One of the most anticipated sportscars of 2016 recently set a record-breaking 7:10.92 Nurburgring lap time. It is clear that the Mercedes-AMG GT R is a serious weapon on track but the question we set out to answer is what is it like to drive on the road?
The Mercedes-AMG GT R is the most hardcore version of AMG’s own GT sportscar. It comes with a tweaked and updated version of AMG’s 4.0 liter V8 engine also found in the GT and GT S siblings. The total output is lifted to 585hp – exactly the same as the output of the old 5.5 liter AMG V8. Producing 700Nm of torque from as low as 1,900 rpm the AMG GT R accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 3.6 seconds. The Mercedes-AMG GT R top speed is 318 km/h – just shy of the 200mph mark.
The exterior design introduces a new material mix, active aero dynamics and a completely new front and rear design to aid performance of the GT R. The most eye catching new element is the “Panamericana” grill which hints back at the racing success of 1950s 300 SL Panamericana – this grill will soon also appear across the GT range. The rear diffuser hides two of the GT Rs three exhausts. Overall the aggressive styling of the GT R will give it a dominant position on the road and track.
Inside the new AMG GT R is very similar to the AMG GT S but there are some changes worth mentioning. New carbon fibre sport seats shave 16 kg off the weight. They are not as adjustable as the AMG GT S seats but provide excellent side support. Optionally the AMG GT R can be equipped with the Track Package which includes a roll cage and four point harness. For me personally the main drawback from the GT and GT S remains and that is that the interior space is quite limited for taller people, although it didn’t bother me as much as in the standard GT.
So the key question is what is it like to drive? Pressing the start / stop button in the center console fires up the V8 with a loud rumble. In Comfort mode it quickly closes the flaps and only presents a significant sound track higher up in the rev range – in Sport and Sport Plus the flaps open and a beautiful full bodied V8 sound graces the environment. For a real spectacle however you need to turn the drive mode wheel to Race – now the GT R pops and crackles every time you change gear or lift the throttle.
The location of choice for our road test with the AMG GT R is Algarve International Circuit in Portugal. But before I head out on track I will give it a try on the road first. There are some very nice roads around the track but a recent rain storm makes finding a dry bit of tarmac quite challenging.
In comfort mode the updated gearbox jumps through the gears without any drama, in sport and sport plus it shifts down under braking and even when using the paddles provides split second gear changes. With the GT R AMG set out to create one of the best handling road cars on the market and to do so they added a range of new technology to the AMG GT R of which active aerodynamics and rear-wheel steering are the most significant.
Finally having found a slightly damp bit of road it is time to see how the car deals with corners. Turning into the first few corners at moderate speed you can lead the car through at pinpoint accuracy. Even at higher speeds the GT R just follows your direction – no understeer, no oversteer, very little leaning. The steering angle is beyond what I had deemed possible and the rear wheel steering system clearly adds a significant improvement over the GT and GT S agility. Only when you provoke the GT R the back will swing out and thanks to the new ESP system it is surprisingly easy to control a drift.
The adaptive suspension offers three different modes; a very soft comfort mode, a slightly harder sport mode and hard sport plus mode. The bandwith between comfort and sport plus has increased – instead of decreased compared to the GT S. This means that in comfort mode the ride is actually softer than it is in the GT S and comfort wise on par with many a lot less capable sportscars. The reason for this is mainly due to further development of the chassis and suspension. Certainly a pleasant given for people looking to do a lot of road miles in their GT R.
Talking about comfort; to my surprise many comfort and luxurious features and optional extras have been retained. This includes Comand online – the extensive navigation and infotainment system, adaptive cruise control and even Burmesters high-end sound system. This makes that despite the AMG GT Rs appearance and hardcore sportscar it can very well be used as a daily driver.
On the road the AMG GT R combines a new level of handling and performance with a level of comfort and daily usability I wasnt expecting from “the beast of the green hell”. To see what it is really capable of and fully test the new ESP and traction control systems I have take the AMG GT R on track.
Swapping my Designo Selenite Grey AMG GT R for a stunning green hell magno GT R it is time to take on Algarve International Circuit – which happens to be my favorite track in Europe. Thanks to the elevation changes, fast straights and great corners it is an ideal place to test a cars abilities and have some proper fun doing it.
Race mode on – this automatically sets ESP to sport allowing for some small drifts before the ESP gently reestablishes traction. The manually adjustable rear wing is set a bit more vertical on the green GT R for additional down force on track. Customers can easily adjust their rear wings to the desired angle before going out on track. The grip is phenomenal and even with esp off you need to provoke the beast to swing the back end out. And once it does it is surprisingly easy to control – the work on the new ESP program clearly paid off.
One other new feature is the traction control switch that allows you to manually set the level of traction control over 9 different levels – 1 for wet roads and 9 for no traction control at all. The feature is carried over from motor sport and helps drivers get the ideal level of traction under all circumstances.
After the session on track it is time to reflect. The new AMG GT R is incredibly fast on track, not necessarily through insane straight line speed but through new level of cornering capabilities. In German it could be described as the ultimate “Kurvenjäger” – corner hunter.
One of the best things about the Mercedes-AMG GT R is the price. With a retail price of just over 165,000 euro in Germany it is cheaper than its direct competitors. And that is pretty unique as most Mercedes-Benz cars are usually more expensive than their competitors. And it comes pretty full option as included in that price are carbon fibre sport seats, adaptive suspension, sports exhaust, rear-wheel steering and dozens of other things that are usually an optional extra.
So what does that leave to spec as optional extra? I had a look a the option list and would recommend considering the following things:
Comand Online – the Mercedes-Benz connected infotainment and navigation system
AMG Ceramic Brakes – For those looking for maximum track performance this is an expensive but worthwhile addition
Distronic Plus – Adaptive cruise control
Parktronic – Parking sensors
AMG Track Pace – a free app where you can track and share your lap times and more
To conclude the Mercedes-AMG GT R is one hell of a machine. Capable of setting killer lap times on race tracks around the world but at the same time it offers a level of comfort and fun that would make it suitable as a great daily driver as well. It looks stunning especially with the new front grill and the aggressive rear end. Possibly the best about the AMG GT R is the price; you get a lot of car and technology for your money.