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What happens when you see there’s a special sneak peak event for the AMG GT online? Well you try everything in your power to get in. The event was an invite only shindig for AMG customers and dealers. I knew there was no way I could bluff my way in, so I rang an English-speaking Mercedes dealer in Azabu to ask if I’d be allowed in. The lady said she wasn’t sure but to try to go anyway.

The soirée was held at the posh Grand Hyatt Hotel in the equally posh area of Roppongi. For those unfamiliar with Tokyo, Roppongi is pretty much one of the most affluent areas in a city known for its excess. Porsche 918s, Ferrari Enzos, and Rolls Royces are common sights in this part of town.

Anyway, I got to the entrance of the function room Mercedes had hired out. There was a guest list and everything. It was perhaps one of the fanciest things I’ve been to and I realised the possibility of being told to bugger off was very likely. After all, Japanese people have a culture of sticking to the norms and rules. Luckily, in this instance, the staff at the door were very understanding and friendly. I was in. Immediately I was told by countless Mercedes staff members that I was allowed to take photos but was not allowed to post them online until after the car’s official Japan launch on May 8.

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Then I saw them, a pair of AMG GTs under the spotlight. On the left was a white Edition 1 and on the left a bright Solar Beam Yellow GT S. I’ll admit when I first saw photos of the GT online I was adamant it’d have the same presence as the almighty SLS it replaces. The SLS was a fantastic looking car but it’s not one I would call beautiful. I can happily report the AMG GT, in the metal, exudes presence and has the beauty to match.

The AMG GT has a much cleaner appearance than the SLS, there’s no excess to its design. There aren’t any juvenile grilles or unnecessary creases in its bodywork. It is simply beautiful. And that kind of sets off the tone for the rest of the car. It’s like an SLS but with more sophistication. Think of it as a bit like an SLS with its shirt tucked in.

I spent a great deal of time staring at the exterior. It’s a car that’s very easy on the eye and ticks all the right boxes for me. It’s pretty but aggressive, it’s low and wide, and just the right size with a bonnet taking up half the car’s length. By this time I was joined by Takanori ‘Tak’ Nagoya, Product Manager for the AMG GT. He gave me the grand tour around the AMG GT.

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We looked at the Solar Beam car first. That colour is a quite a costly optional extra, yours for ¥1,200,000 ($13,524). That’s about the price of a first-gen Mercedes SLK. He justifies the price by saying it’s a very special paint that has a unique shine. The manufacturing process of the paint is also quite tricky, getting it to match on the aluminium body and plastic bumpers. Luckily I’m more of a silver kind of guy.

This car was also equipped with a Performance Pack, which included carbon-ceramic brakes and different alloys. Weirdly, this pack is less expensive than the Solar Beam paint. Mercedes are very keen to push the AMG GT as an “everyday supercar”, one worthy to compete against the Porsche 911. To demonstrate its practicality they put a pair of golf bags in the boot (to appeal to the number of Japanese businessmen present no doubt). Unlike the SLS, the GT benefits from a hatchback tailgate and it really does add to the car’s practicality.

Inside, the AMG GT is just as impressive at it is on the outside. The first thing that draws your eyes is the massive centre console. It’s more an architectural masterpiece than anything else. It’s an impressive chunk of aluminium slap bang in the middle of the interior. You sit quite low and you definitely get the feeling of the whole interior wrapping around you.

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On this Bauhaus centre console are the rotary dial and trackpad for the COMAND infotainment system, gear selector, and many buttons designed to make you as happy as possible. The button I was most interested was for the sports exhaust. Unfortunately health and safety meant we weren’t allowed to start the car up inside. A damn shame.

As for the driving position, well it was a left hand drive car so it felt spot on. It’ll be interesting to see if it’ll feel the same when the steering wheel is on the right side. Racy would be the accurate word to describe it. The thick alcantara-trimmed steerinng wheel, the supportive sports seats, and the decent visibility made me want to take it out for a spin. Getting in and out of the GT was a lot easier compared to the SLS. Gone are the “look-at-me” gullwings and in are normal doors. The sills are quite high and as I said the driving position is quite low but at least now you don’t have to fold yourself like an acrobat.

A feature worth mentioning on Japan-spec AMG GT is the DISTRONIC adaptive cruise control. It’s standard fit as its required by law, making Japanese GTs the first in the world to have DISTRONIC. Other markets will have this as an optional extra later in the year.

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Tak opens the bonnet. Powering the AMG GT is an all-new ‘M178’ 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 with two power outputs. It’s essentially the same engine that’s in the new C63 AMG, however in the GT it has dry sump lubrication whereas the C63 is wet sump. The new engine is extraordinarily compact. It’s mounted right up behind the front axle, making this a front-mid engine car. That also means there’s a lot of nothing between the nose of the car and the actual engine. Mercedes have been able to do this by housing the turbochargers inside the ‘V’. Not only does it take up less space, but it also reduces lag.

The engines also have active engine mounts which adjust depending on the conditions. Apparently the increase refinement when cruising and reduce unwanted shifts in mass when driving in a sportier manner. The C63 will also get the same active engine mounts.

Unlike in New Zealand, Japanese buyers will get a full GT lineup. The standard GT starts off at ¥15,800,000 ($178,068). For that you get 470bhp/350kW and 600NM of torque, part-ARTICO leather seats with no electric adjustment. Tak explains this was the only way Mercedes Benz Japan could price the GT below the ¥16,000,000 ($180,322) mark. Move up to the ¥18,400,00 ($207,370) GT S and you get 510bhp/375kW and 650NM of torque, plus leather and power seats. The limited run GT S Edition 1 starts at ¥20,000,000 ($225,402).

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There’s not that much more on the Edition 1 car over the standard GT S. There are more aero bits such as a front splitter, winglets on the front bumper, and a fixed rear spoiler. There’s also a carbon-fibre roof and black exterior trim. Oh and more red highlights inside.

Tak says Mercedes expects to sell more of the GT than the SLS, chiefly because of its lower starting price. The SLS started from around Y25,000,000 when new. Another factor is the availability of right-hand drive. For reasons I cannot fathom, the SLS was only available in left-hand drive in Japan. Many here prefer their foreign cars in LHD as it gives them the full foreign experience.

Considering the amount of interest it generated on the day (apparently a few people placed orders that day), I can see the GT having a better reception in Japan than the rather lukewarm response of the SLS. As for me, well I was adamant about the AMG GT when I first heard about it. I wasn’t sure about decreasing the size of the engine from 6.2-litre to a 4.0-litre then adding two turbos and the lack of gullwings didn’t do it any favours too. But now that I’ve seen it up close and personal, it does seem like a much more rounded proposition than the SLS.

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The ridiculousness of the SLS will always appeal to me but I can certainly see a case for the AMG GT as a more usable and day-to-day supercar prospect. I’ve made my love for this car very obvious so it comes as no surprise that I’d pick this over its rivals but would I pick it over the SLS? I’d need more time to think on that.

There’s no information on a release date for the NZ market… yet. But pricing has been announced. Given the GT in Japan is priced up against the Porsche 911, Audi R8, Jaguar F-Type R Coupe, and BMW i8, you’d expect a price tag in the $300,000 region, well you’d be right. NZ-spec GT S (with more standard equipment) will start from $275,000. It’ll undoubtedly go a lot higher with the right options. However, considering that’s about half the price of what the SLS used to be and the GT is as good as the SLS, I’d say that’s not such a bad deal. We’d have to put on an Auto Clique Road Tested review of the GT S on NZ roads to see if it’s really worth it though (hint hint).

*Update: There’s a GT S on display at the Mercedes-Benz Connection showroom in Ropppongi, and it’s causing quite a stir. That can only be a good sign for Mercedes!

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