Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster
BiTurbo V8 power in an open-top beauty
The thing with a point of view is that everyone has one. And, what’s worse, in close proximity, you’re handed a slice of said opinion whether you want it or not. Thankfully, some points of view are appreciated. Even more so because of how they translate into the real world. What one likes to hear, and what one believes others like to hear are two ideas that do not always share a path. However, some people get it right, sometimes, and the rewards of that effort are great. So what if it’s an entry-level idea.
The beauty of a roadster is its ability to make you smile when the top is down. Yes, open-air motoring is a bliss in itself, but when you have an engine with a soundtrack as good as that 4.0-litre BiTurbo V8, there is little more you could want out of life. What a roadster is supposed to do, primarily, is make the drive experience more alive. The clichéd wind in your hair, open road, and the freedom of motoring are all still being actively pursued for a reason: they feel good. And they do make you feel alive. Besides, having a big ol’ V8 does add to the experience several-fold over some four-cylinder kitchen blender of a powerplant.
Right. So the AMG GT Roadster is here, packing a folding soft-top and the handbuilt M178 BiTurbo 3,982-cc V8 that recently underwent an upgrade to 476 PS and 630 Nm. Those aren’t small numbers. They’re just as capable as tickling your excitement buds as they are at raising hell — on road or track. And, for Rs 2.19 crore — a hefty sum, indeed — you could find yourself driving down a m ountain road, the wind in your hair, and the rest of your hair standing on end as the GT Roadster does what it does best — bring the thrill in spades, with its own unique soundtrack.
I was not on a mountain road. I was on a Formula One racetrack. And the wind was heavy with the stench of overpopulation and its associated shortcomings. But, even so, as I baked under the 38.5° C sun — with the track temperature presumably over 50° — I found a smile had managed to sprout and grow as I waited my turn to drive the glistening candy-apple red AMG sports car. AMG do it right. They always do it right. The Panamericana grille looks mean. The lines on this GT are curvaceous and seductive and very, very inviting. It’s a naughty little roadster, and the smile with those teeth showing only add to the want of jumping in and just going wild around the closed circuit. And, photos clicked, that’s just what I did.
The afternoon sun threatened to brown me another shade of tan, but the AMG GT Roadster, with its alcantara rich interior and chiselled seats had other plans. Foot on the brake, push the glassy ‘Start’ button sitting in the tastefully milled aluminium centre console, and the V8 growls to life. Reminiscent scenes came back to mind. I’d only received a taxi-lap in the SLS AMG some time ago around this very circuit. The M159 6,208-cc natural V8 in there sounded powerful, yes, but extremely elegant and refined; like a 6’6” bouncer in a suit who spent three years in soft-skills training. This AMG GT Roadster sounds nothing like that. Where the M159 was a potential Grammy-winning baritone, this M178 is a brute blaring its vocals loud and proud. This V8? It sounds raw. It sounds like it was made by speed freaks that want to engage every sense on the move, and not just thrill your eyes with the sensation of speed it’s capable of producing. Hearing what sounds like an angry bear at the helm of a heavy truck provides for a completely different sensation. Your eyes become alert, yes, but that’s from the tingling in the back of your head from the engine noise. And it’s a glorious noise!
Heading into the first corner down the start-finish straight, I’m past 180 km/h, the AMG 7SS is barely done nibbling down fourth, and the revs have piled on just right for an engagement through the roof. If the roof was on, it would have been raised, just like the excitement and the hair on my hands. Into the first corner and the GT darts in precisely. No understeer, no oversteer, and a little bit of tyre squeal as I change from right to left and head up the hill for Turn Three and the back straight.
It may be a front-mid-engined GT, but — speaking purely from a sound perspective — the routing of the exhaust makes it almost seem like the engine is an inch away from the back of your head! It’s wild, almost raucous, and feels completely unhinged. And I absolutely love it! It’s the aural bliss which can result only from the finest metallurgical skill-set and piecing every bit of the puzzle together with utmost precision and flair. A chunk of reason behind salivating at this prospect is that today we know the environment is in a crisis. There will be electric cars and they will be just as quick. Yet, for those who have craved these fossil-fuel powered metal monsters, it’s engines like these that rekindle hope. Shut down a bank of cylinders. Shut off fuel supply. Hell, enable electronically-controlled coast mode. But keep the essence of motoring alive. Let the engine roar to its heart’s content. Let the wide low-
profile tyres squeal as you attack the bends. Let the seat bolsters squeeze you inappropriately as gravity and G-force make other plans for your body than what you and the car set out to accomplish. So what if it’s “only” 476 horsepower? So what if it’s a downsized engine? It’s still eight cylinders. It’s still rear-wheel drive. And it can still chew you up and spit you out awkwardly if you get ahead of yourself and do something stupid. The AMG GT (and the GT S) was a rebirth — a resurrection — of the sports car for Mercedes-AMG. This one feels no different. Okay, I can hear the engine a little better with the roof down, but that’s about it.
A couple of decades ago, F1 cars had 450 PS. People were setting records with 500 PS. The world’s fastest car in the late 1990s did over 380 km/h with 627 PS. What is it now? Why do you need 800 PS to do 350 km/h? It’s like the car needs 450 PS to just subdue the electronics and tell them to sit down and shut up! When a car manages to do more with less — that’s the mantra today, isn’t it? — it’s great. No, I’m not talking about going more miles on lesser fuel. It’s about delivering more thrill with less power. Mercedes-AMG have given us a raw sports car, the likes of which take the battle to the sports car of all sports cars: the Porsche 911. Never have the two ends of Stuttgart been so evenly matched. So there are multiple power outputs and body styles — hard-top, soft-top, glass-top, what-not — but they do what they set out to do: be proper sports cars. I don’t know about you, but with the AMG GT, I believe the world has two incredible car lines. And, for me, that’s reason enough to celebrate the present. It doesn’t matter that they trim out the top-end and give you 476 PS. Pile on the pressure and they’ll give you a 557-PS GT C — coupé and roadster. Pile it on a little more and you would probably even receive a 600+ PS Black Series. Let AMG work the top like only they know how to. You won’t be disappointed. Not if they keep doing cars like this. Never.
( Left) Sporty ‘designo’ interior blends manmade leather with alcantara and red stripes. Convertible top is available in one of three colours