Road­ster emerges as the real star

IN­TER­NA­TIONAL LAUNCH/ Roof­less ver­sion of AMG’s GT turns out to be fast, fun and bril­liant, says Michael Tay­lor

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

It seems like pulling the metal roof off the Mercedes-AMG GT coupe has re­vealed the car it al­ways wanted to be. The GT C road­ster — which is due in SA in June — looks, feels and drives like it might just be the best GT ver­sion there is, with a broader fun-time zone than the coupe, backed up by han­dling that’s al­most as good and looks that are even bet­ter.

You can bury any cyn­i­cism you might har­bour about the GT C road­ster. It’s not just an op­por­tunis­tic hack at the roof pil­lars with an axe to make a new car. It is much more com­plete than that; it’s on the cusp of bril­liance.

It’s ev­i­dent from the first few hun­dred me­tres that this car is in­te­grated and or­gan­ised and that AMG is telling the truth when it claims it was de­signed R757,500 Now 410kW 680Nm 316km/h 3.7 sec­onds 11.4l/100km 259g/km and en­gi­neered at the same time as the coupe. The car’s body feels rock solid, stiff in the chas­sis but ca­pa­ble of rid­ing smoothly and com­fort­ably on its springs. It’s also breath­tak­ingly fast, bru­tally loud at times and con­fi­dent in its han­dling.

You would nor­mally ex­pect a sig­nif­i­cant de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in han­dling sharp­ness when a car moves to a roof­less lay­out, but AMG has coun­tered that by giv­ing the road­ster plenty of re­in­forc­ing and, just as crit­i­cally, a big dose of han­dling help in the form of the GT R’s rear-wheel steer­ing sys­tem.

And it’s good. It’s fleet of foot, it changes di­rec­tion quickly and as­sertively and its grip on the road in­stils driv­ers with un­shake­able con­fi­dence in the car be­neath them.

All this be­gins with a core that is stu­pen­dously rigid in its bodyshell, thanks to AMG thick­en­ing up the walls of the hol­low sills and fill­ing them with more boxed-off chambers. The big­gest rigid­ity win is the cross mem­ber (com­plete with the rollover pro­tec­tion sys­tem) be­hind the seats, but sig­nif­i­cant gains are also made by in­tro­duc­ing a sup­port brace be­tween the wind­screen’s frame and the dash­board and an­other be­tween the roof and the fuel tank.

De­pend­ing on the spec­i­fi­ca­tion, it is about 50kg heav­ier than the coupe, and AMG has done well to keep it to just that much. It’s no feath­er­weight at 1,660kg but it’s far more co­her­ent than just be­ing a life-sup­port sys­tem for a 4.0l, twin turbo V8.

The Z-fold roof sys­tem is fab­u­lous to use. It rises or falls in 11 sec­onds and it can go ei­ther way at up to 50km/h.

There is also the en­try-level GT road­ster, but the GT C ver­sion has it cov­ered for ev­ery­thing sig­nif­i­cant.

In­stead of the base car’s 350kW ver­sion of the 4.0l biturbo V8, the GT C has 410kW, which is ac­tu­ally 26kW more than the GT S coupe and only 20kW shy of the GT R’s hard­core mo­tor. It ham­mers to 100km/h in 3.7 sec­onds, rip­ping through to a 316km/h top speed — all with the roof down.

It gets its mid-level shove thanks to 680Nm of torque from 1,900r/min to 5,750 and it com­bines all this with a seven-speed dual-clutch trans­mis­sion.

The GT C ver­sion has a lot more go­ing for it over the en­trylevel GT than just a stronger ver­sion of the same en­gine. Its rear end is 57mm wider, to ac­com­mo­date the 305/30 R20 rear rub­ber. It uses an elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled lock­ing dif­fer­en­tial (the stan­dard car uses a me­chan­i­cal unit), it has rear­wheel steer­ing, adap­tive damp­ing, the loud­est ex­haust sys­tem, big­ger brakes and even a Race mode. And it jus­ti­fies a Race mode be­cause it’s good enough to frighten some poorly driven GT S coupes on the track.

None of this stu­pen­dous per­for­mance should frighten any­body off, though. It can be flung into medium and high-speed bends with just a hint of a push at the front, or you can be a bit wilder and pro­voke a tail slide if you dare. Ei­ther way, just a frac­tion of a se­cond later, the rear-wheel steer­ing and the diff start to do their thing and pull the car back into line again, leav­ing it to corner flat with bril­liant body con­trol and punch out of the other side of the corner su­perbly.

The rear wheels turn in the op­po­site di­rec­tion to the front wheels un­til 100km/h, when they switch to turn­ing the same way. It sounds tricky, but it is well-proven tech­nol­ogy and all you ac­tu­ally feel from in­side the car is more agility and se­cu­rity.

It doesn’t take long be­fore you trust it im­plic­itly, con­vinced that it will never make you feel ner­vous about what’s hap­pen­ing un­der­neath you, never a time when you think it might snap away.

All the set­tings have their own char­ac­ter, easy to dis­tin­guish and clear in their pur­pose. And be­cause they’re so easy to cy­cle through, you find your­self switch­ing be­tween them fre­quently, just be­cause they work. Wind­ing bits? Sport. Lone­lier wind­ing bits? Sport+ or Race. Calmer, gen­tle roads? Com­fort. Group of school kids loi­ter­ing on a foot­path? Max­i­mum ex­haust noise for bangs and crack­les.

It’s a bel­low­ing beast of a thing with real po­tency and the chas­sis is so good that not a scrap of it is wasted on the GT C road­ster.

Price: On sale date: Max power: Max torque: Top speed: 0-100km/h: Com­bined con­sump­tion: CO2 emis­sions: Star rat­ing:

The road­ster could well be the best ver­sion of the MercedesAMG GT yet. Right: The GT C is the one to have, not only for its in­creased power but for its looks and han­dling.

The in­te­rior is ba­si­cally the same as the coupe ex­cept for var­i­ous items to keep the cold out and less stor­age.

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