The sun king

AMG GT C Road­ster, the thor­ough­bred of Mercedes soft-tops

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Short Cut - DAMIEN REID

AS night fol­lows day, when a pre­mium man­u­fac­turer re­leases a sports coupe, it fol­lows it up a year or two later with a con­vert­ible.

This un­writ­ten law has reached the 4.0-litre, twin­turbo V8 Mercedes AMG GT with the ar­rival of the Road­ster. This ad­di­tion to the ev­er­ex­pand­ing GT range was en­tirely pre­dictable but brings with it a change in char­ac­ter over the coupe, mak­ing it more than just an AMG GT with­out sun pro­tec­tion.

Its pre­de­ces­sor, the gull­winged SLS AMG drew heav­ily on the com­pany’s mo­tor­sport her­itage for de­sign in­spi­ra­tion whereas the AMG GT took di­rect aim at the Porsche 911 not only with its mar­ket po­si­tion­ing but also with its swoopy rear and hor­i­zon­tal tail-lights.

The emer­gence of the Road­ster how­ever has brought a lit­tle more of Mercedes-Benz back with a squat bootlid more rem­i­nis­cent of pre­vi­ous SLs.

Apart from a wind de­flec­tor be­hind the seats, the base Road­ster ($284,000) is near iden­ti­cal to the coupe. How­ever the GT C ver­sion tested here packs more into cos­met­ics, com­fort and en­gi­neer­ing.

In per­for­mance terms, the GT C sits be­tween AMG’s GT S and GT R coupes, adopt­ing from the lat­ter the 57mm wider rear track, fat rear guards to fit ac­tive rear-wheel steer­ing, elec­tronic diff and adap­tive dampers as well as its sev­en­speed, dual-clutch au­to­matic transaxle trans­mis­sion.

The nose also gets a cou­ple of ex­tra nos­trils to feed two ad­di­tional ra­di­a­tors that sit low and wide in the front cor­ners.

It’s capped by 19 and 20-inch al­loys while both Road­sters now use the “Panamer­i­cana” grille taken from the GT3 race car with its prom­i­nent chrome ver­ti­cal bars.

The GT C brings an ex­tra 60kW over the reg­u­lar Road­ster — which was im­me­di­ately no­tice­able when we put its 410kW to good use on the back roads.

You may think that, as a con­vert­ible, it’s not as fo­cused as the coupe but you are quickly re­minded that it’s now just 20kW shy of the Lewis Hamil­ton-in­spired GT R.

Oddly, the week­end track day en­thu­si­ast may pre­fer the GT C Road­ster over the coupe as it not only gets the GT R han­dling good­ies but also has an iPhone app that analy­ses driv­ing styles and can share the data with other AMG driv­ers on Face­book and YouTube.

Launch con­trol is sim­ple and fun. With left foot on the brake and right foot on the gas, the revs rise to what­ever the driver sets by click­ing the pad­dle shift. Then it’s just a slip of the left foot off the brake for an in­stant burst to 100km/h in 3.7 sec­onds.

A flat-bot­tom steer­ing wheel and seats in Nappa leather wel­come you as you open the door with the best part be­ing an Airscarf that blows hot or cool air on the back of your neck when the roof’s down. Com­bined with the ven­ti­lated seats, it cre­ates a cli­mate­con­trolled cock­pit de­fy­ing in the el­e­ments.

Its three-layer soft fab­ric hood op­er­ates in 11 sec­onds at up to 50km/h. When stowed, it doesn’t eat into the pre­cious cargo space be­hind the seats.

The Road­ster also en­joys ad­di­tional brac­ing in the dash and the rear bulk­head, a new rear tower brace and re­in­forced sills, so not once did I feel any body flex dur­ing our drive.

The rear steer­ing worked well to counter the nose-heavy feel but there were times it felt too stiff for the B-roads and cat­tle grids — my co-driver and I found it rigid and jumpy on un­even or cam­bered sur­faces.

To keep its nose pinned to the road, the Road­ster uses the GT R’s ac­tive air set-up of ver­ti­cal lou­vres be­hind the front apron — these open and close in less than a sec­ond as the speeds rise and the big front wheels scram­ble for trac­tion.

The AMG GT C en­cour­ages you to chase its lim­its, to dive deeper into cor­ners, brake later, ac­cel­er­ate ear­lier and find its nat­u­ral bal­ance through twist­ing curves.

It’s a re­ward­ing drive that gets the adrenalin pump­ing but when you back off and flick it out of Sport mode, it prowls the bay­side sub­urbs or takes in the city lights with the best of the boule­vard cruis­ers.

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