Mercedes-AMG GT Coupe [C190] (2015 - 2023) used car review

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By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

The 'C190'-series first generation AMG GT Coupe was a deeply desirable everyday supercar that built purposefully on the heritage of its SLS predecessor. It's uncompromising, intoxicating and very, very fast.

Models

2dr Coupe (4.0 V8 petrol)

History

The first Mercedes was a racing car. Ever since, the brand has had competition in its bloodline, drawn upon throughout a rich history of motorsport-orientated coupes and roadsters. Cars like this one, the Mercedes-AMG GT.

Mercedes-AMG is a brand that enthusiasts are now well used to, its primary focus being the creation of high performance versions of usually mundane Mercedes models. Every so often though, this Affalterbach division gets let off the leash to do its own thing and on the first occasion that happened, we got something very special - the SLS of 2009. This tribute to the Mercedes 300SL Gullwing model of the Fifties proved to be a landmark car for the brand, one that proved the Three-Pointed Star capable of mixing it with the might of Ferrari near the summit of the supercar spectrum.

It's one thing though, to prove such point in building a low volume, exorbitantly-priced supercar. Quite another to replicate that level of excellence at lower prices and with much greater production volume. That's the fresh challenge Mercedes set itself when it launched this GT model in 2015. The brand insisted that this car wasn't a direct SLS replacement, but it still sat on a modified version of that car's floorplan, was still primarily fashioned around similar aluminium spaceframe underpinnings and still used much the same 'AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT' 7-speed paddleshift transmission. It was still hand-built on the same bespoke Sindelfingen production line too.

With the GT though, all of these things were brought within the reach of buyers in a much more competitive part of the supercar segment. Where the SLS battled against Ferraris and Lamborghinis, this car, being up to 40% more affordable than that one was, had its focus shifted to arguably much tougher rivals, cars like Audi's R8 and various Porsche 911s. But it was well equipped for the task. As with the SLS, buyers still got a V8 beneath the bonnet, but this 4.0-litre engine was smaller and quicker-responding, with lighter weight and twin turbos comfortably compensating for the power deficit over that old car's 6.2-litre normally aspirated unit. The experience here though, wasn't just about power: Mercedes set out with this GT to create the most involving driving machine ever to sit in its regular model line-up.

The 510hp GTS version was the first GT Coupe model to go on sale in April 2015, that model joined by a lesser 476hp version at the end of that year. Next to be added to the range was an 'Edition 1' flagship model based on the S, which had a different body kit, a big fixed rear wing, carbon aerodynamic fixings at the front and staggered 19 and 20-inch wheels in gloss black. There was a light update in 2017 which saw a few cosmetic visual changes and the introduction of another variant, the GT C, arriving with 550hp, a wider body and active rear steering. For the top of the range, a very rare GT racer-style GT R variant was introduced with 585hp. This flagship performance variant supplemented the GT's normal 'Ride Control' suspension with adjustable coilover springs and included an active aero underbody fairing, a manually-adjustable rear wing and 9-mode AMG traction control. It was adopted as the F1 official safety car in 2018. An even harder-core GT R Pro variant arrived in 2019, which had extra downforce, tweaked suspension and a better power-to-weight ratio. 2019 also saw another light facelift for the mainstream models.

What about the Convertible Roadster body style? Well that arrived in 2017 and was offered in base GT and GTC forms. It used the GTR's underbody air management system and offered a 3-layer fabric hood that could be deployed in 11 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph, plus there was a wind deflector and the brand's usual Airscarf system. This MK1 'C190' GT model left production in mid-2023 and the replacement model was only available as a Coupe.

What You Get

Any supercar must be an eye-catching thing. The old SLS certainly was and, like that car, this GT coupe model makes quite an impression at first glance. Yes, a little disappointingly, it lacks the exotic gullwing doors that characterised its classic predecessor, but that's intentional, all part of a drive not only to reduce weight, complexity and cost but also to give this machine its own distinct character. It's also shorter and narrower than that previous Mercedes-AMG design, with aesthetic aggression that was ramped up several more degrees. Get one of these in your mirrors and you'd move over. Quickly.

Take a seat behind the wheel and the SLS underpinnings are betrayed by the way the designers tried to retain that car's huge over-sized central transmission tunnel, which came in a choice of chromed, high-gloss or carbon finishes. In a nod to the V8 engine up-front, it features eight 'AMG DRIVE UNIT' control buttons laid out in a V-formation. It's deliciously unnecessary to have as many as four jet engine-style chromed vents at the top of the centre stack, but it looks great and adds to the whole 'aviation'-style theme. Just above these sits an 8.4-inch 'COMMAND Online' infotainment screen that's far more cleanly integrated into the dash than it is on most other Mercedes models and features the usual sophisticated graphics that make those of every other rival system look dull and cheap.

And out back? With the hatch raised, there's a similar sort of wide, shallow boot compartment to that you'd get in a rival Jaguar F-TYPE SVR. The space provided though, is significantly less - 350-litres, or 285-litres if you close the retractable load cover to keep your belongings out of sight. Still, that's more than you get in an Audi R8 and it's enough to take two golf bags lengthways or crossways.

What You Pay

This GT model is actually a lot more affordable than its predecessor the SLS, which is difficult to find today for under £120,000. Early GT coupes with less than 50,000 miles on the clock in contrast, can be found at well under £60,000. We'll base the values we give here on the Coupe model: we will cover the Roadster in a separate guide. Prices start from around £50,000 (around £55,750 retail), which gets you a base 476hp entry-level model on a '15 plate. You'll need around £3,000 more for the preferable 510hp GT S model, which starts from around £53,000 on a '15 plate (around £56,500 retail). If you want to stretch to one of the last GT S models on a late '22 plate, you're looking at around £108,200 (around £118,250 retail). The rare GT R which arrived in 2019 values around £116,000 mark on a '19-plate (around £129,250 retail). For one of the last GT Night Edition models on a late '22-plate, you'll need from around £99,000 (around £110,750 retail). All quoted values are sourced through industry experts cap hpi. Click here for a free valuation.

What to Look For

Servicing is required every 12,500 miles. There are some recalls you should know about. GT models built between May 2018 and the end of October 2019 were recalled to address a potential leak from a turbo oil feed line. And there was a need to update the ECU software on cars built from the start of production until March 2017. There was a recall on cars built between April 2018 November 2019 to sort out an ESP control unit software issue. There was a recall on the software for the radio control unit on cars built between February 2017 and July 2019. And another recall was needed to replace the front seat belts on cars built between July 20 17 March 2018. We came across hard-to-pin-down problem with the Lane Assist system, so make sure that it works properly on the car you're looking at.

Check those huge, expensive-to-fix 19 or 20-inch AMG alloy wheels for scratches and nicks. Otherwise, it's the usual things here; interior trim and electrical issues were the most commonly afflicted things that came up. Check for uneven panel gaps and paint flaws. Inspect the electrics and the air conditioning functionality - it should blow our really chilled air. Obviously insist on a fully stamped up service book.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2020 GT S - Ex Vat) An air filter can be anywhere in the £13-£75 bracket, depending on brand. An oil filter is around £6-£12. A fuel filter is around £3-£10. A pollen filter's in the £11-£22 bracket. Front brake pads start from around £25; rear's start from £35-£45 upwards. Rear steel brake discs sit in the £60-£102 bracket. Alternators start from around £200 and you'll need from about £186 for a good water pump. A fuel pump's around £20.

On the Road

As with any AMG model, it's the engine that defines this car, a 4.0-litre biturbo V8 offering 476bhp in the base 'GT' model, 510bhp in the 'GT S' variant, 550hp in the GT C and 585hp in the GT R. In all its forms, it's a glorious-sounding powerplant with a lavishly intoxicating soundtrack that never lets up as you power to 62mph in around 4s (in the GT S) en route to a top speed that would be around 190mph on a track or an empty autobahn. All this frantic potential is harnessed by an 'AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT' 7-speed paddleshift auto gearbox with transmission toys that include a 'RACE START' launch control feature and software that blips the throttle on downshifts to the evocative accompaniment of popping and banging from the switchable AMG Performance exhaust system.

The exhaust note is one of the parameters influenced by the various settings of the car's 'AMG DYNAMIC SELECT' driving mode system, this being one of those set-ups that can alter throttle response, steering feel, gearshift timings and stability control thresholds to suit the way you want to drive. The set-up controls the damping too, courtesy of an 'AMG RIDE CONTROL' adaptive damping system we think you'll need to keep this car in check at speed over bumpier surfaces. It's on roads like these that you'll also appreciate this car's rear axle differential lock, a feature that's electronically-controlled in from the 'GT S' model upwards for quicker response. Running cost efficiency is quite impressive given the power on offer - expect 30.1mpg on the combined cycle and 219g/km of CO2 from a 'GT S' derivative.

Overall

The second car designed and built by Mercedes' AMG division was very different from the first - and not only because it lacked its predecessor's gullwing doors. The old SLS could be both supercar and a Continental cruiser, but with this AMG GT you sense from the beginning a refining of priorities. It's raucous, raw and uncompromising in its driver focus. As one writer put it, 'it's Merc's Mustang'.

That won't be for everyone. If you want a good all-rounder in this class, this isn't it. The ride is over-firm, it's not as practical as it could be and any perceived price advantage over obvious rivals disappears once you start to spec the car up in the way most owners will want. Even so, we don't care. This is one of those rare things: a truly exciting machine that you could also - just about - use as everyday transport without too many compromises. It's the kind of car that enthusiasts will still be talking about a century from now. There isn't anything more than that that needs to be said.

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