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Road Test: 2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S roars with American accent

The question first popped up when the 503-horsepower Mercedes-AMG GT S roared to life one cool morning last week in San Francisco: This is from a German car company, right?

With a throaty burble at idle, and crackling exhaust when you lift the throttle, it sounded more like an American muscle car than a German sports car.

Later that day, on the famed Laguna Seca track in Salinas, the car's American flavor -- loud, rude and easy to provoke into tailslides -- seemed even more pronounced.

The 2016 GT S made its North American debut in November and will go on sale next spring.

Its proportions are seductive: a long hood and high beltline, matched with a low-slung cockpit that melts into a rear end with a fully-retractable rear spoiler. This car has no edges; one panel flows into the next.

Inside, the cockpit wraps around the driver and passenger, who sit low within the car's clutches. There's plenty of headroom, even for tall passengers wearing helmets. Trunk space under the car's sloping hatchback is a usable 12.4 cubic feet. Downsides include poor visibility and ergonomics. Mercedes put the transmission's shifter too far back on the center console. And too many buttons crowd around the shifter, controlling suspension, transmission, exhaust and four driving modes.

But the cockpit is nonetheless beautiful and assembled with a fanatical attention to detail. The interior is as curvaceous as the exterior, and slathered with leather, suede and brushed metal.

Nestled in that center console is the engine's starter button. Press it and the GT's burly V-8 roars to life before settling down with a hearty rumble.

Around town, the GT S we tested was surprisingly stiff, even with the suspension set to "Comfort." But once the road smooths out and the traffic subsides, the GT is a world-class athlete.

The engine pulls the car toward the horizon with astonishing acceleration, hitting 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, and never lets up. Top speed is 193 mph. The car changes direction with sure-footed poise, and yet it was still easy to break the tail loose in a predictable drift. Smart stability control software and an electronically locking rear differential keep the car facing forward and clear of track-side walls or roadside ditches.

The AMG GT S most closely matches up with Porsche's 520-horsepower 911 Turbo. But that car has a rear-mounted six-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive, giving it fundamentally different handling than the front-engine, rear-drive AMG GT S.

The wilder, louder AMG GT S is more concerned with having fun. Consider it German with an American accent.


Base price: $130,000 (estimate)

Price as tested: $150,000

Engine: 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8 engine

Transmission: Seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic with paddle shifters

Power: 503 horsepower

Zero-to-60 mph: 3.7 seconds

EPA fuel economy: N/A

Width: 76.3 inches

Length: 179 inches

Height: 50.7 inches

Bottom line: German sports car with American accent

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