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Driven: Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster. Image by Mercedes-AMG.

Driven: Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster
Driving the ultimate Mercedes open-top is a truly intoxicating experience...

 



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Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: Sensational looks, lovely interior, monumental drivetrain, thunderous noise and pace, surprisingly brilliant chassis for a big roadster

Not so good: Some of the interior ergonomics require a degree of familiarisation

Key Facts

Model tested: Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster
Price: GT Roadster range starts from 113,430; GT C Roadster from 140,660, car as tested 145,490
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, AMG Speedshift DCT seven-speed automatic
Body style: two-door roadster
CO2 emissions: 259g/km (VED 2,070 first 12 months, then 450 per annum next five years of ownership, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 24.8mpg
Top speed: 196mph
0-62mph: 3.7 seconds
Power: 557hp at 5,750-6,750rpm
Torque: 680Nm at 1,900-5,500rpm

Our view:

Strange to think it, but we are sure there are people who look at the Mercedes-AMG GT range with no little amount of head-scratching confusion. Here we have seven cars - now that Affalterbach has decided to slot the GT S Roadster into the line-up - that, on the face of it, offer very minimally separated degrees of performance and traffic-stopping presence for a range of exclusively high prices. Split across the two body styles (Coupe and Roadster), the AMG GT does anything between 188- and 198mph flat out, accelerates from 0-62mph between 4.0 and 3.7 seconds, and costs between 102,030 and 144,530.

And they all use exactly the same 'hot-inside-V' 4.0-litre biturbo V8 petrol engine, in the following states of tune: GT, 476hp; GT S, 522hp; GT C, 557hp; and GT R, 585hp. Even the torque only differs by 70Nm, from the GT's 630Nm to the GT R's 700Nm. So, can a GT C Roadster like this truly feel special and unique, if compared to - say - a GT S Coupe? Are such fine margins of differentiation discernible to we mere mortals?

Well, we think so. And, in defence of the AMG GT family as a whole, Porsche has been selling the 911 for years in a variety of modestly different, yet really very fast guises, and no one complains about that. And McLaren has made a particularly neat trick of offering an array of blindingly fast supercars of varying degrees of expense, simply by using one carbon tub and one twin-turbo V8 engine in subtly tweaked flavours.

The GT C, then, is the halfway-house between the fast-but-refined sports cruiser that is the GT S, and the unhinged and ferocious GT R, which is heavily track-focused. Trying to think of a 911 analogue, if the GT S is a Carrera S and the GT R is a GT3 or GT2, then the GT C feels like a GTS. Erm... sorry, does any of what we've just said make any sense? No? OK, we'll swiftly move on.

The simple definition of the GT C is that it uses the wider rear axle, tricksy rear-wheel-steering set-up, electronically-controlled limited-slip differential and wider wheels/tyres of the GT R, while still trying to preserve a sliver of everyday civility as befits the, um... 'lesser' models of AMG GT. The GT C also serves as the pinnacle of the Roadster arm of the line-up, because AMG feels that the fire-breathing R specification should be reserved for the Coupe shell only.

And, in one of those moments that some might think is 'oh, they're merely trying to justify not getting the GT R on test by saying this', the GT C Roadster might be the very best AMG GT of the lot. Here's why. It turns every single journey, every last mile, inch and millimetre (yeah, we mixed metric and imperial - DEAL WITH IT!), every single second you spend behind its wheel into a special, memorable event. You don't have to drive the GT C Roadster like you're catastrophically late for your own mother's funeral to get enjoyment out of it. For starters, the monster V8 drivetrain sounds angrier in the GT C than it did in the last GT S we drove, with a more insistent snarl to it and all the right sort of eight-cylinder grumbles, pops and thuds from the exhaust. Sonically, the C is already informing you that there's mischief to be had when driving it.

There's also more precision evident in everything the GT C does, especially with its firmly-controlled ride and the accurate, feelsome steering, than in the GT S Coupe. So, before you've gone anywhere near the higher reaches of the AMG's rev counter, you already know it's going to be keenly dialled-in to the tarmac when you need it to be. The AMG Speedshift gearbox is another winner, only packing seven speeds here - some other performance Mercs use the nine-speed transmission - but still silky smooth in its automatic shift patterns and quick to respond to clicks of the paddles.

Further, it's a wonderful ambience in the Roadster's cabin, with its folding roof capable of being dropped away within 11 seconds, even on the move at speeds of up to 31mph. Although, having said that, the button to control it is up near the interior mirror on the GT C, when other Mercedes convertibles tend to have it on the centre console; this is another instance of where you have to 'learn' the German company's interior ergonomics, rather than them feeling like second nature to operate.

No matter - it's a minor quibble and, once you take one look at the GT C Roadster, slightly awkwardly-placed interior switchgear will be the least of your concerns. What a stunning car. It perhaps lacks for the outrageous visual machismo of the old SLS but, for many, that might be a good thing. And any vehicle with a bonnet this long and a passenger compartment so short is almost guaranteed aesthetic success. People will look at you in the GT C Roadster; often, and conspicuously, because it's a car that demands attention - so don't buy it if you're a shy and retiring type.

Your driving position, sat way back on the axle and looking out over that striking prow, with its twin powerdomes stretching away, only adds to the drama of the GT C once you come to terms with its relatively benign daily-driver nature and then decide to fully open the taps to transform it. With a tremendous, atavistic roar, the AMG Roadster kicks you into the middle-distance in furious, short order... and it's utterly intoxicating stuff. However, raw pace is not something any AMG GT lacks, even the 476hp variants; what marks the GT C soft-top out as genuinely brilliant is the way it handles.

The AMG still feels like a big car when you're threading it down a narrow country lane at higher speeds, because when you're positioned so far from the front corners of the vehicle it can sometimes feel like a guessing game as to where you need to point it, but what inspires more confidence in how you wrestle it into the right position is the superb rear axle. The GT C is far more composed and grippy than the GT S, with a steely focus on body control and masses of traction from its road-roller rear rubber. Honestly, you can run the car in 'Race' mode in the dry and the lower reaches of the throttle travel do not become 'most gross danger' zones if you're in the lower gears. Delicate and scalpel-like, the GT C is not, but capable and absolutely enormous fun, it most certainly is.

Take liberties with it, though, and the GT C soon reminds you it has 680Nm coursing through its mighty 305-section rear tyres. In the damp, you can get oversteer in third and fourth gears if accelerating reasonably sharply in a straight line. That plays on your mind, which means you have to take the time to carefully learn the GT C, to be aware of precisely what it's going to do if you squeeze on the power too eagerly in that bend near your home which you think you know really well, but that's because you've only driven it in something with 200hp maximum before.

And that's the GT C's brilliance. It doesn't yield up all its secrets straight away. Not everyone will gel with it or get the best from its challenging yet charming chassis. It could be argued to be too much car for the UK's cratered, fiddly roads. Yet we think it's getting close to big sports car perfection. It can be used every day without feeling boring, the convertible roof gives it an added sense of exhilaration and 'wow' factor, and when you do finally pick up on some of its (very few) dynamic foibles and work around them, then it's one of the most rewarding and complete drivers' cars to have ever worn the AMG insignia.

The GT C Roadster is not cheap, it's not massively practical and it's about as surreptitious as Donald Trump in full bombast mode, but it's a magnificent V8 creation which deserves the highest of praise. And it feels notably more special than the GT or GT S models further down the line, to boot. Seems like Mercedes-AMG can spin several different entertaining sports car yarns out of the same ball of engineering wool, after all. And what a spectacular ball of wool it turns out to be.

Alternatives:

Audi R8 Spyder plus: Audi does the decent thing and now offers you the 610hp version of the V10 in its mid-engined roadster. And as the 540hp model is sublime as it is, this can only be good news.

Jaguar F-Type SVR Roadster: Bizarrely, 575hp SVR soft-top is heavier than the AMG GT C, despite looking much smaller. Jaguar is a fine car but the Mercedes-AMG is even finer still.

Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet: The combination of a 580hp twin-turbo 3.8-litre flat-six, four-wheel drive and an open-top roof makes for a 911 that isn't the purists' favourite, but which is still epic.


Matt Robinson - 16 May 2018









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