Mercedes-Benz has realised that the only way to silence naysayers who point aggressively at the sybaritic leanings of its top-shelf grand tourer is by releasing an angrier edition – and so we have the AMG GT R, Merc’s new ‘It Car’, whose hellraising, Porsche-beating antics are being lauded by enthusiasts the world over.
Contrary to what the trending ‘#BeastoftheGreenhell’ moniker suggests, the GT R didn’t escape from a tree-huggers convention. It just happens to have been developed by racers, at that hallowed/dreaded portal to motoring perdition – the Nurburgring race track in Germany, lovingly dubbed “green hell” by the legendary Jackie Stewart. And if a car boasts of a sub-7 minute lap record at Nurburgring, hell doesn’t begin to describe what it’s been through to get there.
If the wide-body kit and wider track didn’t point out the fact that we’re dealing with peak-AMG, perhaps a look at the spec-sheet ought to clear the matter up – because from where I’m standing, the GT R comes across as a bargain, at Rs 2.23 crore. For approximately Rs 14 lakh over the top-spec GT S, the GT R gets carbon-fibre body parts, a totally redesigned suspension, rear-wheel steering and extra power and torque. It doesn’t seem to have compromised vastly on its road-going ability either, from the looks of it.
What all the changes translate into is an astoundingly precise trackbased experience. To truly understand the effect of the changes, it is important to visit the car in a less rarified form, though. For this, I got into the Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster – launched right alongside its limelight hogging cousin. The GT Roadster is a good 109 bhp poorer, but god it’s good looking. It’s also rather fast, since 476 bhp seem inadequate only when 585 bhp lie 10 feet away. Despite the reinforced door sills, the Roadster feels its weight, but even in Sport+ mode, it never threatens to go into a sideways spiral. Something about its shape tells you it’s here to have fun, and so you focus less on its point-andshoot capabilities and more on the wide grin that’s broken on your face as a result of its power-to-fun ratio. More than anything else, it’ll compel you to just stop and stare, because it’s so easy on the eye. It’s hard to tell which form suits the AMG GT more – coupe or roadster – but the more time you spend with the Roadster, the more convinced you are that the AMG GT was meant to be topless.
Right, now you have a good yardstick to compare the GT R with. You’re not strapped into a bodyhugging bucket seat with a five-point harness seat belt – apart from the additional ‘Race’ setting on the performance mode dial, you have the same levels of grand touring comfort you’ll find on its lesser variants, which means Merc doesn’t really wish to compromise on its road-going ability. The GT R gets the same top-shelf 4-litre V8 as the other GTs, including the GT S – of which it is a direct corollary, even though those front air-intakes point at some sinister AMG GT3 influence.
The car is 15 kg lighter than the GT S, and this is the first thing that becomes apparent when you mash the throttle. The chassis is racecar taut and resolutely planted – the same corners can be taken at much higher speeds, even before you switch to ‘Race’ mode, at which point the car lets out a growl, easing up the grip of electronics. There’s also a 9-stage traction control system which, if eased-up enough, sends you straight into rear-wheel drive heaven, imbuing you with a (false) sense of achievement. The Michelin Sport Cup tyres are constantly on guard, should the surface prove tricky.
The GT R’s torsional rigidity has been greatly improved, and you feel this at every corner – any input that lets G-forces push your internal organs into a corner keeps the car completely composed, to the point that you’ll wish you were as well-engineered a product as the GT R. It doesn’t have the explosive acceleration of a racecar, but we’re talking about the fastest production car around the Buddh International Circuit, so point-to-point acceleration isn’t really a concern – it’s a laugh.
Plenty of work has gone into increasing the car’s airflow and downforce. There’s that big, fixed wing at the back, for starters, but there’s a lot of underbody wizardry at work to keep you feeling like a driving god. Both the turbos sit inside the V8’s valley, and the front-mid engine placement gives the car greater balance. Turbos are new, so there’s added boost, which clearly reflects in the power delivery. There’s a very analogue, 9-level traction-control knob under the centre console, which should be operated only if you’re particularly brave and not on a public road. The front wings are composed of carbon fibre as well, resembling the GT3 car, and they hide flaps that control airflow and improve aerodynamics on the whole.
Turn-in response is as sharp as can be, thanks to the four-wheel steering, and the wide body-kit allows the car to house different front and rear axles than the GT S, also giving it much greater track. Merc has gone ahead with stiffening the car’s platform instead of overly hardening up the suspension, which, I reckon, ought to help with its road-going mannerisms. For a car that isn’t naturally aspirated, the GT R has a proper, hair-raising bellow. It’s one of the greatest forced-induction sounds you’ll hear, in fact.
On the whole, the AMG GT R hasn’t gone allout in its efforts to be a hardcore track car. It is the sharpest an AMG GT can be, without severely affecting its ability to perform on the road. I haven’t taken it to a public road, but I reckon there’s just enough vertical movement in the suspension to keep your spinal discs from doing the job themselves. It sounds fabulous, and the traction control system lets you slide around or keep you pointing in the right direction (should you choose to turn it up to max) – in short, it lets you make the decision. It’s the right balance between frightening and friendly, and that’s exactly what great supercars are made of.
Mercedes-AMG GTR/GT Roadster
4.0-litre V8, twin turbocharged
Rs 2.23 crore/Rs 2.19 crore (both exshowroom)