It seems like pulling the metal roof off the Mercedes-AMG GT coupe has revealed the car it always wanted to be. The GT C roadster — which is due in SA in June — looks, feels and drives like it might just be the best GT version there is, with a broader fun-time zone than the coupe, backed up by handling that’s almost as good and looks that are even better.
You can bury any cynicism you might harbour about the GT C roadster. It’s not just an opportunistic hack at the roof pillars with an axe to make a new car. It is much more complete than that; it’s on the cusp of brilliance.
It’s evident from the first few hundred metres that this car is integrated and organised and that AMG is telling the truth when it claims it was designed and engineered at the same time as the coupe. The car’s body feels rock solid, stiff in the chassis but capable of riding smoothly and comfortably on its springs. It’s also breathtakingly fast, brutally loud at times and confident in its handling.
You would normally expect a significant deterioration in handling sharpness when a car moves to a roofless layout, but AMG has countered that by giving the roadster plenty of reinforcing and, just as critically, a big dose of handling help in the form of the GT R’s rear-wheel steering system.
And it’s good. It’s fleet of foot, it changes direction quickly and assertively and its grip on the road instils drivers with unshakeable confidence in the car beneath them.
All this begins with a core that is stupendously rigid in its bodyshell, thanks to AMG thickening up the walls of the hollow sills and filling them with more boxed-off chambers. The biggest rigidity win is the cross member (complete with the rollover protection system) behind the seats, but significant gains are also made by introducing a support brace between the windscreen’s frame and the dashboard and another between the roof and the fuel tank.
Depending on the specification, it is about 50kg heavier than the coupe, and AMG has done well to keep it to just that much. It’s no featherweight at 1,660kg but it’s far more coherent than just being a life-support system for a 4.0l, twin turbo V8.
The Z-fold roof system is fabulous to use. It rises or falls in 11 seconds and it can go either way at up to 50km/h.
There is also the entry-level GT roadster, but the GT C version has it covered for everything significant.
Instead of the base car’s 350kW version of the 4.0l biturbo V8, the GT C has 410kW, which is actually 26kW more than the GT S coupe and only 20kW shy of the GT R’s hard-core motor. It hammers to 100km/h in 3.7 seconds, ripping through to a 316km/h top speed — all with the roof down.
It gets its mid-level shove thanks to 680Nm of torque from 1,900r/min to 5,750 and it combines all this with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The GT C version has a lot more going for it over the entry-level GT than just a stronger version of the same engine. Its rear end is 57mm wider, to accommodate the 305/30 R20 rear rubber. It uses an electronically controlled locking differential (the standard car uses a mechanical unit), it has rear-wheel steering, adaptive damping, the loudest exhaust system, bigger brakes and even a Race mode. And it justifies a Race mode because it’s good enough to frighten some poorly driven GT S coupes on the track.
None of this stupendous performance should frighten anybody off, though. It can be flung into medium and high-speed bends with just a hint of a push at the front, or you can be a bit wilder and provoke a tail slide if you dare. Either way, just a fraction of a second later, the rear-wheel steering and the diff start to do their thing and pull the car back into line again, leaving it to corner flat with brilliant body control and punch out of the other side of the corner superbly.
The rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels until 100km/h, when they switch to turning the same way. It sounds tricky, but it is well-proven technology and all you actually feel from inside the car is more agility and security.
It doesn’t take long before you trust it implicitly, convinced that it will never make you feel nervous about what’s happening underneath you, never a time when you think it might snap away.
All the settings have their own character, easy to distinguish and clear in their purpose. And because they’re so easy to cycle through, you find yourself switching between them frequently, just because they work. Winding bits? Sport. Lonelier winding bits? Sport+ or Race. Calmer, gentle roads? Comfort. Group of school kids loitering on a footpath? Maximum exhaust noise for bangs and crackles.
It’s a bellowing beast of a thing with real potency and the chassis is so good that not a scrap of it is wasted on the GT C roadster.
This article was originally published by the Business Day.