Ignition - - Front Page - By Mark Hack­ing

When you con­sider that it opened less than a decade ago, the Al­garve In­ter­na­tional Cir­cuit in Por­ti­mao is al­most as old school as it gets: el­e­va­tion changes, fast cor­ners, fast blind cor­ners. Sure, there's de­cent run-off area. But when you're driv­ing a car like the 2018 Mercedes-amg GT R any­where near its the­o­ret­i­cal lim­its, you're go­ing to need ev­ery last square inch of that run-off… and maybe a bit more.

At least this is what I learned while rid­ing shot­gun with Bernd Sch­nei­der, the 5-time DTM cham­pion, as he flung the lat­est and great­est it­er­a­tion of the AMG su­per­car around the daunt­ing cir­cuit.

Blast­ing to­wards the first turn, a 110-de­gree right-hand bend, the ami­able Sch­nei­der car­ried far more speed than seemed pos­si­ble. He then car­ried all that speed through turn two, a gen­tler right-han­der, send­ing the car into full drift mode and pro­pel­ling well into the gen­er­ous run-off area. The sound of grit and bits of Miche­lin pinged off the back of the car as the driver ex­pertly an­gled the GT R to­wards the en­try of the third turn.

This bend, a very sharp up­hill righthander, brought speeds down to a level that the av­er­age hu­man brain could be­gin to process and gave Sch­nei­der the chance for a longer look in his mir­rors. He wasn't con­cerned about any of the fol­low­ing driv­ers get­ting too close; he was check­ing to see whether they had stayed on track in their (fu­tile) ef­forts to keep up with him.

When the AMG GT de­buted a few short years ago, the gen­eral con­sen­sus was that it was a com­pe­tent and en­gag­ing per­for­mance car that, nev­er­the­less, might not leave any­one at Porsche HQ quak­ing in his or her boots. The Mercedes-amg GT R is a dif­fer­ent story al­to­gether. Although it's clearly just a more highly tuned ver­sion of what is ef­fec­tively the same car, the re­sult of all the tun­ing is pro­found.

First things first: the sound and the fury.

The twin-turbo 4.0L V8 has been mas­saged to pro­duce 577 horse­power or 74 more than for the AMG GT S. This ro­bust en­gine de­vel­ops 516 lb-ft of torque in a broad man­ner, span­ning from

just 1,900 rpm to 5,500 rpm. The 7-speed dual-clutch au­to­matic has been re­cal­i­brated with a longer ra­tio for first gear and shorter ra­tios for sixth and sev­enth. All the power is sent to the rear wheels.

De­spite the in­crease in out­put and a weight sav­ings of some 15 kg over­all — more if you opt for the op­tional car­bon-ce­ramic brakes — the AMG GT R is not all that much quicker in a straight line than the GT S. The sprint to 100 km/h takes an ex­pected 3.6 sec­onds, just two-tenths sooner than for the GT S. Top speed rolls in at 332 km/h.

But here's the thing about the lat­est cre­ation from the mad sci­en­tists at AMG: Throw a few cor­ners into the mix — es­pe­cially the types of cor­ners where a large set of huevos makes all the dif­fer­ence in the world — and the AMG GT R is gone, baby, gone.

The shape of the car has been sculpted for more track-ready ef- fi­ciency and new tech­nol­ogy has been added to the mix. The new front fas­cia, grille, nips and tucks com­bine to pro­duce zero lift at the nose. The fixed rear wing helps cre­ate mi­nus 250 kg of lift at the back. An aero­dy­namic un­der­tray vac­u­ums the car to the road at higher speeds. Ac­tive air

pan­els in the front aid in keep­ing things cool. And the ac­tive rear axle steer­ing sys­tem helps guys like Bernd Sch­nei­der toss the car around like it's an over­grown shifter kart.

There's an­other key dif­fer­ence be­tween the AMG GT R and its im­me­di­ate pre­de­ces­sors; a small, yel­low, crude-look­ing dial that gives this new su­per­car an el­e­ment of man­li­ness (for lack of a bet­ter word) and raise it close to the level of leg­end.

Lifted di­rectly from rac­ing, the dial trig­gers the nine-stage trac­tion con­trol sys­tem. Keep the dial all the way to the right and you're aided and abet­ted by all the many ad­vanced driver aids de­signed by Mercedes-amg to keep you alive. Twist the dial all the way to the left and… well, you'd bet­ter be Bernd Sch­nei­der or a close ap­prox­i­ma­tion.

If you're ei­ther brave or fool­hardy enough to test what the 2018 Mercedes-amg GT R can really do on a closed course, the car is more than up to the chal­lenge. Like ev­ery other mod­ern su­per­car on the mar­ket these days, there is a level of ev­ery­day func­tion­al­ity here.

There are five drive modes, one of them la­beled “com­fort.” There is no clutch and the AMG Speed­shift is all too ca­pa­ble of de­cid­ing which gear to select. The brakes are pro­foundly ready to bring ev­ery­thing to a screech­ing halt. And, of course, there are the afore­men­tioned ad­vanced driver aids.

But to truly ex­pe­ri­ence what the AMG GT R is all about, you need to ride shot­gun with a 5-time DTM cham­pion, see where he places the car, mea­sure his an­gle of at­tack, process how much speed he car­ries through the cor­ners and feel how the car re­sponds. Then, you need to get be­hind the wheel your­self, en­gage race mode, turn that yel­low dial as far to the left as you dare, chase Bernd Sch­nei­der to the best of your abil­i­ties and un­leash the green monster.

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