Road Tests

All in the 2018 Mercedes-AMG GT Family

A true sports car from AMG’s autobahn hot rod factory

BAD DRIBURG, Germany – No doubt you’ve read that BMW M chief Frank van Meel says he will not build a halo car to rival Mercedes-AMG’s Project One or even a dedicated sports car in the idiom of the Mercedes-AMG GT.

His strategy is the epitome of automotive self-confidence—or perhaps hubris if you’re a competitor or not a fan. All BMWs, from the M3 to the X3 to the i3, are sporting machines this strategy says, while Mercedes-Benz cars are big, steady rolling bank vaults, and only sporting in that the AMG models make good autobahn-pounding muscle cars.

But Mercedes-AMG has moved past that image with the front-midengine GT. While the first dedicated AMG-designed car, the SLS, cornered prodigiously and could eat up autobahn like nobody’s business, in this humble reporter’s experience, handled road circuits like a runaway train, cornering as if on rails, but making drivers like me wary about getting anywhere close to those rail-grip limits.

There’s none of that with the 577-hp Mercedes-AMG GT R coupe, the track-ready flagship of this series, which just went on sale in the U.S. this summer.

I began with just 469 horsepower from the base AMG GT coupe, starting at $113,395. Although this version has been on the U.S. market for a couple of years, it usually pays to work one’s way up the horsepower rungs, rather than begin at the top and find the lesser versions “underpowered.”

Don’t think of the GT as a lesser model, though. The AMG GT is a nicely balanced sports car, with its 4.0-liter biturbo V-8 placed front-midengine and driving the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The roads between Paderborn and Bad Driburg have their share of entertaining corners, though they’re not quite as entertaining as the Alpine roads in this part of Europe. The point here was to get us to the Blister Berg circuit where we could wring out a GT-R with impunity.

Three hot laps at Blister Berg in a 577-horsepower GT R coupe did upset my bottom-up strategy, though this mishmash, moving up and down the horsepower ladder, emphasized the point that the AMG GT lineup is about going fast everywhere and not just in a straight line. On these public roads with traffic and often-observed speed limits, it was hard to feel the difference between the non-GT-R variants. Here’s a breakdown of the GT “family”:

AMG GT
Makes 469 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque. It comes with the AMG Sport Suspension, limited-slip differential, and AMG Dynamic Select chassis settings. All GTs now come standard with AMG’s Panamericana grille.

AMG GT S
Boosts the turbo V-8 to make 515 horsepower and 494 lb-ft, adds an AMG Performance exhaust and a Burmeister Surround Sound audio system. The S also adds a Race mode to the AMG Dynamic Select system and AMG Ride Control adaptive sport suspension. Also, my tester had the optional active rear steering, which turns the back wheels up to 1.5 degrees, opposite front wheels at low speeds and with the front wheels at higher speeds, up to 62 mph. This active steering system is standard on the GT R.

AMG GT C Edition 50 Roadster
This was the sole convertible AMG GT that I drove. While the GT C is more powerful than the GT S, at 550 horsepower and 502 lb-ft, Mercedes-AMG markets it as “an autobahn burner, in total luxury,” to the GT S’s position as a “purpose-built sports car.” As with the GT S, it comes with e-LSD, an AMG Performance exhaust and Burmeister stereo, and Race mode for the AMG Dynamic Select. There’s also a lighter, lithium-ion battery. The chassis dynamics are a bit more automatic in the C versus the S, with AMG Ride Control, a continuously variable adaptive damping system, and AMG Dynamic Plus, in place of AMG Dynamic Select, with dynamic engine and transmission mounts, horsepower increases coming in at 6,000 to 6,500 rpm, and increased front-wheel negative camber. The active rear steering system is standard, and the rear fenders are widened by 2.25-inches, with a wider track and wheels.

The Edition 50 coupe, celebrating AMG’s founding by Hans-Werner Aufrecht, originally of Grossaspach, and Erhard Melcher, is a cosmetic package and goes on sale in the U.S. this fall, while the new GT Roadster and the GT C Roadster are available here in summer 2018.

AMG GT R
Thanks to a different turbocharger in this version, the R makes 577 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. Forged aluminum wheels are 10 x 19-inches front, 12 x 20 inches rear, one inch wider than on the GT S, and are shod with Michelin Pilot Sport Cups. Its adjustable nine-setting AMG Traction Control is based on the GT3 race car. While the AMG GT family features a 510-pound aluminum spaceframe, the R adds a lot of carbon-fiber parts, including front fenders and a stout carbon-fiber torque tube. It also gets the lithium-ion battery, and the active rear steering. There’s a manually adjustable coil-over suspension and AMG Dynamic Plus with the same features as on the GT C.

 

On the road, the 4.0-liter turbo V-8 is smooth and plenty powerful in any of its iterations, from 469 horsepower on up to 550 horsepower, and the car’s handling is forgiving and intuitive. The throttle response is perfectly linear, not at all what I’d expect from a turbo, and not what you’d get with any of the current crop of high-strung smaller displacement turbo engines.

The AMG GT corners with the confidence of a 991 Porsche 911, at least with all the nannies on, and perhaps a bit better because the Porsche has part of its engine hanging out over the rear axle, while the Mercedes engine is all contained behind the front axle.

At road speeds, I didn’t come close to triggering the stability control, anyway. The single noticeable difference between the base GT, the GT S, and GT C is that the latter two were equipped with the rear-steering feature. A sensitive backside could detect the rear wheels toeing into turns, steering with the rear wheels without feeling like it might slip into a drift.

On the public roads, there’s no discernable difference between ride and handling, though of course it does speed up the throttle and shift responses. The standard “comfort” mode is still plenty stiff, allowing just enough compliance around fast corners, though also rather firm over road imperfections. Paddling the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is quick and rewarding under “comfort” and quicker and even more rewarding under “sport.” You’ll want to use these paddles, connected to the wheel and not the column, more often than not. The steering is adequately light and very quick, and the brakes are just what you’d expect, which is to say they will save your hide.

This reassures me on the twisty, hilly, technical Blister Berg circuit. Let me set the scene: A professional race driver leads two journo-driven cars around the track for three and a half hot laps, the last half lap left for cooling things down. Mercedes-AMG let us lap in “race” mode. I didn’t turn off traction or stability control, and the rear tires stepped out slightly on a couple of occasions. No nannies intervened. Damping is perfect in the way it keeps the car steady, especially reaching the bottom of a fast downhill.

My first session came after arriving from driving the standard GT, and I deliberately took the second car. The driver in the car ahead of me had already been out once, so I fell behind the first two cars a bit. After taking the GT R out on the road course, I returned for a second session, and made the mistake of taking the second car behind the pro-driver pace car. Damn. I could have gone faster, and not to prove anything but the fact that the Mercedes-AMG GT R feels smaller than it is, and gives confidence to drivers like me who feel more at home on the track with a Mazda Miata/Fiat 124 Spider, or Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ.

The next day, my drive partner and I drove an AMG GT C Edition 50 Roadster from our hotel to the Paderborn airport. We kept the top down until the rain became too steady. As you might expect of a Mercedes, the car had no discernable cowl shake. The cozy two-seater has the sort of interior you’d expect of a six-figure Merc, with nicely bolstered seats and in the case of this roadster, the brand’s fabulous Airscarf neck-heater between the seats and headrests. The Mercedes-AMG GT series offers all the luxury and solidity you’d expect, but with the tight, light sports car feel you would not expect.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GT Specifications

ON SALE Now
PRICE $113,395
ENGINE 4.0L twin-turbo V-8, 469 hp @6,000 rpm/465 lb-ft. @ 1,750-5,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, coupe
EPA MILEAGE 16/22 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 179.0 x 76.3 x 49.6 in
WHEELBASE 103.5 in
WEIGHT 3,560 lb
0-60 MPH 3.9 sec
TOP SPEED 189 mph

 

2018 Mercedes-AMG GT S Specifications

ON SALE Now
PRICE $133,395
ENGINE 4.0L twin-turbo V-8, 515 hp @ 6,250 rpm/494 lb-ft. @ 1,750-4,750 rpm
TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, coupe
EPA MILEAGE 16/22 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 179.0 x 76.3 x 49.6 in
WHEELBASE 103.5 in
WEIGHT 3,627 lb
0-60 MPH 3.7 sec
TOP SPEED 193 mph

 

2018 Mercedes-AMG GT C Specifications

ON SALE Summer 2018
PRICE $157,995
ENGINE 4.0L twin-turbo V-8, 550 hp @ 5,750-6,750 rpm/502 lb-ft. @ 1,900-5,750 rpm
TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe
EPA MILEAGE 15/20 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 179.0 x 76.3 x 49.6 in
WHEELBASE 103.5 in
WEIGHT N/A
0-60 MPH 3.7 sec
TOP SPEED 196 mph

 

2018 Mercedes-AMG GT R Specifications

ON SALE Now
PRICE $157,995
ENGINE 4.0L twin-turbo V-8, 577 hp @ 6,250/516 lb-ft. @ 1,900-5,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe
EPA MILEAGE 15/20 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 179.0 x 76.3 x 49.6 in
WHEELBASE 103.5 in
WEIGHT 3,428
0-60 MPH 3.5 sec
TOP SPEED 198 mph

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Buying Guide
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EPA MPG:

16 City / 22 Hwy

Horse Power:

469 @ 6000

Torque:

465 @ 1700