera range is four models strong, but for the same price as the Mercedes, you can buy an S or a 4S. Both models have the same twin-turbo six-cylinder powertrain delivering 443 hp, which seems silly compared to the GT. Still, the 911 makes better use of its power, as it can sprint to 60 mph in a blistering 3.2 seconds. This is for a 4S AWS model with the optional Sports Chrono Package included.
That's not even the best part. The 911's secret to success has always been its split personality. It's light, luxuriously equipped, relatively spacious, and easy to see out of. A 911 is no harder to drive than a Hyundai Accent. And somehow, it can also provide the kind of driving experience many manufacturers have tried and failed to replicate. The 911 is as good as sports cars get.
Still, there's an argument to be made for the GT, if only because it's so wonderful to look at, and its V8 gives it a charming bravado. Some people will buy it simply because it's not a 911, therefore not the obvious choice. The unfortunate truth for Mercedes is that the 911 is hands down the best car. But we completely understand why somebody would rather have a Mercedes-AMG GT - after all, sports cars are an emotional buying decision.
The most popular competitors of 2021 Mercedes-AMG GT: