You’re a Very Serious Driver. Nomex driving gloves are tucked in the glovebox of every car you own, a carbon-fiber helmet sits under your Senna poster, and your idea of a relaxing Sunday involves waking up in the wee hours to savor Lewis Hamilton’s inevitable podium at a far-flung international circuit. If you’re squirming with self-awareness right now, AMG has the sled for you.
These are the salad days for Mercedes-AMG racing, with five consecutive years of Formula 1 dominance and the current points lead in the Intercontinenal GT challenge. From that provenance comes the new 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro, the resoundingly capable answer to the question of how to eke more out of the already kick-ass—and Automobile All-Star—GT R before the inevitable Black Series model rolls out.
In the case of the GT R Pro, building a better supercar involves leaving the 577-hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 and seven-speed dual-clutch untouched and focusing instead on chassis tweaks borrowed from AMG’s GT3 and GT4 race cars. The optics are obvious: a steeper splitter dangling from aluminum fixtures, front dive planes, slotted fenders for proper air evacuation, and a more expansive rear diffuser. Furthering the point is a large fixed wing with a Gurney flap for greater downforce. The combined efforts of the Pro’s aero results in a claimed 220 pounds of downforce at 155 mph, with two-third of that force being exerted on the front axle. Underneath is a carbon-fiber shear panel to increase overall body stiffness, hollow carbon-fiber anti-roll bars, two-way adjustable coil-over dampers, and upper uniball spherical bearings to pair with the regular GT R’s lower units (lesser AMG GTs get standard bushings all around). Although official curb weight is undisclosed, AMG estimates the Pro model shaves 55 pounds of mass from the GT R’s 3,594-pound curb weight.
Germany’s Hockenheimring Circuit is Mercedes-Benz’s unofficial home track and perhaps the ideal place to experience this updated flagship. Our early April visit to the Upper Rhine Valley, however, is accompanied by steady rainfall and peak temps in the mid-40—suboptimal conditions for April travel, let alone hot laps in powerful machinery. But like you, we fancy ourselves Serious Drivers, so we shut up, geared up, and agreed to chase DTM legend Bernd Schneider around the high-speed course in the wet. Gulp.
The good news is that the GT R Pro is properly equipped for these dicey conditions, at least so far as protecting our hides, being equipped with an optional roll cage and carbon bucket racing seats with racing harnesses. Unfortunately for Stateside enthusiasts, the aforementioned safety equipment can’t be had here due to our notoriously track-unfriendly federal regulations. What does carry over to America is pretty much everything else, including the new TFT-equipped steering-wheel-mounted dials for adjusting key settings. It’s refreshingly modern, this new AMG Performance steering wheel, with the knobs being an easy way to tweak parameters like ESP, handling, and drive modes to your liking on the fly. But there are also some ergonomically unfriendly aspects to the cabin, namely the massive transmission tunnel and the way-back placement of the transmission lever. A warmed-over SL this ain’t: The GT’s bespoke platform with its low seating position and occasional rear blind spots speaks to its focused mission in a way that might confound the non-cognoscenti.
But the speed freaks get it. Clicked into Sport+—one mode down from Race, which itself is one mode down from “everything off”— the GT R Pro offers a hearty, rumbling exhaust note and a set of electronic reins just loose enough to allow for fun while keeping us from total embarrassment while chasing legendary DTM wheelman Schneider. The twin-turbo V-8 delivers a torrent of torque that must be carefully managed, especially since the peak of 516 lb-ft commences at a mere 2,100 rpm. Thankfully, the electronics are on your side. While we’d rather be flinging a free-breathing car around in the rain—we’re thinking of the easier-to-modulate, naturally aspirated Porsche 911 GT3 RS versus its forced-induction GT2 RS sibling—the AMG’s powerplant and power delivery is well-matched to the chassis in a way that means you’re rarely surprised by anything.
Partial credit goes to the upgraded dynamic engine and transaxle mounts, the toe and camber changes from the uniball bearings, and a dialed-in electronic rear differential. There’s also some computer-enhanced sleight of hand going here, especially through a four-wheel steering system that conspires via predictive logic with the stability and traction control to chart your intended trajectory. At lower speeds the yaw rate is palpably accelerated via the all-wheel steering, which is not an uncommon sensation when all four rollers are used to rotate the car. But the GT R Pro also excels at the high-speed stuff, as when Schneider takes the seemingly endless Parabolica curve at speeds upwards of 150 mph. Deciding whether to follow his rooster-tailed path and suffer reduced visibility or cut slightly inside proves an agonizing choice every lap, but for all five track sessions that day we managed to keep the Pro rubber-side down during this excruciating exercise.
At lower speeds it’s not all that difficult to trigger the stability-control light, but it’s also rather intuitive to wrangle the Pro’s considerable power by regulating throttle and steering inputs. We will admit to one hair-raising moment involving an off-camber corner and a slightly overenthusiastic right foot: For a split second, the GT R’s tail slid and the electronics caught the fishtail long before any carbon-based driver would have been able to. Humans: 0, Computers: 1. While we didn’t threshold brake as aggressively as we would have done in the dry, the AMG’s carbon-ceramic brakes were easy enough to modulate and avoid ABS engagement, and they scrub speed effectively enough that we worried our eyes might permanently bulge afterward.
The Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro will become available in late 2019 at a currently undisclosed premium over the GT R’s $162,900 asking price, although we figure you won’t see much change from $200,000. If you’re a cynic, you might find fault in the fact that the Pro’s 3.5 second zero-to-60-mph time and 198-mph top speed are unchanged over those of the, uh, amateur GT R. But you’ll also be missing the point. Though remarkably quick and capable, the Pro is not for those singularly obsessed with easily digested horsepower or performance numbers, as reflected by its limited production run of 750 (150 examples are earmarked for the U.S.). Rather, the GT R Pro makes its appeal to those folks—you know who you are—who take driving a bit more seriously than everyone else.
2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro Specifications
|ON SALE||Late 2019|
|ENGINE||4.0L twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8; 577 hp @ 6,250 rpm, 516 lb-ft @ 2,100 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe|
||15/20 mpg (city/hwy, est)|
|L x W x H||179.0 x 79.0 x 50.6 in|
|WEIGHT||3,500 lb (est)|
|0–60 MPH||3.5 sec (mfr)|
|TOP SPEED||198 mph (mfr)|