This summer, I had the privilege of driving the Mercedes-AMG GT R to an IMSA race at Lime Rock. It was intense. It’s a car with limits so high, you can’t scratch the surface of what it’s capable of on the street. Even at a brisk pace, the GT R feels bored. It feels like it’d rather be attacking curbs at the Nurburgring, not puttering around a country road.
Couple that with a stiff ride and a look-at-me wing, and the GT R really stops making sense as a road car. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing 0track car, but the things that make it great on track—its crazy aero package, its nine-stage traction control, and its near-slick Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires—don’t make much of a difference on the road.
For that reason, I approached the GT C thinking it’d be the sweet spot in the AMG GT range. After all, it gets a lot of what’s good about the GT R in what seems like a more street-friendly package. Plus, you can have it in both coupe and roadster form. After spending time with the GT C in both Germany and New York, I can confirm that it is indeed the pick of the GT family, but don’t go into it expecting a soft luxury cruiser. The GT C, even in Roadster form, is a real-deal sports car that’s only happy when it’s going silly fast.
The GT C uses a version of the same dry-sump, 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 used in lesser AMG GT models, with extra boost bringing power to 550 hp. There’s a bit of noticeable turbo lag, but once everything is spooled up, power delivery is nice and smooth all the way up to its 7000-rpm redline.
This is easily one of the sweetest turbo motors I’ve ever driven, and it has to be the best sounding too. As with all GT models, this engine is paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle that maybe isn’t quite as good as Porsche’s PDK, but is still damn close. Leaving it in automatic mode in Sport + or Race gives it an aggressive shift program that rips off quick downshifts in heavy braking.
The GT C is down 27 horsepower compared to the GT R, but if you can notice the difference you’re probably Tobias Moers, the wonderfully brash head of AMG. Plus, both the GT C and GT R have a shorter final drive ratio than lesser GTs, so acceleration in both is way more than adequate. AMG quotes a 0-60 mph time of 3.6 seconds for the coupe and the roadster is just a tenth behind.
This is a car that likes going fast. Really, really, really fast. The GT C doesn’t offer the effortless rewire-your-brain speed you get in a 911 Turbo, but it’s not far off. It’s a car that feels slower than it is in reality, and it still feels damn fast. Get overexcited on a back road, and you’ll find yourself at speeds that are, let’s say slightly higher than advisable. Speeds that I wasn’t fully comfortable with, even when the car was.
As road cars are concerned, the base 469-hp GT is more than quick enough, but the GT C brings one huge advantage over lesser models—rear-axle steering straight off the GT R. Below, 62 mph, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction of the fronts, and above, all four wheels turn in the same direction. The system only offers a maximum of 1.5 degrees of turning for the rear wheels, but the effect on the GT’s driving dynamics is dramatic.
Driving a base GT and a GT C back-to-back was instructive. You immediately notice the rear-wheel steering helping with low-speed maneuvering, and it just gets better on the road. You effectively get a car that alternately feels incredibly nimble and stable. Consider rear-axle steering essential for the AMG GT.
The GT C doesn’t quite the same level of front-end bite as the GT R, with its ultra-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires and its wider front track, yet it still feels plenty sharp. US customers will be able to order their GT C coupes with Cup 2s in place of the standard Michelin Pilot Super Sports if they want a more aggressive feel, but they’re not a necessary extra.
Like all AMG GTs, the GT C uses a super-quick hydraulic steering rack that offers a nice amount of information about surface changes and mid-corner bumps. That said, it isn’t the most feelsome rack in existence. I found that it’s a little vague off-center too, and the wheel doesn’t want to self-center. Believe me, you get used to this, and the steering feel gets better the faster you go.
But that speaks to my main issue with the GT C—like the GT R, the car really only starts to come alive once you’re going blindingly fast. Now don’t get me wrong, the GT C’s engine, transmission, and crisp handling are enjoyable at any speed, but you get the sense that the car is only starting to have fun when you’re really working it. This problem isn’t as pronounced as it is with the GT R, but you notice it. If you owned a GT C, you’d have to either take it to a track, or live in Germany to see what it can do legally.
The best solution? Get the roadster. Lowering the roof in the GT C adds a sense of drama to every scenario that you just can’t get with the coupe. The V8’s engine note becomes that much crisper, and you get more in tune with your environment. In the roadster you don’t have to be going nearly as fast for a heightened experience.
And as far as I can tell, the biggest drawback to getting the roadster is cost—factor in an additional $12,000—and a smaller trunk. That’s it. The roadster feels nearly as stiff as the coupe, and its performance is virtually identical—Mercedes says the GT C coupe hits 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, and the Roadster is only a tenth behind. And with the roof up, the roadster feels nearly as refined as the coupe, with minimal road noise even at speed.
I found that the GT C probably offers too much performance for the road, but that’s not a problem indicative AMG. It’s hard not to feel that way about modern 911s, Corvettes, and F-Types too. And in any case, the GT C is a real winner. Don’t forget, the GT is only the second product developed entirely in-house by AMG. Given that, the GT C displays remarkable maturity.