Mercedes-AMG GT C

Top Gear (UK) - - CONTENTS - JA­SON BAR­LOW

Mercedes-AMG GT C Road­ster £143,245 WE SAY: THE MIGHTY GT GETS A CABRIO VER­SION IN TWO SHADES OF ALARM­ING...

Even if it isn’t play­ing on the au­dio sys­tem, point the new AMG GT road­ster down a sun­splashed Phoenix free­way and ‘Life’s Been Good’ is the sort of chrome-plated rock an­them that’s perma-ro­tat­ing round your brain. If you have one of these, life isn’t merely good, it’s ab­so­lutely ruddy mar­vel­lous. Mercedes has waited un­til the GT v1.5 to un­veil the con­vert­ible ver­sion, com­plete with dra­matic new Panamer­i­cana-in­spired 15-lou­vre grille, ac­tive air man­age­ment and, on the GT C, ac­tive rear-wheel steer­ing and electronically lock­ing rear dif. In the right spec – Magno grey with the red soft-top, for ex­am­ple – this is a car that stalks the boule­vards with mag­nif­cently ex­e­cuted menace.

It’s an im­por­tant point: how good the GT road­ster is in ob­jec­tive terms is sec­ondary to the sheer vis­ual im­pact it makes. Still, with the prom­ise of 400-plus miles across some of Ari­zona’s fnest black­top, we nat­u­rally grav­i­tate to­wards the GT C, the 557bhp it­er­a­tion that sits above the GT S coupe and nuz­zles close to the loony GT R in the fam­ily hi­er­ar­chy and de­gree of weapon­i­sa­tion, de­spite hav­ing no roof and an osten­si­bly less racy re­mit. The cheaper vanilla GT road­ster, with just 476bhp, is the one for the plas­tic sur­geons and suc­cess­ful self-made es­tate agents, right? Hmm, we’ll see about that.

We also need to keep in mind what kind of play­ing feld the GT road­ster fnds it­self on. A highly com­pet­i­tive one. The top-fight GT C is £143,245, and frankly if you’re scop­ing out this sort of ter­ri­tory you’ve prob­a­bly got that de­fault other car as your daily user: the Range Rover. Still, let’s as­sume ev­ery­day us­abil­ity mat­ters.

Top of the bill here is the Audi R8 V10 Spy­der, which costs £131,140 and doesn’t only go, stop and han­dle sub­limely, but does it with an at­mo­spheric en­gine. (This

is an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant USP, to us at least.) The cur­rent car is a thrilling all-rounder, al­though weirdly the vastly cheaper TT has a bet­ter – and roomier – cabin. Then there’s the Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal GT con­vert­ible, which is close on power to the AMG GT C but costs more: £165,600. Or the Fer­rari California T, at £155,230, an even more glam­orous player un­sul­lied by hav­ing a hot-hatch rel­a­tive caus­ing bother in the base­ment. You could lob in Jaguar’s F-Type, which in (£113,795) SVR form is good enough to punch above its weight and mix it in this com­pany. Or, for the ul­ti­mate grudge match, there’s the £156,381 Porsche 911 Turbo S con­vert­ible. It’s not of­ten you fnd your­self writ­ing a para­graph that ac­tu­ally has you drool­ing.

There’s an­other rea­son why Amer­ica suits the GT road­ster. Fol­low­ing the SLS, the GT was only the sec­ond solo AMG out­ing, a ground-up, clean-sheet car done wholly in Afal­ter­bach, where the em­pha­sis, we sus­pect, is on the en­gine rather than chas­sis. Now, the GT coupe is a hard car not to love, but it’s an equally hard car to drive adroitly down a typ­i­cal Bri­tish B-road. Wide, in­ter­galac­ti­cally fast, but also li­able to snif out cam­ber changes and sur­face im­per­fec­tions like an over-at­ten­tive airport drug dog. A bit of a hot rod, in other words.

If you thought the road­ster might dial things back a bit, think again. We’re barely 10 sec­onds out of the ho­tel car park when it’s clear that this is a car that takes an equally hard­line ap­proach. Even just mooching up to the on-ramp for High­way 17, it jig­gles, jog­gles, prods and pokes. The throt­tle has a hair trig­ger. It feels like ev­ery one of those 557 horses is champ­ing at the bit. Given that the lo­cal plod is equally hy­per­ac­tive, this is a car in which you need to ex­er­cise some self-re­straint.

There can’t be many soft-tops out there as rigid as this. The GT coupe’s light­weight alu­minum space­frame also re­ceives ex­tra re­in­force­ment to counter the efects of de­cap­i­ta­tion. New side skirts with chunkier walls and ex­tra cham­bers are added, while the dash­board gains ad­di­tional strut braces against the wind­screen, and there’s an­other tower brace be­tween the soft top and the fuel tank. A cross-mem­ber be­hind the seats boosts the rollover pro­tec­tion sys­tem. Up front, it uses mag­ne­sium in its struc­ture to re­duce weight ahead of the axle, en­hanc­ing turn-in. The roof mech­a­nism is also trick: a mag­ne­sium/steel/alu­minium struc­ture sup­ports a three-layer hood, avail­able in black, red or beige, which opens or closes in 11 sec­onds at speeds up to 30mph.

The mus­cle-car hot-rod equa­tion is am­plifed by the driv­ing po­si­tion. There’s such an ex­panse of bon­net vis­i­ble through the wind­screen you could ap­ply for plan­ning

“It feels like ev­ery one of those 557 horses is champ­ing at the bit”

per­mis­sion – for a shop­ping mall. The cabin am­bi­ence is en­livened by nappa leather trim, an AMG Per­for­mance steer­ing wheel, and a mighty Burmester sur­round sound sys­tem with a fully in­te­grated sub-woofer. The rear axle isn’t di­rectly be­neath your bot­tom, but it’s close, and that sen­sa­tion in­forms the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The GT C is also wider at the rear than the stan­dard car (2007mm vs 1939mm), and uses big­ger wheels and tyres (305/30 R20 vs 295/35 R19). Its rear apron has wider con­tours and ex­tra vents for im­proved air fow, al­though both mod­els fea­ture a bootlid made of SMC (Sheet Mould­ing Com­pound) and car­bon fbre with an in­te­gral spoiler, to help re­duce weight (1,735kg vs 1,670kg).

If this points to a car with enor­mous dry weather trac­tion and grip in all phases of a cor­ner, well, you’d be right. Some­where out of Prescott – a dead ringer for Hill Val­ley in Back to the Fu­ture – we fnd a fan­tas­tic loop that takes us so far above sea level there’s soon snow on the ground. Be­fore that, we get to revel in an en­gine that truly is a force of na­ture, some­how squeez­ing out 557bhp and 502lb ft against a thun­der­ously bari­tone ex­haust note back­drop, while rec­on­cil­ing a 195mph top speed and 0–62mph time of 3.7secs with 259g/km CO and 24.7mpg.

The GT C uses AMG’s triple-mode Ride Con­trol adap­tive damp­ing sys­tem (it’s a £1,495 op­tion else­where), so you can fip be­tween Com­fort, Sport and Sport Plus for pro­gres­sively less com­pli­ant re­bound and com­pres­sion lev­els. The C model also adds a Race mode to the Dy­namic Se­lect dual-shift trans­mis­sion menu, to go with C, S, S+ and In­di­vid­ual. First gear on the 7spd DCT – a rear transaxle job – has a higher ra­tio, while seventh and the fnal drive are lower for greater ur­gency. It also has big­ger front brakes (390mm v 360mm, with ce­ram­ics as an op­tion on both GT and GT C).

It’s while work­ing through the myr­iad op­tions and vari­ables that I won­der how its ri­vals would han­dle this road. The AMG has fan­tas­tic turn-in, and the ac­tive rear axle re­duces un­der­steer and sharp­ens agility ap­pre­cia­bly by point­ing the wheels 1.5° in the op­po­site di­rec­tion to the fronts up to 62mph. Even so, it still can’t help but feel nose-led com­pared with the mid-en­gined Audi. The Porsche Turbo isn’t the best 911 in terms of ab­so­lute feel, but its steer­ing, AWD trac­tion and brak­ing are su­per­hu­man. And it ain’t slow, ei­ther. The Fer­rari’s too soft, but even a soft Fer­rari is still a Fer­rari. The Bent­ley’s too heavy, the Jaguar a se­cret gem sad­dled with an in­fe­rior in­te­rior. The GT C road­ster feels ap­proach­able at, say, six-tenths, but turns a bit sledge­ham­mer the harder you go. An ex­otic sledge­ham­mer, but still ul­ti­mately, it lacks fnesse.

Switch­ing into the base GT road­ster is a text­book case of less be­ing more. Less money, for a start, al­though if you can run to £110,135 for a two-seater con­vert­ible, cash is prob­a­bly not an is­sue. But it also rides more com­fort­ably, and while it doesn’t warp of the line quite as fam­boy­antly as the GT C, you can prob­a­bly live with the three-tenths it gives away to 62mph. AMG sold close to 100,000 cars last year, and its cus­tomers aren’t gen­er­ally back­wards about com­ing for­wards. In this case, though, life isn’t just good with 81bhp less, it’s ac­tu­ally bet­ter.

Roof-down, you can en­joy the view. Mostly of the enor­mous bon­net

OR TRY THIS Audi R8 V10 Spy­der Mid-en­gined, nat-asp V10 en­gine, as us­able as it is fast

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