First Drive: 2017 Mercedes-AMG GT R

First Drive: 2017 Mercedes-AMG GT R

Fifty years later and the AMG brand is continuing to churn out models to appease performance car buyers — and SA continues to be one of the brand’s biggest markets.

The Affalterbach company has expanded its AMG GT sports car range with the introduction of the GT C roadster and the GT R coupe.

The GT R is the most powerful variant of the model, although as we reported last week, the company appears to be working on a road version of its GT4 race car.

The GT R still has the 4.0-litre V8 twin turbo engine, but with boost pressure turned up to 1.5 bar to produce 430kW and 700Nm. The suspension and aero have been beefed up and the model can be distinguished by a vertically slatted Panamericana grille and an active front splitter that extends from 80km/h, while a prominent rear diffuser is also another model specific.

A carbon-fibre boot-deck spoiler is a functional and ornamental addition. It is also the only model in the range that comes exclusively in a matte, apple-green paint job, further stamping its authority as the flagship GT model.

We managed to unleash the green monster at the Kyalami racetrack and, right off the bat, this is easily the best Merc AMG I have driven in recent years. Forget any of those preconceptions of all AMG models being blunt objects and one-trick ponies with straight line ability but also somewhat inept around corners. This model is anything but. While the additional performance and extra visual venom make sure it stands out from the garden variety AMG GT, it is in the handling that this model truly sparkles.

Drive it back-to-back with the regular AMG GT S and the nuances are quite palpable. While the GT S has less front grip and requires you to use the throttle less judiciously to prevent the back from stepping out prematurely, the GT R is the complete opposite.

Squeeze hard on the brakes into a corner and turn-in and you are left gobsmacked at how quickly it manages to do that. You also feel more confident to unleash power out of corners, which heightens driver self-assurance and allows you to lean more towards the car.

At R2 689 900 it might command a higher price tag than the regular GT or GT S variants, but the GT R is a focused track tool that can easily hold its own among even pricier exotics.

We also spent time in the R2 599 900 GT C roadster, which puts out 410kW and 680Nm — but do not let its open-top demeanour fool you. This remains a steady and quite rapid model that gives even more V8 aural splendour with the fabric roof tucked away. Of course, you can also opt for the regular GT roadster, which makes a slightly lower but still potent 340kW and 630Nm, and will set you back R2 199 900.

Four South African customers have put down their names for the GT C roadster Edition 50, of which 500 have been made worldwide. They will have shelled out R2 864 000 for this limited-run model, which comes in two bespoke hues, designo graphite grey magno and designo cashmere white magno.

However, it is the GT R that continues to linger in my mind and I can only hope owners of the model will put them on the track occasionally as that is where it is truly in its element. – Lerato Matebese