Test Drives

Mercedes-AMG GT R 2018 Review: Absolute G Unit



Only proper drivers need apply: As mean as the Mercedes-AMG GT R looks, it’s even more about the go, and not just the show

Photos Mercedes-AMG / David Khoo

 

Stuttgart, Germany

The Mercedes-AMG GT R isn’t for wallflowers, because you’re expected to live up to its larger-than-life personality – if not in driving talent, then at the very least in terms of flamboyance.


We can’t quite put a finger on it – the eye-popping AMG ‘Green Hell’ Magno paint is probably part of the GT R’s shock value – but when we were hooning/mooching , we lost count of the passers-by who were pulling up alongside on the autobahn to flash us big smiles and a quick thumbs-up, and not forgetting their carefully positioned phone cameras, of course.

It’s not the first time we’re driving in the region, but it’s certainly the first we’re on the receiving end of such positive reactions.

 

It was a refreshing change to be egged on by the crowd to razz and rev the snorty, rorty V8 to our heart’s content, especially given the average man-in–the (Singaporean) street these days only ends up turning green-eyed in the presence of such lush ‘greenery’, or getting seriously “offended” that such a glorious piece of automotive art is even allowed to exist.

There are few things as heartening as seeing a common passion bind petrolheads together.

READ MORE: Mercedes-AMG GT S tested in Singapore

Yes, there are the AMG versions of regular Mercedes cars, but models like the GT Coupe and Convertible – of which there are the GT, GT S, GT C and GT R variants – as well as the recently launched GT 4-door Coupe are ‘standalone’ and come directly under the Mercedes-AMG brand.

There’s a GT Black Series on the horizon, so it’s not unreasonable to draw a loose kinship between the GT R and 911 GT 3, and then the GT Black Series and the 911 GT 3 RS.

At time of writing, no pricing indication was available for the GT-R, even though sources tell us one unit could be in Singapore by the end of the year.  In most other markets, the GT R is price-pegged to sit between the Porsche 911 GT 3 and the GT 3 RS – which we’re guessing to mean at least S$800,000 with COE.

CarBuyer’s coverage of the GT R’s launch in Malaysia earlier this year, where it retails for RM1.7-million, indicates a price closer to $900,000 with COE.


Outside of Porsche, this price point is fraught with other contenders, such as the Audi R8 V10 and Aston Martin Vantage for instance, but then again, we’ve already learnt that AMG thoroughbreds attract a different sort of buyers – and by that we mean they buy what they want because they often have other sportscars, and never require validation from any single particular brand.

Probably the most prominent feature about the GT R is its jut-jaw ‘Panamericana’ front grille, which is characterised by 15 vertical fins to echo the AMG GT3 racecar’s; the grille itself draws inspiration from the 300 SL racecar that won the Panamericana road-race in Mexico in 1952, and is standard on the facelift GT variants.


The R itself is wider than the GT S and GT (46mm in front, 57mm at the back) to accommodate larger footwear, with the rump-end topped-off with an adjustable wing, rear diffuser and large centre-exit exhaust.

In creating the R, AMG has applied a motorsports-inspired weight-loss programme (with the use of lightweight and composite materials) to the heavier and unsprung weight elements of the S, which enhances the R’s agility, lowers the centre of gravity and improves its dynamic performance.

For instance, the front fender wings and roof are crafted from carbon, while the rear haunches and suspension components are made of aluminium.

Many of the GT’s structural aluminium components have further been replaced by carbonfibre items to reduce weight yet improve rigidity in the R; even the torque tube between the engine and transmission is now made of carbonfibre on the R, which weighs-in at 40 per cent less than the one on the GT.

Despite the R’s added hardware and widened track, it tips the scales at a little under the GT S’s 1,570kg, but trumps the S with its higher engine output of 585hp and 700Nm (versus 510hp and 650Nm) to achieve a weight-to-power ratio of 2.66kg/hp against the S’s 3.08kg/hp.

For the sake of contrast, the 911 GT3 returns 2.9kg/hp, but the Porsche’s flat-six four-litre is proudly naturally-aspirated.

However, merely losing weight isn’t enough, because the fixed and active aero have also been re-worked to deliver higher levels of downforce than the regular GT models.

The R also boasts a host of technological features that includes an active air management system, where automated louvres in the front maw are actuated to open (and close) in response to cooling and aerodynamic needs.

For more dynamic results, driving enthusiasts will appreciate the active rear-wheel steering system, which made its debut in the R, but can be equipped as an option on the GT S from the facelift onwards.

Out of sight, but definitely not out of mind is an active aerodynamic profile made of carbon that is integrated to the underbody just in front of the engine. It is automatically actuated in ‘Race’ mode at 80km/h, as it move downwards by 40mm to create a Venturi effect, thus reducing front axle lift by approximately 40kg at 250km/h.

We may not have breached 300km/h during the drive, but the speedo was well clear of 250km/h. The R performs with aplomb and inspires great confidence at those speeds, without a hair out of place.

The GT S is no slouch to begin with, because the biturbo V8 serves up a deceptively potent cocktail that will floor the unwary. However, the R’s delivery is even more bombastic, and the chassis enhancements help you exploit the engine’s theatrical delivery to even better effect.

Like we said before, the GT R isn’t a sportscar for wallflowers, and it goes like stink so it never sticks around in one place for long either. The R’s V8’s twin-turbo power delivery is of a different variety from that of the naturally-aspirated V10 in the Audi R8 and flat-six in the Porsche 911 GT 3, but no less devastating.

In stark contrast to the peaky, high-revving nature of a nat-asp engine, the first thing that hits you about the R is the throbbing sledgehammer pounding from the turbo torque, which starts to build from under 2000rpm.

Pedal-to-metal pull is relentless, and this is an engine that excels in the mid-range, which makes it a great companion for fast, winding roads.

You won’t get the high-rpm scream from its naturally-aspirated counterparts with the R; instead, the soundtrack begins with a distant sound of rolling thunder before reaching a rousing sonic boom finale as you bang your way hard through the seven gears of the dual-clutch gearbox.

Driving the regular GT is a bit like being in a low-flying airplane thanks to that aggressive boom, but if that’s the case, then the GT-R is obviously a warbird, louder, faster, and built for speed.

The test-car is well optioned, which means we get the snug sports bucket seats (and carbon-ceramic brakes). The interior features tasteful black trim, so there’s nothing shiny to catch the sun when you’re driving under the influence of the red mist.


The GT R gets a unique feature, AMG Traction Control, another motorsports-derived feature that boasts nine distinct levels of slip programmes, so the tail-end can be as playful or as precise as you prefer, and you’ll feel every knobbled inch of the surface and weight shift through the Alcantara steering wheel and seat-of-pants.

The bright yellow control knob for this system is positioned in the centre fascia, a fuss-free, almost brutally honest execution that we feel adds to the racy cabin ambience.

Rear-wheel steering imparts a new dimension of agility to the R, and there isn’t the same sense of rambunctious waywardness we picked-up on the S, because the latter’s brutal power delivery easily overwhelmed the tyres and depending on the conditions, could make for a tiring drive.

Things only seem more restrained on the R, but that’s because the wider track and larger footwear convey a newfound confidence and stability to the proceedings, so overall cornering speeds are higher even if there’s less drama to contend with.

With the R, we found that it was possible to focus on connecting straight to corner to switchback then straight again, before repeating the cycle to our heart’s content and to devastating pace.

The most discernible change over the S was not having to worry about mid-road bumps, kinks or patches of wet that inadvertently inject white-knuckled “Help me God!” moments to the drive, although some will probably feel those help keep one on one’s toes.

The optional carbon-ceramic brakes offer immense stopping power, and the GT R keeps its cool without any drama under hard braking.

Surprisingly, the R is quite the all-rounder that is always eager to let its hair down without any goading, so it’s up to hanging everything loose if you choose, and it’s this crazy personality that we feel adds to its charisma.

To the untrained eye or ill-informed, it looks like a tarted-up GT, but they’ll quickly discover to their dismay that there’s some serious intent going on with the GT R, which can only bode very well for the even more hardcore Black Series…

Mercedes-AMG GT R

Engine 3,982cc, V8, twin-turbo
Power 585hp at 6250rpm
Torque 700Nm at 1900- 5500rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h 3.6 seconds
Top Speed 318km/h
Efficiency 11.4L/100km
VES Band TBC
Agent Mercedes-Benz Centre
Price POA
Availability 2018 (estimated)

 

about the author

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David Khoo
David Khoo is the editor of CarBuyer's sister magazine, Top Gear Singapore. If it's rare, exotic, or smells like ham, he's probably touched it, driven it, or sniffed it inappropriately.