Review: 2018 Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster
A bat out of hell
THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Immensely fast; immensely capable, wow-factor looks.
- What’s Worst: Consumes fuel in big gulps; stiff ride.
- What’s Interesting: The soft top can be raised or lowered in just 11 seconds at speeds of up to 50 km/h.
It’s been a few weeks since I handed back the keys to the Mercedes-AMG GT C roadster, but its apocalyptic V8 rumble is still resonating inside my cranium.
A long drive in this baleen-snouted Mercedes felt like something along the lines of an MMA style ground and pound. Having to peel my body off of the particularly hard sport seats mounted about a millimeter off the ground made me thankful that I’m still reasonably limber.
This super sports car is an all-out assault on the senses and it makes no excuses about what it is or what its intentions are.
Over 2 metres wide, even the proportions are out of this world reminiscent of an old E-Type Jag, or the now discontinued Viper, with its impossibly long hood and short rear deck.
Once your butt is planted in the driver’s seat, you will find yourself ensconced deep in the car, surrounded by exquisitely stitched Nappa leather, real metal, and carbon fibre. The stiff seats hug your back and hips as if they’ll never let go.
Pushing the starter button located on the centre console, effectively bisecting the cabin in two, brings the GT to life with a loud throaty bark that settles down after a few seconds into a coarse and lumpy sounding idle.
Subtle it most definitely isn’t, but the low seating position and grippy steering wheel clad in Dinamica micro-suede like material make you instantly feel at one with the car. Like an extension of your limbs, the car writhing and pulsating, ready to blast-off at a moments notice.
Without even leaving the parking lot, there is an intoxicating sense of drama and occasion.
The ultra-wide V-shaped centre console is lined with 8 circular buttons, 4 on each side of the V; the top 2 also double as dials. For those paying attention, this is AMG’s way of paying homage to the mighty turbocharged V8 up front, proudly bearing the signature of the engineer who put it together.
At the very back of the console is a comically small gear lever that you wiggle back and forth to control the updated 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission.
More importantly, however, is the AMG Drive mode controller, a little dial that is located closest to your right hand, mere inches away from the 3 o’clock position on the steering wheel.
It should be relabeled ‘joy controller’ because that’s what it actually is. Super-simple to operate, it always defaults to comfort mode when you first start it up. But twist it clockwise into Sport Plus, or better yet Race, and the GT C’s character completely changes.
Adjustable flaps in the exhaust open and the sound goes from pretty loud, to a deep guttural roar that can probably be heard kilometers away. The 7-speed dual clutch automatic downshifts, and the gas pedal is now an on-off switch. Push it any more than 50 percent of the way down and the mile-long hood lifts up into the air as the rear squats down on its haunches; the resulting acceleration is raw and violent but in a good way. The exhaust sound reminds me of a chain gun (but only the ones in movies cause I’ve never heard a real chain gun) rapidly emptying its ammunition. Lift off and the resulting gurgles, pops, and bangs sound so good, they should be illegal.
This 4-litre biturbo V8 revs so fast that I leave shifting duties to the car. When you do decide to pull the large shift paddle behind the steering wheel, the gear change is immediate. With 550 hp delivered between 5750-6750 rpm and 502 lb-ft of torque at just 1900 rpm hanging around till 5750 rpm, there are deep reserves of power in any gear at any speed.
An eLSD (electronically controlled limited-slip differential) integrated into the compact rear transaxle housing helps to effectively transfer all that power to the rear contact patches and propels the roadster from 0-100 km/h in 3.7 seconds.
If it weren’t for all that bottom-end torque, it would be difficult to tell that this is a boosted engine. There’s no turbo lag, just power delivered instantaneously. AMG knows V8s and I’ve sampled a few versions of this engine, some with more power and some with less, but none with more character. This is truly one of the great engines on sale today.
During my few days with the GT C roadster, I don’t think I ever put the top up. I picked it up with the top down and returned it with the top down. Because why would you buy this car and drive it any other way? And it lets you hear the V8 baritone symphony in all its glory.
But I did test the top, and it’s a cool thing to behold. With a light frame made from aluminum, steel, and magnesium, it can be raised or lowered in a scant 11 seconds at speeds of up to 50 kilometres per hour.
The driving experience in the GT C is always thrilling, and sometimes a bit scary. In Sport Plus or Race modes the stability control nannies are less intrusive and will only step in if things get a little too hot. Heavy acceleration is met with a pronounced wiggle of the hips as the rear tires scramble for traction, but through the corners the grip is intense and there is no body roll. This car pummels a twisty road into submission, and rockets out of turns like a bat out of hell. It is not subtle and it doesn’t want to be, an approach that is exactly the opposite of its main competition—the Porsche 911.
The light and communicative steering is very fast and very accurate. You sit far from the front wheels, basically on top of the rear axle and it’s a unique experience, very different from most cars out there. In many ways, this AMG GT C is very much a German Dodge Viper, just not as crude.
Forged aluminum double wishbones, steering knuckles and hub carriers are lightweight and derived from Mercedes’ extensive motorsports background. The dampers on each wheel constantly adjust depending on the selected drive mode and road surface conditions.
A four-wheel steering system will steer the rear wheels in the same direction as the front wheels at speeds of over 100 kilometres per hour, ensuring rock-solid stability during high-speed lane changes by essentially lengthening the wheelbase. At lower speeds, under 100 kilometres per hour, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction as the front wheels allowing for tighter U-turns, easier parking, and increased agility in low-speed corners.
The lack of suspension travel and rock hard damping means a ride that is always stiff, even in comfort mode. In Sport Plus and Race modes it can be downright jarring over broken pavement and expansion joints.
During my short stint with this beast fuel was consumed in big slurpy gulps at a rate of 17.4 litres per 100 kilometres, putting it in the running for one of the thirstiest automobiles I’ve tested this year, but what do you expect really?
Just one look at the epically styled Mercedes-AMG GT C roadster and the stiff ride and penchant for premium fuel is forgiven.
I can’t remember driving a car that had more character or had gotten so much attention from the public. If that’s not your thing then steer clear of this one. But if it is, the GT C is one of the most exciting, slightly scary, and highly capable roadsters on sale today, and it should be cherished.
Photos © Kunal D’souza
2018 Mercedes AMG GT C Roadster
BODY STYLE: Two-Door, Two-passeneger Convertible Sports Car
CONFIGURATION: Front-engine, Rear transaxle, Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD)
ENGINE: 4.0 L twin-turbo V8 (Power: 550 hp @ 5750-6750 rpm; Torque: 502 lb-ft @ 1900-5750 rpm)
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
CARGO CAPACITY: 165 litres
FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium Gasoline) L/100 km: 15.5 city /11.7 highway /13.8 combined
OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 17.4 L/100 km
PRICE: $178,800 (base); $187,800 (as tested)
WEBSITE: Mercedes AMG GT Roadsters
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