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TEST DRIVE: Mercedes-AMG GT C Coupe

David Haueter test drives Mercedes-AMG’s 550-horsepower GT C….

Photo: David Haueter

The racing versions of the Mercedes-AMG GT have been a huge success. Most recently, Riley Motorsports won the team title in the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup with the AMG GT3 this year, while Mercedes-AMG won the GS class manufacturers championship in Michelin Pilot Challenge after sweeping GS class drivers, team and manufacturers championships in 2018 with the AMG GT4.

In Blancpain GT World Challenge, Mercedes-AMG won the 2019 manufacturers championship for their success around the world in Europe, Asia and North America.

To have a good race car you first need a good road car, and a drive in the Mercedes-AMG GT C coupe shows it’s just as impressive as its race siblings.

With design cues from the legendary 300SL Gullwing of the 1950’s, the AMG GT is beautifully made and designed. It’s not hard to imagine that this is what a new Gullwing would look like if Mercedes had kept making it over the last 60 years.

There’s nothing retro about the powerplant under its long hood. The GT is fitted with a 4-liter V8 biturbo motor with a dry sump, which in GT C form puts out 550 hp (more than the GT4 version) and 502 lb.-ft of torque.

The GT C is flanked by two other GT models in the lineup, with the base model GT putting out 469 hp and 465 lb.-ft of torque and the top of the line GT R rated at 577 hp and 516 lb.-ft of torque.

Photo: David Haueter

The twin turbos are placed inside the V configuration of the motor to reduce the path of the compressed air charge and reduce lag.

The task of handling the prodigious power and putting it to the ground goes to a four-wheel independent suspension with electronically controlled shocks with adaptive damping, where the driver can choose between Comfort, Sport and Sport+ settings.

The car also features rear-wheel steering that allows up to 1.5 degrees of toe change and varies its involvement depending on speed. Under 62 mph, the rear steers the opposite direction of the front to allow for better maneuverability.

Above 62 mph, the rear steers the same direction as the front for better stability and steering response.

The only transmission option is a seven-speed dual-clutch unit that’s mounted at the rear transaxle for better weight distribution, and the variable-ratio steering unit uses a hydraulically assisted rack rather than electronic.

The GT C is also fitted with some sticky rubber, wearing Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires that are mounted on 9” x 19” wheels at the front and 12” x 20” at the rear.

Tipping the scales at around 3,800 lbs., the GT C is not what you would call a light car (the Porsche 911 GT3 weighs around 600 lbs. less), but AMG did go through the effort of reducing weight where they could.

For instance, the body space frame is 97 percent aluminum and weighs just 514 pounds, and the control arms and hub carriers in the suspension are made from forged aluminum.

Photo: David Haueter

Driving the AMG GT C is an exciting and involving experience.

Before you even get in the seat, it feels special to just walk up to this car and admire its design and form as you approach it. It has great lines and curves, and it’s worth taking time to study it before you get in.

Climbing into the cockpit is reminiscent of getting into a race car, with its low to the ground stance and wide sill.

The AMG GT C feels just as special on the inside, with lots of carbon fiber and leather. With its wide center tunnel and snug seating position, some could think of the GT C as too snug, but I liked the feeling that it evokes – kind of like you’re in a fighter cockpit.

You’re certainly aware of where you are in the car while you’re sitting in it, with that long hood out in front of you and the much shorter view out the back.

It gives a very different feeling than sitting in something like the Porsche 911 or the Acura NSX, but it’s not too dissimilar from the feel you get in the C7 Corvette.

The cockpit is easy to live with for the most part, though the infotainment system and its controller take some getting used to. Another minor issue for me was the shiny metal speakers that are in each corner of the top of the dash, which reflect too much off the inside of the windshield.

Photo: David Haueter

On the road, the AMG GT C is just as thrilling to drive as it is to look at. The rumble from the motor, the feel of all that power under your right foot and the balance of the car all make for a great driving experience.

Your initial thought when sitting in the car is that you’re going to feel like you’re pointing the nose where you want it to go and the rest of the car will follow, but the car feels very well-balanced, and the steering feel is great.

Mercedes went with a hydraulic rack on the GT and you feel so much more through the rim of the wheel than with an electronically-assisted rack.

There is still a bit of turbo lag when taking off, but it’s just a brief dose before the power and torque carry you very quickly down the road, and the dual-clutch transmission is well-suited to the engine.

The brakes also have great pedal feel and stopping power. The car has a great blend of high-speed dynamics and stability and tractability for driving around town, aided by the rear-wheel steering for maneuverability.

Team TGM has had great success in the Michelin Pilot Challenge series with the GT4 race version of the AMG GT, and the drivers have found the race car to have the same qualities as the road car.

“It has a really unique and distinct feel and drive to it, but it’s great,” says Guy Cosmo. “I remember saying after we first tested the car that it was probably the best sedan-based race car I had ever driven.

“It’s very well balanced and stable and the time it took to adapt to it was much shorter than I expected because of how naturally the car drives and how intuitive it is.”

Photo: David Haueter

Owen Trinkler won the GS drivers’ championship in 2018 with Hugh Plumb and was also impressed with the race car.

“When you first see the car you think it may be nose-heavy, but once you learn the car you find out how well AMG designed it with the engine and driver placement where it is.

“Coming from a front-wheel drive race car, it was an adjustment to get used to how far that nose is out in front of you and visually where everything is, but the car is outstanding. It brakes exceptionally well, handles really well and has been good on long runs.

“The car has also been very reliable, which is a testament to AMG and the development they did on the car.”

At $150,900, the GT C coupe is in the same general price range as cars like the Porsche 911 GT3, the Acura NSX and the BMW M8 Competition.

I would be happy to have any of those cars in my garage, but the AMG GT C makes a strong case for itself as it possesses artful and dramatic styling with a cool mix of retro-ness and modernity in a package that is always an event to drive and dare I say, even somewhat practical compared to other cars in this segment. I loved it.

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Photo: David Haueter

David Haueter has been an automotive writer and photographer for the past 20 years. His writing and photos have been published in Roundel, Bimmer, Forza and Excellence and SportsCarInsider as well as other automotive and racing magazines.

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