HEADLINED by a tough new ‘Panamericana’ front and a sexy roadster variant, the 2017 Mercedes-AMG GT range broadens its bad-arse sporting appeal
WHAT IS IT?
Essentially a 2017 model-year update of the regular AMG GT Coupes – the 350kW GT and more powerful GT S, now with 384kW – while introducing a new roadster-convertible body style, and a feisty new 410kW GT C variant (coupe and roadster) that packs plenty of mechanical and bodywork muscle from the range-topping 430kW GT R.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT?
The cloudless skies and desert plains of Arizona paint a perfect Hollywood-western backdrop for the new AMG roadster, best demonstrated in four-wheel-steered GT C form, but such a strong all-rounder in base GT guise.
Aston Martin V8 Vantage roadster, BMW 6 Series convertible, Porsche 911 cabriolet, and if we’re talking anything topless that costs a motzer, Bentley’s Continental GT convertible
Plus: Amazingly seamless styling transition; excellent ride and refinement; bullish V8; agility advantage of GT C’s four-wheel steering; boot space; body strength; seduction on wheels
Minus: Base GT can’t match the GT C’s willingness to change direction; weirdly small gear shifter; not cheap
THE WHEELS VERDICT
A stunning addition to the AMG GT family, managing to combine seductive looks – roof up or down (which is hugely important) – with just as much driver appeal as the coupe. Or even more, in the case of the beefed-up GT C with its superb four-wheel steering system and brilliant cornering poise.
Yet even the base GT is a terrific thing, offering more than enough V8 punch and overall polish to please all but the most hardcore driving purists.
THE WHEELS REVIEW
SUCCESSFULLY ripping the top off an already-cracking sports coupe is something Mercedes-AMG is pretty familiar with. Remember the gull-winged SLS, the GT’s more expensive but not-as-great predecessor? Shaving the roof off that bad boy turned an edgy, hairy coupe into a much more polished roadster – one that worked just as well lid up as it did roof down.
Much the same applies here, except that the terrific AMG GT coupe needed very little polishing in its transformation into a roadster body style. Thing is, though, just like the SLS, it’s an arguably better sports car with an electrically folding rag top.
You lose none of the GT coupe’s dynamic nous, or any noticeable level of body strength, yet you gain a whole lot more in its ability to connect with nature.
Despite what appearances might suggest, besides the bonnet and doors, every body panel on the 2017 AMG GT roadster is new.
From its freshly A-shaped ‘Panamericana’ front – much more aggressive than the previous V-shape style, according to chief designer Vitalis Enns, with a 14-lourve ‘air panel’ adopted from the GT R to improve cooling and aerodynamics – to its composite bootlid (made from a mix of plastic and carbonfibre), the GT roadster is one of those rare beasts that looks just as smokin’ with its fabric roof erected as it does when the sky is flooding in.
And it’s refined too. Besides the obligatory tyre roar on coarse surfaces, the GT roadster’s beautifully constructed fabric roof is respectably free of wind noise at freeway speeds, and you can comfortably hold a conversation with the roof dropped at 130km/h.
Providing you’re a Collingwood six-footer (ie. five-foot 10), seated below the windscreen’s header rail, your coiffured bonce remains remarkably intact.
In-cabin changes are restricted to a restyled row of recessed switches beneath the central air vents and a new Light Macchiato Beige nappa-leather trim option, but the new GT C variant takes the roadster’s tough exterior style to another level.
Its rear guards, borrowed from the race-ready GT R, are 57mm wider than the standard GT’s and house a broader rear track with 20 x 12.0-inch rims (19 x 11.0-inch on the GT). There are also functional air-extractor vents on either side of its fatter rear bumper, and another horizontal vent between the bootlid and numberplate recess. “[There are] no useless elements to its design,” according to Enns. “Everything is functional”.
The main upside to the GT C experience, however, is what lies beneath. It scores the same 9.5:1-compression 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 as the GT R, though software and exhaust changes downgrade its outputs slightly to 410kW and 680Nm (compared to 430kW/700Nm for the R).
No matter. The GT C still has mountains of muscle and vast reserves of exhaust thunder, shifting its 1660kg body (55kg more than the coupe) to 100km/h in just 3.7sec. Ratio changes help too, with different first and seventh gears and a shorter final-drive ratio, yet she’ll max out at 316km/h. That’s just one kay short of the original gullwing SLS.
On road, you need to drive the GT and GT C roadsters back-to-back to really tell the difference in a straight line – the C displaying a bassier urgency to its nose-lifting thrust, thanks to an AMG Performance exhaust system (optional on GT) – but there’s a much greater difference in corners.
Where the standard GT will eventually start to understeer in tightening-radius bends, the C’s rear-wheel steer rises to the fore by pivoting its chassis towards the apex and giving it the balance to access its deeply impressive power-down ability.
Plus there’s an electronically controlled locking differential (also shared with the GT R) and super-fat 305/30R20 rear Continentals clawing into the tarmac.
Compared to the 375kW GT S Coupe we’re familiar with (now tweaked to 384kW for 2017), both the 350kW GT and 410kW GT C roadsters feel dynamically sweeter.
A more comfortable ride in the standard car, and agility-enhancing four-wheel steer in the GT C broaden the AMG roadster’s repertoire, giving each version seamlessly creamy, yet highly focused steering response, plus greater all-round polish. And if you feel the standard GT’s 360mm brakes at both ends aren’t enough, the GT C scores 390mm front disc rotors, with carbon-ceramic items available over and above that.
The genius in the AMG GT roadster, however, is the expansion of its personality and enhancement of its functionality, without spoiling its beauty.
As a $284K GT, AMG’s roadster is a brilliantly effective two-seat sports car, at once refined and brutish, with enough style and snot to please 98 percent of those who can afford it.
But the new GT C takes that to another level. Not only does it have visual and audible drama, but it carves through corners like no AMG GT before it, besides the R that it so closely mirrors. In my opinion, there’s almost no need to wait until 2018 for the GT C coupe version because the $339K GT C roadster is a frigging corker, a hot-rod without compromise. And how many rag tops can you say that about?
Model: Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster
Engine: 3982cc V8 (90°), dohc, 32v, twin-turbo
Max power: 410kW @ 5750-6750rpm
Max torque: 680Nm @ 1900-5750rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h: 3.7sec (claimed)
Economy: 11.4L/100km (EU)
On sale: June