Guy Smarts The 2018 Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster is a 577-horsepower monster

After only three years and a mere seven in-house production vehicles, it may have already made its best performing roadster.

  • Published:
2018 Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster. play

2018 Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster.

(Mercedes)
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A first drive and review of the latest high-performance sports car offering from Germany.

Mercedes-AMG is in trouble. After only three years and a mere seven in-house production vehicles, it may have already made its best performing roadster: the 2018 Mercedes-AMG GT C. That’s a $160,000, twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8, 577-horsepower, 196-mile-an-hour, hard-charging sports car that lingers in your brain long after you leave the driver’s seat, one that ruins whatever lesser set of wheels comes afterwards. Why is this a problem? Well, how is Mercedes-AMG going to top this?

THE DRIVE:

An achingly scenic route spanning some 320 miles saw us depart Scottsdale, Arizona, wind out through the foothills to Prescott, AZ, before continuing on to Sedona. Along the way there were open roads begging for full throttle, twisty switchback mountain passes to lean into and plenty of long sweepers, all of which the AMG GT C roadster seemed quite happy to eviscerate.

play (Mercedes)

 

LOOK AT THAT:

The Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster is dead sexy. The newly designed Panamericana grille in a shimmering chrome gives the two-seater’s front fascia a sharknose that will be unmistakable when it comes tearing up in your rearview mirror. A flared, wider rump houses a 2.25-inch wider rear axle track, better for stability and cornering, but also for looking aggressive.

play (Mercedes)

 

DON’T LOOK AT THIS:

If you are behind the car, you’d be forgiven for glancing quickly and assuming you’re seeing a Porsche. Similar curves and design cues, especially the tail lights, emulate the 911. Inside, with the tri-layer fabric soft top up, you’re not looking at much at all, thanks to a high beltline and limited rear visibility. Afforded sightlines are somewhere between a Chevrolet Camaro and a WWII pillbox.

play (Mercedes)

 

COCKPIT AND CABIN:

Drenched in nappa leather, carbon fiber, and alcantara, the Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster’s cockpit is as luxurious and sporty as you’d expect. AMG Performance seats come standard, parking you nice and low to the ground, as does an AMG Performance steering wheel, which has the perfect amount of heft. The fit and finish is remarkable, remarkably tangible in the sturdiness of the paddle shifters. There’s no wiggle or play when you tap to up or downshift; just a nice solid chunk of metal under your fingertips.

As a guy who stands at 6’2”, I could’ve done with a teensy bit more room in there, but I wasn’t supremely cramped. My knees had a hair of breathing space before knocking into the dash or center console, and there was about a handwidth of headroom with the top up. While I never felt squished nor uncomfortable during my full day inside the car, I wouldn’t argue if engineers found a few ways to give us taller folks more space.

play (Mercedes)

 

MORE, PLEASE:

That sweet, sweet exhaust note. That 4.0-liter V-8 dumps out into an AMG Performance exhaust system with actively controlled flaps. A simple push of a button will open everything up and let the AMG GT C growl like a demon unleashed. You’ll burn a bit more gas romping on it to hear it snarl, but it’s worth it. Equally delightful is Race Mode. The ride control system snaps to attention and stiffens everything in the suspension, the steering becomes more taut and you have to manually shift. Come to a complete stop, select Race Mode and floor it and you’ll rocket to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. You will never tire of the 502 lb-ft of torque sledgehammering you. Ever.

play (Mercedes)

 

LESS, PLEASE:

Let’s talk about the trunk, where less is really quite less. Sure, you have to be able to fit all the motors required that move the roof from closed to open in less than 11 seconds, and you have to actually store that softtop, but there is little extra room for things like luggage or belongings. Try to take a weekend trip for two in the GT C and it would become quite the adventure in minimalist packing.

 

THE FUTURE IS NOW:

The AMG GT C Roadster shares four integral traits plucked directly the Mercedes-AMG GT R Coupe, Merc’s forthcoming street-legal race-bomb born from their actual GT3 race car. First, those aggressive rear haunches and the aforementioned wider rear axle track, which also allows for a wider rear set of tires (305/30/ZR20s, specifically).

Next, there’s an active rear-steer system, enabling the rear wheels to move up to 1.5 degrees. If you’re going less than 62 mph (100 kph), the rear wheels will turn opposite from the fronts for a quicker turn-in, requiring less steering input. Above 62 mph, and the rear wheels turn in tandem with the fronts, giving you improved grip and stability during fast directional changes. The GT C also has an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential, helping you stay planted when coming out of a corner.

Lastly, the active Airpanel, a system of 14 cooling air louvres beneath the Panamericana grille. Closed, the louvres lower aerodynamic drag, helping reduce resistance and guide air through the underbody of the car. When that twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 gets cooking and needs to chill, the louvres snap open to aid in cooling.

GET REAL:

On Route 89A, one of the more delicious, serpentine bits of asphalt between Scottsdale and Sedona, the AMG GT C was the most at home. Hunkered down in Race mode, the full aural noise from the exhaust crescendoing with each redline on the tach, the Roadster roared into every corner deftly, unable to be shaken from the line you’d put it on. Even if you went in too hot and found that you’re now facing a decreasing radius, a little more steering input and the active rear-steer stepped in with the assist to keep you just where you wanted and— with sheer drop offs down a cliff beyond the road’s shoulder—where you needed to be.

Everything about the car’s performance is quite simply brilliant. With an extra 80-some horses wedged under the bonnet, as compared to the coupe, it’s got more than ample power, more than enough yank from that 502 lb-ft of twist (which bests a Porsche 911 Turbo and sits a shade below than the 516 lb-ft offered in the Porsche 911 Turbo S). Engineering lifted from the Mercedes-AMG GT R means it all syncs up to provide a stunning holistic experience. From the handling, you barely notice that the husky convertible tips the scales at 3,600 pounds. It hustles with the agility of a much more lithe coupe.

The 7-speed AMG Speedshift dual-clutch transmission is as quick as it is fun to row through. The snappy shifts are immediate and you’re never wondering if the transmission will catch up. The six-piston carbon ceramic brakes are tremendously grabby, helpful for when you’ve glanced down on an expanse of open road to discover the speedometer’s tipped into the triple digits.

play (Mercedes)

 

If this is Mercedes-AMG’s first foray into a roadster, they’ve set the bar high for future models. A few design kinks to work out, and some spatial issues aside, buyers of the AMG GT C Roadster will not be disappointed. This represents a solid shot across Porsche’s bow and a lunch debate about whether you’d rather buy a 911 or a 911 Turbo or the GT C was met with reflective silence. It’s a sports car that commands your attention, behind the wheel or not.

SCORECARD:

Performance: A+

Comfort: A-

Cargo Capacity: D

Lust Factor: A

Overall: A

BOTTOM LINE:

Yes. Absolutely, yes.

SPECS:

Price: Estimated base of $160,000 (official numbers have not been announced)

Powertrain: Twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8; 577-horsepower, 502 lb-ft of torque

Fuel Economy: Not released yet. Estimate about 14 MPG overall

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