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AMG GT R First Drive - A Closer Look




Motor Trend basically started the first drive review (2nd paragraph) by saying that the folks at AMG have a sense of humour for naming this car "the Beast from the Green Hell." Maybe I don't get German sense of humour, but the joke is completely lost on me. Of course, that's assuming there is a joke there to begin with.. You see, I highly doubt the response AMG hoped for is a chuckle. And if I'm right, I think they can rest easy, because beasts aren't funny, and those that come from hell are probably less so, whatever colour that hell may be. Now, fierce, brutal, menacing, loud.. those are the things you might expect a beast to be. And if that name alone doesn't conjure any of those beastly characteristics, play the video below and skip to 0:28.
 



What a NOISE! This will be one of those cars that, should it roll up next to you at a traffic light, you quiet everyone down and roll down the windows to hear it pull away. If you're tired of hearing about how AMG knows how to make a V8 sound great, I don't blame you, but the only reason why everyone sings poetic about it is that they ARE very good at it. And remember, this isn't a deep breathing big V8 like what you used to find in all V8-powered AMG's. It's a relatively small 4.0 litre that was designed to be able to rev to 7,900 rpm (source: C&D Deep Dive). It's even got a pair of noise-muffling turbos strapped to it. The end result has no business sounding this good. Yet, it does. So it has the noise to match the name, an angry face, and a gaping maw that even looks like it has fangs. The big question then is this: does it drive like a beast?




At first glance, I'm afraid not. For one, compared to the sort-of predecessor - the SLS - this always sounds like a much more manageable car in reviews. Beasts aren't manageable. Then you have rear wheel steering helping you keep the back end more obedient and cooperative. And, reading the review, you find that AMG put Bernd Schneider, a five-time DTM champion, at the wheel to give Car and Driver a ride along. Instead of demonstrating the car's traction and tactility at the limit by switching all assists off, he pinned the throttle to the floor in corner exits and relied on traction control to sort it out, with "no subtlety." It has a stability control system that can't be completely turned off and allows you to pay no mind to "separating braking and steering inputs. Rather, this is a full-commitment reliance on technology." It all sounds very wrong. But there's more to it than the above would suggest.

For starters, the upgraded coil-over suspension is adjustable. The front track has been widened by almost one inch. On each side! The rear track has been widened by MORE than an inch on each side. And despite all the suspension upgrades, the downforce, the big sticky tires, and the rear weight bias, it still effortlessly turns the rear tires into smoke if you aren't careful, a sign of a true AMG. But above all, the one thing that really made me think the car is serious is chassis tuning. In Motor Trend's words, "The GT R’s chassis, like nature, abhors a vacuum: If you’re not on the brakes, it wants you to be on the throttle—even lightly—to feel absolutely balanced." This is a car that doesn't like coasting; a sign of a proper thoroughbred. You know what other type of car doesn't like coasting and asks you to always push? Race cars.




And this is where I was stuck with this car. I didn't know what to make of it. Is it a triumph of technology or a proper driver's car? Then I figured it out. You know what AMG has done? It has in, fact, built a beast. But most of us aren't The Stig so, while a few people can perfectly handle a beast, the rest can't. Instead of taming said beastie, AMG decided to saddle it, so that you can more easily ride it. Make no mistake, a bucking bronco is a bucking bronco, saddled or not. Saddling it just makes it easier for you to get a handle on things, but doesn't change the nature of the beast itself. What AMG has done is use all the electronic aids to build a really good saddle for a very capable beast. That makes it a very cool car IMO, but there are a couple of issues with it, although they have more to do with other cars than the AMG GT R itself.




The first is its sort-of predecessor; the SLS AMG. This car can't quite match its elegance or charisma. And it looks a lot more "corporate Mercedes" as opposed to a one-of. Don't get me wrong, the AMG GT R is better in every way, as a car. But the SLS had something the AMG GT doesn’t – some flair, perhaps, and stunning looks. And while this AMG GT sounds glorious, it can't quite match the snarl of the naturally aspirated M159 6.2 litre V8. On the other hand, you have the 911 (991) GT3 RS. Yes, I know, it's technically out of production, but if the AMG GT was meant to compete with the 911, what is this GT R version meant to compete with? It may be out of production but the target market and performance is the GT3 RS and here, again, the GT R falls a little short. It's a lot more of a brute and a bruiser. It isn't quite as pure a driver's car as far as I can tell and I can't imagine it being as rewarding to toss around and push at 10/10th.




That's where I am at with this car. It's not quite as mad as traditional AMG's, yet it can't match the excellence of the GT3 RS. For some people, I'm sure it strikes an absolutely perfect balance between the two ends of the spectrum but, for me, it just comes off as being less special than either. For a car that basically costs $200,000, it needs to feel a lot more special than that. I may never have that problem, but if I had that kind of money and I was looking at a German track car, it would have to be the 911 GT3 RS, even if it meant getting a slightly used one. The only thing I would be missing is that AMG V8 noise..


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