MERCEDES AMG GT R
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.