Benz's hottest sports car to date
Green is a stupid color for a car. It makes it stand out in the worst possible ways. For example, if you painted a BMW 5 Series bright green, you'd only get scorn from fellow road users. However, if you paint green a supercar with a massive engine, silly wing, and big snouty face...well, who cares what other people think, because it looks awesome.
That's precisely the thinking that Mercedes-AMG has put in to practice with the new AMG GT R, the newest, most hardcore version of its already pretty good GT. It's been given a full AMG overhaul, so you get a big wing, more power, less weight and active aero at the front that helps air flow under the car to make the rear splitter work better and suck the whole car on to the ground at speed. You also get a noise akin to Godzilla having a troublesome morning movement.
In fact, let's start with the noise. It's produced via AMG's 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8. In the GT R, it kicks out 575 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. Once it's made its power and delivered it to the rear wheels, the byproduct is a glorious, glorious noise. That noise falls out of titanium tailpipes, which serve to save weight and make the noise better. It's a mechanical growl, one that seems a little odd considering its turbochargers. But hey, AMG knows its onions. And its onions are good.
Its 577 horses are delivered only to the rear wheels via a nine-speed gearbox. The 'box itself is pretty good -- it's responsive enough when you want to change gears yourself, but it's not quite as good as Porsche's PDK. Leave it to its own devices, and it makes the right call most of the time. You won't want to leave it to its own devices though -- you'll want to constantly downshift to make the exhaust crackle, pop and boom. Start playing with launch control and you'll find it'll hit 62 mph from rest in 3.6 seconds and fire its way up to 198 mph.
If you want your hardcore car to behave in a civil fashion you can leave it in Comfort mode. That makes its suspension soft and squidgy, its throttle lazy, its steering light and a little bland. Crank up the dial to Sport or Sport+ and the car becomes more akin to the monster it resembles. It's sharper, louder and more lithe. Race gives the car more slip and shows you just what 577 hp can do if you're a sloppy driver -- slide all over the place. It's good fun, but it still provides a safety net for the leaden of foot and meat of head.
You can ignore all of that and turn everything off, relying on the GT3-racecar-inspired, nine-way-adjustable traction control. Sadly, my few laps of the Portimao racing circuit didn't allow for such play.
On track, with the car in Race, it feels light, a little lighter than you'd expect for a car with such an angry look and GT3-inspired pedigree. That doesn't mean it's bad in the slightest. If anything, it means it's easier to drive. Its chassis is spectacular, predictable and a joy to play with. Get it on a straight, plant the fun pedal, and you'll be pushed back in your seat until you run out of road. I managed to clock about 161 mph down Portimau's straight before I had to apply the brakes, even though there was clearly more to give.
Braking came courtesy of some truly huge carbon stoppers. They're easy to modulate and offer great pedal feel, though they do take some getting used to as they work perhaps a little too well compared to "normal" brakes.
Its steering is a joy, too. AMG's fitted rear-wheel steering that turns the rear tires in the opposite direction to the front tires at speeds lower than 62 mph, and in the same direction at greater pace. It makes for some tight cornering and huge grins, followed by some gentle oversteer if you're a touch overzealous with the gas pedal on corner exit.
In fact, it shares the rear-steer capability with another German hardcore monster, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS -- the most hardcore Porsche you can buy. I can see why, because they're both very expensive, both have lots of power, and both have large wings. Where I feel the Porsche takes the edge on the track thanks to being more direct and having both a better gearbox and steering, the GT R would embarrass it on the road.
One of the big flaws with that Porsche is its on-road manners. It rides harshly, its cabin is filled with road and tire noise, and it drones unless you're at maximum attack. The GT R, after an admittedly brief stint on road, was mild mannered. Yes, there's a bit of road noise in there, and you can hear and feel most things on the tarmac below you, but it doesn't drone. It's comfortable to a higher degree than the 911. Impressive stuff considering it weights just shy of 3,600 pounds.
Its bucket seats are snug, so if I were a burger enthusiast and wanted a GT R, I'd use it as an excuse to go to the gym more. Once you've squeezed yourself into said seats, you're treated to a stunning cabin. Mercedes' cabins can be a bit over the top, but the GT R's is perfect for the car. Buttons line the transmission tunnel, big screens show you where you're supposed to be going, and there are enough cubby holes for several Big Macs if you fancy a midtrack snack.
Its only Achilles' heel is the COMAND infotainment system. It's very pretty to look at, but compare it to Audi's MMI or BMW's iDrive and it becomes a touch confusing. That said, if you're buying one of these and want to listen to the radio over the V8, you're a fool.
The AMG GT R may be up against the likes of the 911 GT3 RS and other hardcore track machines, but it feels more malleable than that. It's a damn quick car, one that deserves respect, and one that'll enable a great time on the track, but it's also a car that you could live with day to day. If anything, it's probably the best green car money can buy.