The most extreme AMG since the SLS AMG Black Series – the 577bhp AMG GT R – arrives, and we’ve been driving it, on-track, in Germany
|Engine||Power||Torque||0-100kph||Top speed||Weight||Basic price|
|V8, biturbo, 3982cc||577bhp @ 6250rpm||700Nm (516lb ft) @ 1900-5500rpm||3.6secs||318kph||1630kg (354bhp/ton)||$175,400|
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|Unbelievable performance, most extreme AMG in some time|
|Question mark over road comfort|
Before I jump into how important the new Mercedes-AMG GT R truly is, let me share an example of its potential. Shortly before the international launch drive in Portimao, the GT R lapped the Nürburgring in 7m 10.92s. That is 11 – ELEVEN – seconds faster than a Ferrari 488 GTB, 14 seconds faster than the SLS AMG Black Series it effectively replaces as the most extreme AMG on-sale today, and nine seconds faster that the Porsche 911 GT3 RS it will rival on the market. And yes, you will want to check out that Sport Auto YouTube video…
To call the AMG GT R ‘fast’ then would be an insane understatement. For the past two years, Mercedes-AMG has conducted all of its tests and development of the AMG GT R at the Nürburgring, hence why it’s called ‘Beast of the Green Hell’ (and why that satin green paint finish is also dubbed ‘Green Hell Magno’, just FYI). In terms of line-up, the GT R sits snugly between the Carrera-rivalling GT S that first appeared in 2015 and the GT3 race car, and yet is more powerful than either (even though it’s 270kg heavier than the latter). Clearly AMG is not messing around with the new GT R. And that’s just for starters.
For the first time, an AMG vehicle gets all-wheel steering, meaning the rear wheels now have the ability to turn 1.5 degrees at opposite angles to the front wheels at less than 100kph (and vice versa) to achieve a tighter turning circle at lower speeds. There’s newly developed adjustable coilover suspension, so owners can manually adjust the spring pre-load to influence the dive and roll behaviour. AMG does pre-adjust this for maximum attack, so unless you know exactly what you’re doing, I wouldn’t fiddle with it if I were you.
There’s also been a shed-load of weight saving, with carbon fibre front fenders, roof and driveshaft housing, lightweight wheels, battery and lightweight magnesium components in the frame to reduce the kerb weight over the GT S by 50kg. You think that’s not much? Imagine going to the gym everyday and bench-pressing 200lbs: you won’t lose much weight, but you’ll gain a lot of muscle. Which brings us to the engine…
Yes, dive into the engine…
Well, the AMG GT R shares the same powertrain as its GT S sibling courtesy of a 4-litre biturbo V8 and seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox (the latter with a longer first gear making it drivable on-track) but with revised internals. The piston heads surface have a different pattern now to accommodate a lower compression ratio at 9.5:1, allowing efficient combustion at high torque with a higher turbo boost pressure (1.35 bar versus the GT S’ 1.2). Even the twin turbochargers receive bigger twin scroll blades, a smaller wastegate and an engine remap that increases power to 577bhp and 700Nm (516lb ft) of torque (over the GT S’ 503bhp and 480lb ft.). With maximum torque now starting at 1,900rpm, that should make the revised V8 super energetic across a nicely drawn power curve, or so I hope during our time on-track at the Algarve International Circuit in Portugal.
Yes, first impressions concern the design. First things first, the bucket seats and Alcantara wheel are always a great combo for any track experience, instantly putting you in a controlling position and making you feel part of the vehicle. Add in carbon fibre detailing around the gauges themselves and a new gloss black emblem on the flat-bottomed steering wheel to really hammer home how evil the GT R is. Love it.
Mercedes‘ latest has inherited one more thing from the GT3 racer, namely a knob on the dash that can cycles through nine different traction control modes, allowing me to pre-select the slip level for the power wheels (mode 1 is for wet/high safety, 9 for ultimate hoonage). Bernd Schneider, our track tutor for the day, mentions that he personally drives on level 6 on new tyres, and 5 for used ones. Anything more than that is only used if you’d like to destroy your tyres or you’re big into drifting. Ahem…
What’s the handling like on-track?
Keen to make the most of this experience, my opening few laps are done in Sport+ with sport handling mode, which loosens the stability safety net. Not that the GT R ever lacks traction when you need it. Over 120kph – or 80kph in Race mode – a specially developed active aerodynamics system extends sections of the underbody downward by 40mm, changing the airflow and thus decreasing front-end lift. Combined with the double diffuser, the large rear spoiler, and front active air control, it’s a veritable army of aerodynamic elements holding the car close to the ground. The suspension meanwhile feels firm – much more so than the GT S – pushing the wheels deep down into the track surface.
It’s the grip though that really impresses. There’s not even a hint of understeer and even less body-roll, give or take just enough slip from the rear wheels to keep you on your toes. The steering meanwhile feels firm and precise, reminding me of the McLaren 675LT. Beautiful balance and impressive response from the front end means, even on my warm-up lap, the GT R just boosts your confidence. I barely hesitate going full throttle on Algarve’s last turn into the enormous main straight.
It’s not long before the little satin green devil on my shoulder gives me a nudge, and I select Race mode, switch the ESP off and go into traction level 6. In its most ferocious setting, driving the GT R is like entering a cheat code on a video game.
The acceleration of that biturbo V8 is direct and instant without any turbo lag thanks to the ‘hot inside V’ turbo setup, and considerably more brutal – as, again, you would expect, over the GT S. Consequently the speed the GT R is capable of is beyond belief. The longer first gear ratio gives you the ability of even harder acceleration at low speeds through very tight corners, the balance aided by the all-wheel steering system, which allows you to jump on the throttle even earlier. It’s a raw, almost savage combination of hard acceleration and impossibly controlled balance under turn in that my previous concept of g-forces is entirely re-imagined. For extreme grip and confidence under load – and, well, fun – the only thing that’s come close in the past is the McLaren 675LT. High praise indeed for AMG.
Perhaps now you begin to understand that Nürburgring time, the destruction of both Ferrari and Porsche on-track, and just how big a step forward the GT R is over the already brutal AMG GT S. Our thoughts on its capabilities on the road will have to wait until the GT R arrives in the region later this year, so let’s just put it this way: if you’re in the mood for something stupidly capable through the turns and utterly brutal under acceleration, and think that the Beast of the Green Hell isn’t among your best options for $176K, you might just be an idiot.
Enjoy our Mercedes-AMG GT R test drive?
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- Technical specifications available on page 2