MERCEDES-AMG GT C

A Gran Turismo for the ages

Driven - - Contents -

Be­sides the ob­vi­ous dif­fer­ences, read Au­to­bahn, there is some­thing magical about driv­ing a Ger­man-built sports car in the land of its birth, as BERNIE HELLBERG dis­cov­ers.

I AM NOT A PAR­TIC­U­LARLY FUSSY DRIVER. IN FACT, I LOVE DRIV­ING; EV­ERY­THING ABOUT IT, NO MAT­TER THE DIS­TANCE. PUT ME BE­HIND THE WHEEL OF JUST ABOUT ANY­THING HALF DE­CENT AND I’D LIKELY DRIVE TO CAPE TOWN, AND BACK, ON A WHIM.

Like any driv­ing en­thu­si­ast, my nat­u­ral born en­thu­si­asm goes into over­drive when the ride is a 410 kW vir­tu­ally hand­built Teu­tonic GT sports car, and the des­ti­na­tion is the Bil­ster Berg race­track in north­west­ern Ger­many…

MADE IN AFFALTERBACH

In Mercedes terms, the folk at Affalterbach have it good. In­creas­ingly, they get to not only dream up, but also cre­ate some of the most re­mark­able driv­ing ma­chines ever to wear a three­p­ointed star.

The SLS AMG was the first MercedesBenz to be de­signed and built from scratch en­tirely by AMG. Un­veiled at the 2009 Frankfurt Mo­tor Show, the SLS AMG road car was pro­duced in var­i­ous for­mats from 2010, with the last SLS AMG GT, pro­duced up to 2014; Race­cars were built up to 2015 when the last SLS AMG GT3 rolled off the pro­duc­tion line.

Af­ter the SLS AMG, the AMG GT be­came the sec­ond sports car de­vel­oped en­tirely in-house by Mercedes-AMG. Launched in 2015, both the GT and high-per­for­mance GT S were as­sem­bled at the MercedesBenz plant in Sin­delfin­gen, Ger­many.

Widely re­garded as the suc­ces­sor to the iconic SLS, the AMG GT re­tained a sim­i­lar de­sign as its pre­de­ces­sor, although it lost the sig­na­ture gull­wing doors and swopped the 6.2-litre nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V8, for a sig­nif­i­cantly lighter twin-tur­bocharged 4.0-litre pow­er­plant, de­vel­oped specif­i­cally for the GT.

Now pro­duced by Mercedes-AMG, a wholly owned sub­sidiary of Daim­ler AG, the first AMG GTs made land­fall in South Africa dur­ing March 2015.

BUNDESAUTOBAHN ET AL

If you love driv­ing, you haven’t lived un­til you have crossed (at least) the

200 km/h mark in a Ger­man sports car and on that most hal­lowed of pub­lic stretches of as­phalt, the Bundesautobahn. Not just be­cause there are some sec­tions of the nearly 13,000 kilo­me­tre multi-lane road net­work where the Richt ge schw in digke it or ad­vi­sory speed limit of 130 km/h doesn’t ap­ply (let your imag­i­na­tion go for a mo­ment), but be­cause Ger­man drivers (by train­ing) stick to the rules of the road as if their lives de­pended on it.

This uni­ver­sal mind­ful­ness comes in very handy when you’re pi­lot­ing a pow­er­ful Mercedes-AMG, in this case the lat­est ad­di­tion to the GT fam­ily – the GT C Coupé.

AMG GT FAM­ILY

Tak­ing its right­ful place in the AMG GT line-up, the GT C Coupé – and its Road­ster range com­pan­ion – is po­si­tioned be­tween the once range-top­ping GT S and the cur­rently reign­ing GT road war­rior, the 430 kW GT R.

Although all four cars es­sen­tially share the M178 en­gine block de­sign, dif­fer­ent map­ping schemes set the cars apart. Inas­much as the GT S is a more ag­gres­sively styled, and more pow­er­ful in­car­na­tion of the GT, so the GT R takes the lead over the de­tuned (to 410 kW) GT C. The for­mer also re­ceives a prom­i­nent rear wing and dif­fuser, and beefier fron­tend treat­ment. Power out­put for the range is: GT 350 kW and 630 Nm; GT S 384 kW and 670 Nm; GT C 410 kW and 680 Nm (coupé, road­ster and the lim­ited Edi­tion 50); and the GT R 430 kW and 700 Nm.

Ev­ery GT fea­tures a rear-wheel driv­e­train and a dual-clutch, seven-speed AMG Speed­shift trans­mis­sion, con­nected to the en­gine by a car­bon-fi­bre drive­shaft bound in a rigid torque tube.

DRIV­ING THE GT C

Its SLS-de­rived front mid-en­gine, rear-wheel-drive lay­out –the en­gine is po­si­tioned ahead of the rear axle – means that you’re pi­lot­ing the beast mere inches away from both the en­gine and the rear wheels. You’re also sit­ting low to the ground, which cre­ates a sense of con­nect­ed­ness to the car and its light­weight alu­minium chas­sis.

Start the GT C and the en­gine roars to life with a deep in­tox­i­cat­ing growl that in­stantly re­minds you of its close re­la­tion­ship to the GT R. But de­spite the fan­fare, the GT C only gets to full po­ten­tial once you switch the drive mode se­lec­tor to Sport or Sport+.

Once out on the road, the GT C an­swers a ques­tion that has gnawed at me since the start of the launch event – are so many power vari­ants for the same car truly nec­es­sary?

To an­swer that ques­tion, you have to peek be­yond the nom­i­nal dif­fer­ences in power out­put at the top end of the range. The GT C in­her­its the GT R’s four­wheel-steer­ing sys­tem and elec­tronic lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial, two es­sen­tial fea­tures for travers­ing the twisties I en­coun­tered dur­ing the in­ter­mit­tently wet launch drive around the Pader­born coun­try­side. Com­bined with a 57 mm wider rear track over the GT and GT S, means that the C can ac­com­mo­date wider tyres for bet­ter grip, and more solid han­dling. In­ci­den­tally, the GT R is wider both at the front and the rear, for the same rea­son.

How­ever, to ex­pe­ri­ence the power of the GT C is what I came to this place to do, and the GT C obliged re­as­sur­ingly through ev­ery shift.

Off the mark, the GT C Coupé needs only 3.7 sec­onds to hit its 100 km/h tar­get, from there it is happy to flex its con­sid­er­ably torquey mus­cles all the way to 317 km/h. The Road­ster man­ages one kilo­me­tre per hour less at the top end, but loses vir­tu­ally no tor­sional rigid­ity thanks to ad­di­tional strength­en­ing be­stowed upon it by the AMG engi­neers.

Although tempted to drive it hard, it is easy to push most of the nan­nies be­yond their re­spec­tive com­fort zones, es­pe­cially in the wet, and in Sport+ mode.

The GT C is most com­fort­able op­er­at­ing in the mid to up­per rev range, although its am­ple torque comes into play from as low as 1,900 r/min, keep­ing the ex­cite­ment build­ing through each of the seven gears.

LAST WORD

For all its fan­fare, the AMG GT R is not as vastly dif­fer­ent a driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

as I ex­pected go­ing into this ex­er­cise. Although, ad­mit­tedly, I only sam­pled the for­mer on the Bil­ster Berg race­track, ver­sus ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the GT C in all its in­car­na­tions on the open road.

The bot­tom line: if GT R-like per­for­mance and han­dling prow­ess is what you crave, but want to stay un­der (and far away from) the radar, you’ll find your happy place in the GT C.

Although not avail­able at the time of go­ing to print, pric­ing for the GT C Coupé is ex­pected to slot in be­tween the R2,218,756 of the GT S, and the GT R Coupé’s R2,705.746.

“START THE GT C AND THE EN­GINE ROARS TO LIFE WITH A DEEP IN­TOX­I­CAT­ING GROWL THAT IN­STANTLY RE­MINDS YOU OF ITS CLOSE RE­LA­TION­SHIP TO THE GT R.”

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