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"A racing car with street legal approval". Those are the words Mercedes-AMG uses to describe its GT R Coupe.
And even though I'm a forty-something, professional motoring journalist who's well aware of marketing speak when he reads it, the 15-year old in me was jumping around whooping and shouting: "Key! Gimme key to race car" at the launch of the updated Mercedes-AMG GT coupe which also included time in the more sedate GT C.
Well, that's like calling a Tiger Shark more sedate than a Great White, because the GT C still packs more than 400kW (550hp).
As will be the case with most buyers, my time in the Mercedes-AMG GT was spent entirely on the road, the closest we came to a racetrack was driving through Kilmore, and that one was for horses.
This was perfectly fine because you'll want to know just what these beasts are like to pilot on regular roads... roads where surfaces are far from perfect and the posted limits are hundreds of kilometres below the top speeds of these cars.
|Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 2020: GT R|
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
There is nothing not interesting about the design of the AMG GT with its long bonnet and low, wide stance. The look is not as dramatic as the SLS AMG, which went into retirement five years ago, nor does it have that supercar's 'gullwing' doors. But there's a clear family resemblance to it and also the iconic 300SL beauty from 1954.
If anything, the AMG GT is a meaner and sharper looking beastie, but still dripping in exotic styling with the hungry looking 'Panamericana' grille flanked by hornet eye headlights and enormous wheel guards that push up into the bonnet to form pontoons over which the driver peers.
It's hard to tell from the images if the AMG GT is big or small, but the dimensions don't lie. The AMG GT is 4551mm end-to-end, 2007mm wide for the GT R and GT C but 1939mm for the GT S (and between 1260mm and 1288mm tall depending on the grade, making it fairly long, wide and short in stature.
There are three grades to choose from - the GTS, GT C and GT R – which all come as coupes, while only the GTC is available as a soft-top roadster, as well.
I can't think of a convertible which doesn't look better with the roof down than with it up and the GT C is no exception to this rule. The open top suits this cruiser's look perfectly.
Telling the three grades apart is easy if you know what to look for: the GT S is a 'narrow body', the GT C has wider rear guards and the GT R has wide rear and front guards.
From behind there's a smoother rear treatment to the S with no wide black vent between the tail-lights, while the GT C has vents behind the rear wheels and the GT R has the most aggro look with the giant diffuser and a central tailpipe.
Exterior styling has stayed the same save for the new LED headlights, wheels and paint colours, but it's the cabin where most of the design changes have taken place.
There's the new steering wheel with drive mode dials and a redesigned centre console with buttons configured in a V-shape which according to Mercedes-AMG is a nod to the V8 engine.
I'm not convinced by the restyling of the console, which didn't suit me ergonomically. It seems to centre around the two cupholders, places the shifter awkwardly rearwards of the media controller and puts the traction control button directly under the driver's elbow. The black piano plastic in the GT R also became smudged with fingerprints quickly.
The entry point into the three model range is the GT S Coupe with its $311,142 list price.
Stepping up to the GT C will cost $329,843 for the Coupe and $355,242 for the Roadster, while the GT R king of the castle commands a list price of $361,042.
Standard features on the S include nappa leather upholstery, heated and power-adjustable seats, AMG Performance steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, 10-speaker Burmester sound system, a 10.25-inch touchscreen with sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 'Mercedes Me' connect system, a 12.3-inch virtual instrument cluster, LED headlights, plus alloy wheels (staggered 19-inch at the front and 20-inch at the rear) with a matt black finish.
You'll see all these S features on the GT C along with more in the form of AMG Performance seats, AMG Performance steering wheel clad in 'Dinamica' microfibre, heated and ventilated seats and staggered 19-/20-inch alloys in titanium grey.
The GT C Roadster has identical features but adds a neck heater, which works surprisingly well.
The GT R comes with the GT C's features and brings its own in the form of the AMG 'Interior Night' package, a carbon-fibre roof, static rear wing and yellow brake calipers.
So, is the AMG GT good value? Sure is, when you consider what you're getting relative to what the competitors are offering.
All AMG GT Coupes and Roadsters have two doors and two seats. If you need seating for more there's the AMG GT 4-door which can fit five adults (well, four comfortably) and competes with the Porsche Panamera.
So, if it's just you and a significant other you'll be happy to know the AMG GT cockpit is spacious and even at 191cm tall and with the same wingspan I had more than enough head, shoulder, elbow and legroom.
Cabin storage is limited to a pair of cupholders, a small centre console bin and door pockets just wide enough for a small bottle of water.
Boot space in the Coupe is 175 litres and 165 litres in the Roadster. That was just enough room for the two airline overhead luggage-sized wheelie bags belonging to myself and co-pilot.
As for charging and power on board there are three USB ports and one 12-volt outlet.
All AMG GTs have a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 with three states of tune: in the S it makes 384kW/670Nm; in the C it produces 410kW/680Nm; while the output in R is 430kW/700Nm.
A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is used in all three grades.
All three grades have top speeds of more than 300km/h (318 in the R Coupe; 317km/h in the C Coupe; 316km/h in the C Roadster and 310km/h in the S Coupe) and 0-100km/h times of less than four seconds (R -3.6s, C - 3.7s, S - 3.8s).
Before you start wondering why the R costs $30K more to go one kilometre per hour faster than the C we need to talk about the hardware under the cars that makes the top-grade AMG GT worth the extra money in the section below.
The only grade missing at the launch of the updated AMG GT was the S Coupe. So, while I'm sure it's darn good, I can really only comment about the driving experience of the R Coupe and the C in Coupe and Roadster forms in which we devoured hundreds of kilometres.
First, the R and C both have unique characters that go beyond just differences in horsepower.
The GT C uses the front axle set-up of the GT S with its aluminium double wishbone suspension, anti-dive, coil springs and stablisier bar offering a more supple and cushioned ride, and combines this with the rear axle of the GT R with its rear-axle steering and more pinned down dynamic focus.
The GT R's front axle is also aluminum double-wishbone but comes with braking torque support, mechanically stepless adjustable coil springs, adaptive dampers and an anti-roll bar.
So, while the GT C and GT R feel different to pilot, it's not night-and-day different... more early summer morning sunrise, and midday sun beating down different, if you know what I mean.
See, while the GT C feels just as quick, it's a far more comfortable and easier car to drive on course-chip bitumen and pock-marked Australian roads. The ride while rolling on 265/35 R19 rubber at the front and 305/30 R 20s at the rear is surprisingly pleasant.
Country road corners beckoned on our journey out of Melbourne and the GT C Roadster I set out in responded superbly. That front end felt light, soft and but pointable. What was immediately apparent was how wide the car is, and it felt like the GT C needed every millimetre of the narrow Aussie lanes.
Top down there was almost zero air turbulence in the cabin and while I kept an eye out for the scuttle shake that can come with a convertible, I barely noticed anything along those lines with those short thick A-Pillars holding firm.
Also holding firm was the GT C's rear end which squatted and held tight in the corners even with getting on the gas the roadster stayed composed.
Roof up, most road noise was shut out, well it was hard to hear anything over the bellow of that V8.
The GT C Coupe would be my pick of the AMG GT family and not just because of that smidge of extra boot space. The hardtop just bolsters the overall rigidity of the car and made it feel tauter.
The GT R is a step up in price, grunt and dynamic ability, but it's asking for a higher level of commitment in terms of livability.
The ride on its firmer suspension and 275/35 R19 rear tyres and 325/30 R 20 front rubber makes the GT R more brutal than most people would be happy to live with, I think.
But in return you are getting close to that "racing car with street legal approval" positioning, because the GT R is astounding in its balance, handling, grip and the connection it offers with the driver.
Truly engaging and almost wasted on a regular road, but why it's not quite a race car is that the cabin is dripping in luxury from the beautiful and supportive standard seats, to the leather upholstery and digital instrument cluster.
This might surprise you, but the official combined fuel consumption of the AMG GT S is 9.5L/100km, while the GT R's is 11.4L/100km, and the GT C's is 11.5L/100km.
The best combination of driving over motorways and country roads for me on this launch was in the GT R, and after a couple of hundred kilometres the trip computer told me the car was using an average of 12.9L/100km.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
All cars in the line-up come fortified with airbags, including a knee bag for the driver, side bags for the driver and passenger (combined thorax/pelvis bag), front airbags and window bags (Coupe only).
Front and rear cameras and auto parking make life easy, and while there's no spare wheel there is an inflation kit for temporary puncture repair.
A two-seater car the AMG GT doesn't have anchor points for child seats.
The AMG GT has not been assessed by ANCAP or Euro NCAP for its crash safety performance.
Servicing is recommended at 20,000km/12-month intervals. Mercedes-AMG offers a three-year plan which costs $3750 up front or you can pay as you go with capped price servicing at $800, $1000 and $2950 for each respective year.
The AMG GT is better than a race car for the road because it offers all the comfort and luxury that is completely absent in a track car, yet retains superb dynamic ability – particularly the GT R.
As for the sweet spot, that's easy. The C Coupe offers the best of the S and R from a comfort and handling perspective, while being super quick for less money that the top grade R.
|GT C||4.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$362,800||2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 2020 GT C Pricing and Specs|
|GT C||4.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$336,900||2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 2020 GT C Pricing and Specs|
|GT R||4.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$368,700||2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 2020 GT R Pricing and Specs|
|GT R PRO||4.0L, PULP, 7 SP||$453,200||2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 2020 GT R PRO Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||9|