Enigma: a person or thing that is mysterious or difficult to understand. Example: the Mercedes-AMG GT.
The three-pointed star on the front suggests a luxurious grand tourer, but thanks to Tobias Moers and his merry men, the GT is rawer than a sashimi sandwich. Its price, positioning and nationality suggest a natural rival to the Porsche 911, but the two are so vastly different to drive it’s difficult to see a buyer seriously cross-shopping them.
The newest member of AMG’s sports car family nestles neatly between the GT S and GT R, but given Mercedes forgot to leave itself a letter in between, it’s called the GT C. Outputs from the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 rise to 410kW/680Nm, 26kW/10Nm up on the S but 20kW/20Nm down on the R – like I said, neatly in the middle.
It’s a fearsome engine. AMG’s M178 might be increasingly ubiquitous, but each application has its own character. The GT’s is dry-sumped and mounted entirely aft of the front axle to aid handling, but it also makes a more organic noise. Make that noises, because depending on where you are in the rev range the GT C will bark, snarl, gurgle or roar, all at a very anti-social volume. It’s epic.
It may produce less power than the E63, but it also has 300 fewer kilograms to haul and as a result the GT C is loony fast. Any gear, any speed, it charges forward with virtually instant punch.
The seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle is excellent in cut-and-thrust driving, with seamless upshifts and crisp downshifts, but it stumbles, literally, in more restrained use. It’s possible to drive around the problem to a certain degree, but stop-start driving tends to be a series of unedifying jerks.
The GT C feels bored by such a mundane task. Even in Comfort the ride is restless; Sport doesn’t feel appreciably stiffer and has the added benefit of sharper throttle response. Personally I find it tiresome, but those who like a firmer ride may appreciate the closer connection with the road.
Day-to-day use also exposes the inferiority of the GT’s infotainment, which is a generation behind the updated system in the E63 et al, let alone that in the new A-Class.
But this is a sports car; it’s not built to cosset. A quick fiddle with the Dynamic Select programs has the powertrain at maximum attack, the dampers locked in Sport and the combination saved to the Individual mode.
So configured, the GT C displays incredible grip and traction. The steering is still light but without the nervousness of the original GT S, and it provides reasonable feedback, jiggling in response to bumps and cambers.
In addition to the rear-wheel steering and active airflow management systems from the GT R, the GT C scores an extra 57mm of rear track, inch-wider rear wheels and 305mm rear tyres (up 10mm).
It takes a while to get used to a GT, as you sit directly over the rear axle and a long way from the front one, but it’s progressive at the limit and the rear-steer certainly helps rotate the car in tighter corners. A GT C in full flight is an involving and intoxicating experience.
A couple of issues remain, however. Our test car is fitted with optional carbon-ceramic brakes that lack progression, a top-of-pedal dead spot giving way to sudden response. This is unusual, as it’s not an issue we’ve had with any other carbon-equipped AMG.
Nonetheless, it exacerbates the second issue: mid-corner brake pressure elicits a sharp reaction from the rear, quickly recovered with no input from the driver, but a slight chink in the GT’s dynamic armour.
To say it’s not as polished as a 911 might be accurate but also misses the point. If a Carrera GTS plays for the Socceroos, with its deft, agile manoeuvres, the GT C is a member of the Wallabies, huge athleticism with a hefty helping of brute force.
MOTOR comparison: AMG GT C v 911 Carrera 4 GTS v Vantage
A C63 Coupe has a similar skill set, but the GT is an event for both driver and onlooker. Perhaps the real mystery is, when the price gap is relatively small, why not just order the GT R?
2019 MERCEDES-AMG GT C SPECS
Engine: 3982cc V8, DOHC, 32v, twin-turbo
Power: 410kW @ 5750-6750rpm
Torque: 680Nm @ 1900-5750rpm
0-100km/h: 3.8sec (claimed)
Kerb Weight: 1625kg
Likes: Amazing engine; max-attack gearshifts; head-turning looks; vicious noise
Dislikes: Terrible road noise; unsettled ride; edgy on-limit handling; brake feel
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars