No Excuses – The spectacular – and spectacularly capable – AMG GT C Roadster

Gary Anderson
Daimler Global Media
Hands down, the 2018 Mercedes-AMG GT C is the best production sports car on the road today in terms of driving performance

No Excuses

The spectacular – and spectacularly capable – AMG GT C Roadster

 

Article Gary Anderson

Images Daimler Global Media

 

Traveling northeast out of the tiny village of Wilhoit, Arizona – at the edge of Prescott National Forest – there is a 16-mile stretch of Highway 89 that ends in the old mining town of Prescott. For sheer driving excitement, not to mention literally breath-taking scenery, I don’t think there is a stretch of road anywhere in the United States to match it.

 

 

It takes a road as challenging as this to truly illuminate the incredible achievement of the 2018 Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster. Certainly, no simple two- or three-mile track with 10-15 predictable turns could have done justice to this new sports car.

 

Unmatched performance

 

At the end of the 20 minutes it took us on a quiet Tuesday morning to drive the uncounted and impeccably banked curves hugging the steep slopes of the hills, my co-driver, an accomplished track driver writing for one of the mainstream magazines, and I agreed. The GT C – which is really the slightly civilized street-version of the GT R track-intended and GT3 racing-intended AMG – outperforms any other production sports car either of us had experienced before.

 

The admirable thing about the new GT C is that AMG’s engineers at Affalterbach have eschewed the typical systems of motion sensors and computer-controlled steering, suspension and braking used on many high-performance cars today to compensate for a driver’s lack of skill or attention. Instead, they have seamlessly blended state-of-the-art steering systems on both front and rear wheels with an electronically controlled locking differential and adaptive-damping sport-suspension tuned to provide the mindful driver unmatched performance and control on even the most challenging of roads.

 

Exterior design

 

The most notable aspect of the exterior design, which builds on the basic long hood and short rear-end proportions of Mercedes-Benz sports cars dating from the 1950s, is the avoidance of unnecessary feature lines and fussy details. Instead, the designers focused on smooth air-pleasing minimalism. Every single opening in the body is there for a reason. Lower side openings on either side of the imposing Panamericana grille are for the turbocharger intercooler radiators. In normal driving conditions, louvers behind the grille close to improve aerodynamics and fuel efficiency; as engine heat demands, they open to increase airflow to the radiator.

 

Similarly, the openings in the rear fenders that offer the most obvious clue that this is a GT C – rather than the base GT or slightly refined GT S – vent hot air off the transaxle and exhausts when the car is in motion. A separate vent across the width of the car just under the composite-material trunk lid and movable rear wing opens to allow hot air to escape after the car is stopped.

 

Following the lead of the racing GT3 and track-focused GT R, the GT C is more than two inches wider than the standard GT and GT S, offering space for 12-inch-wide tires in the rear and 10.5-inch tires in the front. To compensate for this added width, stylists have widened the fenders with a pronounced shoulder line that they say was inspired by the look of a tensed muscle. Certainly, the view from behind, which is what most other drivers will see, is quite handsome with its ground-hugging appearance.

 

We would perhaps have made one improvement, given the low lines and broad shoulders of the car: The 360-degree camera that’s currently available even on Mercedes-Benz C-Class models would have given us more confidence when determining how close the front panels and wheels were to lurking roadside curbs when maneuvering.

 

More power

 

The 4-liter engine with its dual-turbocharged V-8 design producing 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque, and 7-speed dual-clutch transaxle, provided all the power conditions required, exactly when needed, without a hint of turbo lag. Straight-line acceleration is rated at 3.7 seconds to 60 mph, and offered us maximum speed coming out of every corner. Being unfamiliar with the road and experiencing every curve for the first time, we appreciated the massive Brembo brakes on huge 15.4-inch front and 14.2-inch-optional carbon-ceramic brake discs that slowed the car quickly and seamlessly before entering the next curve, time after time.

 

We also appreciated the ease with which we could change the level of the car’s responsiveness by simply twisting a chunky silver dial on the console from Comfort to Sport to Sport Plus, all of which automatically changed the steering, throttle and suspension settings to appropriate combinations for quiet street cruising or full-on driving fun. To enhance the aural experience for the Mercedes-AMG GT C’s fortunate driver and passenger – and avoid unnecessarily disturbing the neighbors – flaps in the exhaust system control the sound volume to suit the selected driving environment. Nevertheless, the exhaust flaps can be opened at will with a button on the console to provide the occasional mechanical fanfare at stoplights or country-club parking-lot serenade.

 

Because we were out on open roads the entire time we spent in the GT C Roadster, we weren’t able to test two additional features noted on the car’s fact sheet. First, there is an additional “race” setting on the Dynamic Response selector specifically for track days that is designed to dramatically improve throttle and transmission performance to lower lap times. Second, the car has a launch mode that simply requires the driver to hold down the brake pedal with the left foot while pressing the accelerator and then releasing the brake to slingshot the car at maximum acceleration from rest.

 

Breakthrough in cornering

 

The secret to this car’s cornering performance is the combination of electronic differential with steered rear wheels. Several automotive manufacturers have attempted variations of this technology in the recent past with varying degrees of success; the sophisticated version Mercedes-AMG has developed really works in this new machine. At corner entry, at a speed under 62 mph, the rear wheels turn slightly opposite to the direction of the front wheels to cause the car to turn in more tightly – without a hint of understeer.

 

Then, on acceleration past the apex of the curve – as speed rises above 62 mph, when a good traditional driver would have to balance speed against sideways momentum by counter steering and drifting to avoid oversteer, and potentially, catastrophic loss of grip – the rear wheels turn to steer in the same direction as the front wheels through the sweeping portion of the curve. In effect, the rear end of the car is counter steering to maintain traction while the driver is steering the car with the front wheels through the curve and back onto the straight. No nannies required.

 

In fact, every automotive journalist on our wave of the GT C Roadster press launch with whom we compared notes agreed: Hands down, this is the best production sports car on the road today in terms of driving performance.

 

On the inside

 

With the astonishing performance that this car delivers on the road, we might almost forget to review the interior design, although it’s important to remember that many owners will spend most of their time in this spectacular Mercedes-AMG caught in the mundane to-and-fro of daily driving. But given the three-pointed star embellishing the sport steering wheel, it should come as no surprise that cockpit comfort and design does not disappoint.

 

Interior surfaces are covered in soft nappa leather – available with contrasting stitching – and the race-style seats offer good ergonomic support and are nicely bolstered for cornering comfort. Despite the fact that this is a true roadster, there is good elbowroom in the interior and seat adjustments can accommodate tall drivers. The design of interior components is as good as anything AMG has ever produced.

 

The 2018 GT C Roadster will be available in early fall for an estimated $160,000 base price.

 

The GT C takes handling to a different level.

 

 

Every interior detail – from seats to gauges – is beautifully designed and of the highest quality.

 

Carbon-ceramic brakes erase speed.

 

 

Body slots and flaps aid aerodynamics, cooling.

 

A study in muscular grace.

 

Electronics aid driver setup. Press here for intoxicating performance.

 

Magnificent 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

2018 Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster

TYPE: Two-door, two-passenger  soft-top roadster

ENGINE: 3,982cc twin-turbo V-8 

TRANSMISSION: AMG Speedshift, 7-speed dual-clutch transmission  (DCT)

electronic limited-slip differential, RWD

HORSEPOWER: 550 at 5,750-6,750 rpm   TORQUE: 502 lb-ft from 1,900-5,750 rpm

ACCELERATION: Zero-60 mph 3.7 sec (mfr)   TOP SPEED: 196 mph

CURB WEIGHT: 3,825   ECONOMY: 18.5 (observed)

BASE PRICE: $160,000 (est)

 

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