Following the fire-breathing SLS was always going to be a monster task for Mercedes-AMG. But, as we discovered deep in the Norwegian fjords, they have triumphed with the GT S – a gentle giant with the strength to move mountains
Fans of Monty Python will know all about the Norwegian Blue. However, for the benefit of millennial petrolheads, allow me to explain. This cult comedy sketch sees John Cleese complaining to pet-shop spiv Michael Palin that he has been sold a dead parrot. After much hilarious toing and froing (sorry, I can’t do the voices), Palin explains that the remarkable bird – with its beautiful plumage – hasn’t actually “kicked the bucket, shuffled off his mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible” as Cleese claimed. The reason for the Norwegian Blue’s apparent lack of life is down to one thing: he is pining for the fjords.
Now, nearly 50 years after that surreal routine was first broadcast, I finally get the joke. And having spent three days driving around the most incredible strips of tarmac in Noway, I can tell you it really isn’t funny (despite all the Radio Times accolades). Pining for the fjords is a very real and truly terrible affliction. As is pining for the Mercedes-AMG GT S.
“Mercedes-AMG set a pretty high bar and cleared it with Oympian ease”
Introduced by the Stuttgart-based carmaker in 2014 as the successor to (not a replacement for, Mercedes pointed out) the bombastic and bonkers gull-winged SLS, the GT was conceived as a smaller, stripped-back sports car that would cost less than its big brother, deliver more driver excitement and be a full-on, full-fat muscle-car rival to the Porsche 911 Turbo, the Jaguar F-Type and the Audi R8. In other words, Mercedes-AMG set themselves a pretty high bar… But they have cleared it with Olympian ease.
“A GT has to make the right noises and Metallica couldn’t generate this much stereophonic thunder”
Developed entirely in-house, what the GT S lacks in brute force (the SLS packed a 6.3-litre supercar punch that delivered a 199mph top speed) it makes up for in on-road refinement, sleeker and sexier styling and, dare we say, practicality. Because to be a genuine GT, this car not only has to look the part, make the right noises (Metallica couldn’t generate this much stereophonic thunder) and handle like a Grand Theft Auto cheat code, it also needs to be usable. That means: all-day motoring comfort (tick). Desirable driving position (tick). Boot space (tick). And back seats (tick, if you are travelling with Peter Dinklage and, er, Sneezy).
The GT S would, quite simply, look good anywhere. But to get the most out of it, you need to really be somewhere, and few places on earth have roads that can compete with Norway’s.
From the snow-capped peaks and the stunning switchbacks of the Trollstigen Mountain Road (aka The Troll’s Pass), through to the spectacular curved bridges of the coastal Atlantic Road, if ever there was a country worthy of automotive exploration it is this one. Our advice would be to aim for late May/early June, when all of the roads have reopened after winter and daylight stretches out for close to 20 hours.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that although there aren’t a great number of safety enforcement cameras in the country, speeding and general traffic offences are subject to extremely heavy on-the-spot fines.
The other danger with driving in Noway is that the weather conditions can be hazardously unpredictable. Driving rain, blizzards and snowstorms can hit at any time. Freezing fog and ice can make the roads treacherous. Even in a car as well-balanced and as grippy as the Mercedes-AMG GT S, if you lose concentration you’ll soon discover that all the Collision Prevention Assists, driver and passenger knee air bags and blind-spot warnings in the world won’t stop you from plummeting hundreds of feet down rocky outcrops.
But don’t let something like plunging into an icy fjord in a ball of flames discourage you from exploring this incredible country. You might end up as dead as the Norwegian Blue, but it really would be a hell of a way to go…
Norwegian Air flies from London Gatwick to Alesund from £44.90 one way.
The GT has proved so successful that next year Mercedes-AMG will be releasing a GTR version, a GT4 version, a GT4 race car, and also a convertible GT Roadster