The sun king
AMG GT C Roadster, the thoroughbred of Mercedes soft-tops
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.