MERCEDES-AMG GT C
A Gran Turismo for the ages
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.
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.”