The awe and the roar

Even in calm mode, the GT R is ca­pa­ble of fe­ro­cious ac­cel­er­a­tion — then you turn the dial up to 11

Herald Sun - Motoring - - PRESTIGE -

GER­MANY’S GT R will leave you wide-eyed with awe. It bel­lows, barks and cack­les like some scary-fierce wild an­i­mal. And it cor­ners like one too, chang­ing di­rec­tion with the ur­gent agility of a big cat pur­su­ing prey.

As Ja­pan’s GT-R, made by Nis­san, is nick­named Godzilla, the new model from MercedesAMG de­serves some­thing equally apt and mem­o­rable. King Kong might fit the bill.

It’s al­ready king of Ger­many’s fa­bled Nur­bur­gring, re­cently set­ting a lap record for a street-le­gal car at the track.

In the hands of a Ger­man car mag­a­zine, the two-seater got around the daunt­ing 23km Nord­schleife (north loop) in just 7 min­utes, 10.9 sec­onds.

Mercedes-AMG used a lesser-known venue to present the GT R of­fi­cially to the world. The Al­garve In­ter­na­tional Cir­cuit, near Por­ti­mao in the south of Por­tu­gal, is less than 5km long. It may be much shorter than the Nur­bur­gring, but it is also warmer and drier at this time of year.

The GT R is in ef­fect Mercedes-AMG’s ex­ist­ing GT S with the dial turned up to 11.

“We squeezed out ev­ery­thing that was pos­si­ble,” says com­pany chair­man Tobias Mo­ers. “En­gine, trans­mis­sion, sus­pen­sion, aero­dy­nam­ics, lightweight con­struc­tion; no per­for­mance-rel­e­vant com­po­nent was un­touched.”

Larger tur­bos were fit­ted. The dry-sump twin-turbo 4.0litre V8 gained up­rated cylin­der heads and its elec­tron­ics were remapped, up­ping power by 55kW to 430kW.

Car­bon-fi­bre in­stead of alu­minium was used to make the tube join­ing the front­mounted V8 to the rear­mounted seven-speed dou­ble­clutch trans­mis­sion. Gear ra­tios were changed for swifter ac­cel­er­a­tion and the hot-shop de­vel­oped a ti­ta­nium muf­fler with triple ex­hausts, two of

which are nor­mally blocked by flap valves.

Front and rear tracks were made wider, and body­work re­shaped to suit. Com­puter con­trolled elec­tric rear-axle steer­ing was added. Car­bon­fi­bre re­placed metal for front guards, roof, rear spoiler and strength­en­ing braces, among other parts.

Even if some of the tech­nol­ogy added weight, the kilo-shav­ing ma­te­ri­als bring a 15kg over­all re­duc­tion.

Ac­tive aero de­vices en­hance down­force at the front end, which has a toothy-look­ing grille in­tended to evoke the Mercedes-Benz SL300 Panamer­i­cana en­durance rac­ers of the early 1950s.

It’s a po­tent pack­age of changes that lifts the GT, which went on sale last year, to su­per­star sta­tus.

The en­gine has the power to un­stick the rear tyres at al­most any time. In­clud­ing when ac­cel­er­at­ing flat-out down the Por­ti­mao straight at above 200km/h.

It’s not every day you see the trac­tion warn­ing light flash­ing in the dash at speeds like this.

But the GT R is a man­age­able car, not a manic hand­ful. The bril­liance of its elec­tron­ics ac­tu­ally makes it easy to safely ex­plore its lim­its.

Driven in its Sport Plus or Race modes, both of which open the muf­fler flaps for ful­lvol­ume tailpipe drama, it is bril­liant to drive. Sta­bil­ity when brak­ing hard is out­stand­ing, as is the way it turns in­stantly and ac­cu­rately into fast curves.

The steer­ing is quick, and tele­graphs clearly when the front tyres be­gin to slip a lit­tle.

On slower cor­ners, you can slide the rear out with ease, safe in the knowl­edge the car’s elec­tronic safety net won’t let things get too out of hand.

It’s an in­tense ex­pe­ri­ence to drive the GT R on a race­track, and you climb out of it feeling as if you’ve just drunk a shot of straight adrenalin.

Yet there’s an­other side to the Mercedes-AMG. Twirl the drive-mode dial to Com­fort or Sport modes, and you have a car that’s qui­eter and calmer, but still ca­pa­ble of fe­ro­cious ac­cel­er­a­tion at any time.

These modes shut the flaps of the outer tailpipes, so ex­haust gas emerges only from the cen­tral out­let. The steer­ing be­comes lighter, the gearchanges smoother (even at wide-open throt­tle) and the shock ab­sorbers less firm.

Here’s a car you could live with every day of the week. The ride is rel­a­tively com­fort­able and noise lev­els ac­cept­able. There are an­noy­ances, such as the too-far-back place­ment of the gear se­lec­tor, not-so-great out­ward vi­sion and pal­try lug­gage space — but the Mercedes-AMG’s other-side bril­liance is a pow­er­ful an­ti­dote to such con­cerns.

The GT R will ar­rive in Aus­tralia in June or July.

“It’s likely to be (about) $360,000 but we’re still work­ing on the fi­nal num­bers and spec­i­fi­ca­tion,” says Mercedes-Benz Aus­tralia spokesman Jerry Sta­moulis.

This is about $60,000 more than the GT S on sale now, but the R comes with so much ex­tra awe this seems al­most rea­son­able value.

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