Monday 17th December 2018
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Driven: Mercedes-AMG GT R. Image by Mercedes-AMG.

Driven: Mercedes-AMG GT R
The ultimate AMG GT driven on UKs roads - just how scary is it?

 



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Mercedes-AMG GT R

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: first-class driver's car with a wealth of skills and a glorious character all of its own

Not so good: you need to know exactly where all the switches are to operate things smoothly...

Key Facts

Model tested: Mercedes-AMG GT R
Price: GT range starts from 99,245; GT R from 143,245; car as tested 162,560
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, AMG Speedshift DCT seven-speed automatic
Body style: two-door coupe
CO2 emissions: 259g/km (VED Band Over 255: 2,070 first 12 months, then 450 per annum next five years of ownership, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 24.8mpg
Top speed: 198mph
0-62mph: 3.6 seconds
Power: 585hp at 6,250rpm
Torque: 700Nm at 1,900-5,500rpm
Boot space: 285 litres

Our view:

Barely two weeks after we'd sampled the particularly magnificent delights of the Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster, its big brother turned up for seven days of evaluation. Now, the ferocious AMG GT R comes with something of a reputation: early critical reports said that, while it was tremendous fun, it was also a tremendous handful in the wrong conditions - and we do live in Britain, when all's said and done.

Thankfully, the GT R spent time with us in the midst of the hottest summer in living memory, save for 1976 and all that, and so any adrenaline-coursing terror that might have been was kept to the barest minimum of levels. However, on the basis of almost 395 miles in the company of Affalterbach's supposedly demonic creation, we're inclined to think talk of it being an untameable monster might be a bit over the top.

Because we adored it. The 585hp Mercedes turned up immediately after a week spent with a 991.2 Porsche 911 GT3 manual, and do you know what? We genuinely can't choose between them. And when you consider how revered a 911 GT3 is these days, for its sublime level of dynamic ability, then that should reflect very favourably indeed on the AMG GT R.

The thing is, the GT R is not like the 911 GT3 to drive. At all. Oh, sure, both of them are German, and both of them are hardcore, focused coupes, and both of them cost in the region of 110,000-150,000, and both of them will do 0-62mph in the low to mid threes with a top speed knocking on the door of the magical double-ton. But the sheer difference in physical make-up should give you the first clue that they're not alike in the slightest, when it comes to how they're going to dissect a given road: the lighter Porsche (1,413kg) is rear-engined, normally-aspirated and boasts six cylinders; the heavier Merc (1,630kg) is a front-engined, twin-turbo V8.

So, it's like comparing a sniper rifle to a semi-automatic, a weapon of precision to one which obliterates all in its way. Both are different means to an end and, happily, we don't think you have to choose between the Porsche and the Merc; we think you should be happy that both the scalpel-like GT3 and the machete madness of the GT R can exist in a world where everyone is downsizing and going hybrid and flashing their headlights at you if you so much as dare to think about overtaking.

The Mercedes-AMG has a sense of theatre that few cars at any price level can match. You sit way down low in its Alcantara-drenched cabin and what seems like miles back from its long, long prow that houses the 4.0-litre biturbo V8 up front, and it's a fantastic place to spend some time - even if, as our only bugbear about the AMG GT R, it still has the weirdly obtuse switchgear layout of all AMG GTs, such as hazard-warning switches on the roof, Mercedes' slightly-less-than-intuitive Comand infotainment and a stumpy little gear lever mounted almost under your elbow.

Still, slight niggles aside, the interior of the AMG GT R is wonderful - the obvious difference between it and any of its brethren being the yellow traction control dial, slap-bang in the middle of the console. And it draws attention like little else, thanks to its exterior styling. The GT is a handsome-looking thing anyway, but adorn it with a fixed rear spoiler, bulging carbon-fibre front wings and some polished-rim black alloys and it's impossible to avoid the almost obvious conclusion: save for a few decals and a number on its door, this thing looks like it has just rolled off the Spa-Francorchamps circuit after another gruelling 24-hour endurance race. It's jaw-dropping.

Brilliantly, for the most of our week with the AMG GT R, it was forced into long, tedious motorway commutes and it incredibly managed to excel at such things. If you're thinking a few hundred miles on the M1, M4 and M25 in a track-biased car was nothing more than punishment duty, then think again. Granted, the R doesn't have the suppleness of some of its less muscular siblings, like the GT and GT S, but while its ride quality was necessarily taut and controlled, it was never uncomfortable. With the big V8 barely ticking over at motorway cruising speeds, it's possible to get an average 25mpg out of the AMG, which is a stupendous return for something with nearly 600hp, and it can still - to a degree - fulfil the 'GT' bit of its name badge.

However, an overall average economy of 19.6mpg rather tells the story of how the GT R was driven when it wasn't reeling off the mundane miles on the motorway network. The first striking thing is how AMG has managed to screw yet another tune out of the same instrument, as the GT R's intake and exhaust note is even more ferocious and menacing than that of the GT C Roadster. This makes even low speeds seem like an event, as the Mercedes chunters, snorts and pops its way around on part-throttle, but open the taps and the R becomes divine.

It commands respect - 700Nm flowing through the rear tyres alone, no matter their colossal 325 cross-section, will soon have the rubber's grip on the road surface ebbing away, and if you hold onto the throttle for any significant length of time then the V8's strength will soon have you doing speeds that will not sit easily in a court of law. Fast, the AMG GT R is not - it's several leagues beyond 'fast' and somewhere in the vicinity of 'insanely rapid'.

But in terms of its handling, the GT R is by no means spiky and ill-resolved. Indeed, our favourite drive in it came on a tiny, sinuous Cotswold road, before 8am was even showing on the clock and with a light drizzle greasing up the uneven surface. With the traction control dialled down to a lower level, the balance of the GT R was heavenly; minor slips and moments of oversteer were easily controlled and graceful, not sweaty-palmed and abrupt, and it made the best use of its traction and torque to rip along the route at a dizzying pace. Although its two-metre width means a typical UK country lane is not its preferred medium, it doesn't mean you should avoid such things altogether.

This is because the AMG Ride Control adjustable suspension is absolutely top drawer. It lets the AMG breathe with rougher road surfaces and makes the whole car feel planted at a wide variety of speeds, meaning you have the confidence to dig into the throttle earlier than you might imagine. The mechanical 'slipper' on the rear axle, the car's four-wheel steering system and its razor-sharp front end all combine to make this GT R every bit as thrilling, rewarding and downright majestic as the 911 GT3. Seriously. It might go about its business in a louder, less delicate manner than the Porsche, but it is no less a dynamic deity as a result. We're absolutely in love with this beautiful beast.

Yep, no doubt about it, the higher up the AMG GT tree you climb, the more delicious the fruits you'll find there. And in terms of automotive delicacies, then there is very, very little that is tastier than the madcap, marvellous and mega Mercedes-AMG GT R. Honestly, has there ever been a better time for performance car fans to be alive? We don't think so.

Alternatives:

Audi R8 plus: Another German coupe that's all about going fast - and another layout again means it's another driving experience entirely. Audi's mid-mounted NA V10 is an absolute diamond of an engine and the R8's AWD chassis is marvellous, too.

BMW M4 GTS: You can't get hold of these as new any longer, but BMW's water-injected brute is already an appreciating asset and it's one of the finest M cars ever committed to sheet metal.

Porsche 911 GT3 RS: A 991.2 GT3 would be a fine comparison to the Mercedes on its own, but for the same lurid bodywork and extreme track-focused bent, the sensational GT3 RS is the Stuttgart alternative.


Matt Robinson - 17 Aug 2018









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2018 Mercedes-AMG GT R. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG GT R. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG GT R. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG GT R. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG GT R. Image by Mercedes-AMG.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GT R. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG GT R. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG GT R. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG GT R. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG GT R. Image by Mercedes-AMG.








 

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