“Ring master” IGNITION / New Cars So confident is #Mercedes-AMG
of the GT R’s abilities at a certain track, it named the paint colour after it. Words Kyle Fortune. #Mercedes-AMG-GT-R-C190
That’s what the people at AMG did when I last experienced the AMG GT R. I was at the Nürburgring, in the passenger seat with AMG racer and GT R development driver Thomas Jäger driving me around. Afterwards I was quietly pulled to one side and asked if I’d timed the lap. ‘No,’ was my short answer. Not for want of trying, but Jäger’s ferocity behind the wheel left me unable to do so. It felt quick, though. Very, very quick. ‘Seven minutes 20 seconds is around the time we expect,’ said the PR man from AMG.
I had been used. Fast-forward a couple of months and it has managed ten seconds less than that, AMG’s rival to the 911 GT3 RS monstering its most obvious foe around the benchmark track. So it’s fast, but then so is the GT S from which the R is derived.
Here there’s some sophistication, lessons learned from both its AMG GT3 racer relation and the extensive development work – much of which was around the Nürburgring its Green Hell Magno paint amusingly nods to. All this creates a sharper, more immersive and capable AMG. Helping achieve that is the usual go-faster recipe of less and more, less being weight, the GT R shedding 15kg over the GT S via a race engineer’s exotic material wish-list, the GT R having more carbonfibre, aluminium and titanium than any of its relatives.
That 15kg might not sound like so much, until you consider the mores. Obviously there’s more power, AMG’s 4.0-litre biturbo V8 re-worked to produce 577bhp and 516lb ft via revised breathing, more charge pressure from fasterspinning turbos, and lighter, stronger internals.
There’s active aerodynamics, an element in the front splitter adding 2kg of mass, but generating a more useful 40kg of downforce when it’s extended. It contributes to the overall 155kg of downforce, that number achieved despite a reduction in drag over the standard car.
Factor in wider tracks front and rear as well as those wings and it’s clear that those in the aerodynamics department have been extremely busy indeed. That aero work is enhanced by rear-wheel steering, improving both agility and stability, again to the benefit of those lap times, while the suspension retains adaptive dampers with variable settings, though it’s now a coilover set-up with adjustability. Then there’s the traction control system, the GT R offering nine – yes, nine! – settings, all the electronic thresholds and controls tuned to suit the GT R’s more focused, hardcore nature.
December means the Nürburgring is out of the question for seat time, but Portimao in Portugal is open for business. Bernd Schneider is suggesting a few laps in Race mode, which leaves the ESP on. For now. That a five-time DTM champion is sensationally quick isn’t a surprise; what is, is that it’s possible to just about keep up, despite a serious shortfall in talent. The GT R is immediately a friendlier, easier car to drive than its GT S relation, the limits significantly higher, but also delivered with greater clarity.
The responsiveness of the controls helps, the engine’s keenness for revs, the automatic transmission’s deftness in selecting ratios whether left alone or via the paddleshift, and the sensational soundtrack from the blaring titanium exhaust that’s been added to it, bringing a racer’s edge, and wicked pace.
It’s not the way it gathers speed that shocks so much, though. It’s what it can do with it. At the end of the main straight a brief glance at the speedometer reveals 165mph. Standing on the optional, but must-have, carbon ceramic brakes sees the GT R scrub off its speed with a physicality that’s incredible for a road car. Too much braking for the first couple of laps, the fast right-hander that follows can be taken faster, the combination of the sharper turn-in response, the greater stability and the sheer grip it generates allowing it to do so. Reach and breach its high limits and it’ll move around, but the way the GT R communicates what’s going on means that, unlike its GT S relation, it’s never intimidating, but something that can be enjoyed, even exploited.
Schneider suggests ESP-off and that ninemode traction control setting to be dialled around to six. That I’m even considering it underlines how impressive the GT R is, and that having multiple modes of traction control is actually useful, rather than merely a gimmick. Six is fine for the faster stuff, though wind closer to completely off and the GT R will arc out of slower bends with wilful disregard for its rear tyres.
Juvenile stuff, perhaps, but it highlights the sophistication of the development work on the GT R’s chassis. On the road it remains impressive; its suspension is obviously taut, but not overly compromised given its focus, the Mercedes losing some of its civility in favour of a far more involving, interesting drive. It’s worth it; the GT R is a sensational car.
There’s more to come, too, AMG boss Tobias Moers recently announcing AMG’s F1-derived hypercar, and not quite admitting (though neither denying) that there’s space for a Black Series above the GT R. On AMG’s current form, and on evidence of the GT R and the recent E63S, rivals should be worried.
Left and above A little lighter than the GT S on which it’s based, and more powerful too, but trick aero and traction control count for more.
‘IT’S NOT THE WAY IT GATHERS SPEED THAT SHOCKS SO MUCH, THOUGH. IT’S WHAT IT CAN DO WITH IT’