Predictable amounts of ‘Sturm und Drang’ with the new Mercedes-AMG GT C, but also a welcome dose of extra talent
Markus Hofbauer is the man responsible for the driving dynamics of the new Mercedes-AMG GT C.
He used to do the same job on Porsche 911s. Interestingly, if slightly unfashionably, if he was given a long, fast trip to make and a choice between a 911 Turbo and a 911 GT3 to make it in, Hofbauer would take the Turbo.
He prefers it to the semi-racer GT3 because he says it’s not necessary to be on the ragged edge in order to make serious progress in a Turbo. And that tells us something about the nature of the Hofbauer-developed Mercedes-AMG GT we’re being introduced to today.
After the SLS, the GT is the second all-AMG sports car. In base GT spec, this front-engined 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 rear-drive two-seater comes as either a coupé or a roadster, with 496bhp. In the S version, power rises to 515bhp, and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential replaces the mechanical one, but there’s no open-top option.
At the top of the GT range is the track enthusiast’s 576bhp GT R, which like the S is available only as a coupé and with no immediate prospect of a convertible.
Mercedes-AMG GT C coupé ‘Edition 50’
Engine: 4.0-litre, V8, twin-turbo, petrol
Torque: 502lb ft
Gearbox: Seve-speed dual-clutch automatic
Kerb weight: 1700kg
Top speed: 197mph
Fuel economy: 24.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 259g/km
Back down the range a tadge we find the 550bhp C, which comes in both open or closed formats and with wide R-like bodywork to accommodate its wider rear wheels. The first 500 coupés will be in this AMG 50th anniversary ‘Edition 50’ trim only, at £139,855, but once they’ve all been bought a regular GT C will be £12,000 less expensive. And we reckon that could be a good choice for anyone trying to pick a ‘sweet spot’ Merc-AMG GT.
The GT R is more hard core inside, with the option of race harnesses and the like, but the rest of the GTs have well-made cabins with all the usual Mercedes info and entertainment systems nicely laid out. Maybe there are a shade too many buttons on the centre gearbox housing, and even not-that-tall drivers might feel a trifle squeezed on headroom. Then again, that – plus the letterbox view over the long bonnet with the driver sat well back – is also part of the GT’s hot-rod appeal.
To drive, the C is like the R in other ways too. For a start, it shares the R’s active rear steering – and it also has bags of grunt. Back in AMG’s earlier days, only the brave or foolhardy would unleash AMG power anywhere other than on a straight and preferably smooth road. That’s not the case these days.
Having said that, early GTs had light, quick steering and a less than trustworthy back suspension. Their relative shortfall in roll stiffness made it feel like the rear would drop into a corner and then struggle to maintain a chosen cornering attitude.
AMG sorted this problem at the beginning of 2017 by lowering the GT’s rear roll centre. The steering remains oddly light, especially for a hydraulic setup, and is maybe still a bit too quick, but that brings a sense of agility to what is after all a long and heavy car. There’s enough road feel now to give you much more cornering confidence. Stick the dampers into their softest mode and you’ll enjoy a feeling of plantedness that‘s enhanced by the C’s extra tyre width, rear-steer and electronic diff.
Those who were worried that AMG’s switch to turbocharged engines would mean the end of evocative sounds will be delighted to hear the C’s iron grumble under load and small-arms fire crackle on the overrun.
The GT C’s point and squirt attitude is pleasingly reminiscent of a big old Aston Martin. As the name indicates, this is a grand tourer, not a 911, and it’s all the better for that. It’s showy, sure, but it’s also easygoing and very, very able. Wait for the Edition 50s to disappear and then wade in.