“The tracton control’s intervention is so soft that at times it feels like an autonomous drift button”
confrms as much even sooner. The steering is heavy and the direction changes are so, so crisp. It feels quite diferent to the standard car, and so it should because a quick check of the spec sheet afterwards shows that, just like the RS, it has rear steering.
The car feels taut and fat. Turn-in is absolutely superb (the front tyre is a 275/35) and then the grip just builds down the side of the car. It will understeer if you’re lazy with the throttle, but the torque delivery is so violent and the diferential so tight that at pretty much any point you can move the slip angle to the rear axle. Or just do a skid.
But here’s the surprising bit. Until now, all very fast AMGs, even the ones supposedly optimised for track use, have been tractionlimited thugs. Hugely enjoyable, yes, but lacking the breadth of ability to pound out accurate laps. The GT R completely changes that. It’s efectively front-mid-engined, and the new spring/damper combination working with the sticky tyres have given it the kind of traction the basic S model can’t even dream of. And this is the key to that car’s character: post-apex you fnd yourself issuing small corrective steering inputs as the rear just moves around and hunts for traction. It’s not scary – it’s actually beautifully controlled.
And you can lean on that fancy new tractioncontrol system. Slacken it away from maximum assistance and it allows a fair degree of controlled slip – the intervention is so soft it does at times feel like an autonomous drift button.
The ceramic brakes are immense, but you don’t concentrate on them because the motor flls your senses. With the DNA toggle in Race mode, the exhaust faps are open and the thing blares and screams on any throttle opening, then snaps and bangs on the overrun. It’s an immense powertrain because the gearshift is so damn good both up and down the ’box. The GT R is the best AMG I’ve driven on track by a factor of 10.
The M4 GTS, sadly, comes nowhere close to matching it. I’ve never fully understood why this track-addict M4 fell so far short of expectations – actually that’s not the case. It didn’t feel 68bhp faster than the standard car, traction was poor, grip not that impressive and it just wasn’t that exciting to drive. I just don’t understand how BMW thought this was worth an extra £64,075 over the standard M4. And before I’m accused of bashing all turbocharged M cars, I’m one of the few genuine E80 M3/M4 advocates out there.
The GTS pushes a claimed 493bhp, but at 1510kg, while lighter than the AMG, it feels much heavier. Being based on a physically bigger machine than the other two doesn’t help, nor does the higher seating position. There’s an aloofness to the controls after the AMG, everything is light and lacking in a sense of connection. And it simply can’t work the same sticky Michelins the way the Mercedes can. Once they’re fully up to temperature you can chase the throttle coming out of turns, but before that point this is one of the most tail-happy cars I’ve driven in years. I should love that, but the fact is the GTS is a very spiky character. I don’t always trust it, even in the dry. In the wet I would normally choose to wear some kind of adult nappy before buckling up.
The traction control isn’t as sophisticated as the GT R’s, so you really need to switch it of and grow a pair. The motor is strong and in isolation I’d be telling you how impressive it is for a turbo unit in terms of response and high-rpm appetite, but it loses to the Mercedes in every single area. And the gearbox isn’t as quick either.
But what I fnd truly bafing about the BMW is that I actually prefer driving a standard M3 saloon to this exotic limited-numbers special. And that just shouldn’t be the case. I can’t really pass judgement on the looks, I suppose it’s down to the individual. But if both the Porsche and the Mercedes carry about them a sense of real motorsport DNA, the BMW somehow seems a little, well, aftermarket. Judge a man by the size of his spoiler, and all that.
The BMW poses no threat to the Porsche whatsoever. Its 4.0 fat-six is the only atmospheric motor here and it screams most of the way to 9,000rpm. It is the lightest, has the most aggressive aerodynamic appendages and those rear tyres ofer a 325 section to the road surface.
Turbochargers may bring massive mid-range shove, but the moment you open up the Porsche and ping an 8,500rpm gearchange you know that however hard Mercedes has tried with the GT R, it just can’t match the emotional appeal of this machine. It is one of the great, unsullied mechanical experiences.
The gearbox is the fastest, most race-like here. The soaring intake noise that changes pitch several times as it climbs towards the red line is the best here, the steering is also the best here – I think you might be getting some idea of how I feel about this car.
And it goes such a long way to fxing the problems that have plagued fast track-going 911s for decades. The clever combination of locking diferential, rear-wheel steering and startlingly wide 265-section front tyres keep the understeer to a minimum. It doesn’t turn in quite as sharply as the Mercedes, but it can be bullied into an apex by trail-braking in a way no other fast 911 can. Traction is immense and the accuracy with which you can place the thing borders on the telepathic.