For a machine which is in most respects an offshore speedboat, the 2018 Mercedes-AMG GT C does not particularly like rain. Perhaps it’s the single-digit temperatures. Perhaps things might be better if the car was shod with winter tires, but on the standard high-performance Continentals in wet, cold conditions, the GT C is about as squirrelly as the dumpster behind a nut-packaging plant. Other AMG products have embraced all-wheel drive. This one has not.
It’s a scream. Particularly for your passenger.
First, a brief word on where the GT C slots into the Mercedes-AMG family tree. At the bottom, you have the standard GT two-seater, which is available in the US market as a hardtop or roadster. Above that, there are the GT S and hardcore GT-R models, both coupe only. Tucking in below the GT-R, the GT C was originally only available as a convertible, but now comes in hardtop or soft.
The old AMG SLS never had this surfeit of choice, but then again the SLS had different targets in mind. It was more a grand tourer, whereas the GT (confusingly) is more of a sports car. Or, as I prefer to think of it, the Mercedes-AMG has aimed a torpedo straight across Stuttgart at the hostile SS Porsche. And as far as the GT C roadster is concerned: Ach! You sunk mein battleship!
First, there’s the bodywork, largely lifted from the Nürburgring-special GT-R. Rear hips that make Shakira look like an HB pencil swell out over 305 mm tires out back, with staggered 265 mm fronts providing plenty of grip under braking. The bulging, slotted front grille is anchored by a three-pointed star large enough to land a helicopter on.
Even painted a humdrum Diamond White Metallic, as here, the GT C has huge curb presence. With its long nose and short tail, it’s got classic sports car dimensions. If I’m totally honest, and want to mix my space opera metaphors, it looks a bit like a Stormtrooper’s, um, Schwartz.
On the inside, which is comically small for a 4.55-metre-long car, the GT C is a blend of comfort and carbon fibre. The central tunnel is festooned with buttons and the front quartet of air vents resembles some alien breathing apparatus.
But where Porsche cockpits can be spartan, the GT C is sumptuous. The sport seats feature elongated diamond quilting, but still grip like an outfielder’s baseball glove. The switchgear and venting feel substantial. The AMG logo embossed on the leather isn’t an optional extra, as it would be on a 911.
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Which is not to say there isn’t some wonkiness to be found. First off, the COMAND infotainment system continues to be fiddly, with a learning curve that pulls drivers’ eyes from the road far too much. Audi is probably leading the segment here. Secondly, the placement of the required COMAND controls requires that the GT C’s shifter be a ludicrously stubby affair, with a Park button half the size of a Scrabble tile.
Further, when judged on practical considerations, the GT C isn’t much more useful than the torpedo it resembles. Besides being a two-seater only, the trunk is a pathetic 350 L. A 911 GTS would offer more than three times the carrying capacity, and you can fold the rear seats for a little extra if needed.
Having said that, the chances of either a GT C or a 911 being someone’s primary transportation are relatively low: there’s likely to be a GLE or a Cayenne in the family fleet. Particularly as a convertible, this is the kind of car you buy for the hell of the drive, and here, the GT C delivers.
Much like Porsche, Mercedes has carefully matched power output to price tag for their GT line of cars. However, it’s somehow more forgivable, as everything feels overpowered. The standard GT makes 456 hp, while the GT C brings the heat with 550 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque.
If the GLS is the German Suburban, then consider this the German Corvette. Fitted with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, the GT C is capable of 0–100km/h times in the mid-three-second range. Or at least, it’s capable of that kind of chiropractic acceleration on dry tarmac. In the wet, the rear tires claw for grip as the traction control light flashes angrily.
In a coupe, the inappropriate footwear would be mightily frustrating. Happily, this GT C comes with a retractable roof, which opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Leave the GT-R variant for the track rats, and consider the GT C to be the tastiest morsel in the Mercedes range.
Equipped with both heated seats and Mercedes’ Airscarf heated ducts, the GT C is suddenly as all-weather as convertibles come. The small cockpit experiences little buffeting as compared to its rear-engined, rear-seat-equipped 911 rival, and the sheer amount of warmth you can crank out for driver and passenger is phenomenal. If you’ve got a GT C, I never want to see your roof up unless you’re either stuck in stop-and-go traffic during a typhoon, or are a vampire out in the noonday sun.
There are other benefits too, born of performance but suited to everyday practicality. The GT C’s rear steering, intended to make it more nimble in technical sections, lends itself well to low-speed U-turns and the like. Despite the long nose, this big machine whips around like a Mazda MX-5.
And, given the slightest bit of dry tarmac or warming weather, the GT C is an absolute beast. Off-the-line acceleration is nothing compared to the Merc’s ability to sprint from mid-range to highway speeds. The 4.0L V8 sounds like the hammers of hell when you drop into the throttle, and spits and crackles like an ill-tempered volcano when you lift your right foot. I’m aware that both the thrust and the theatrics involve a great deal of engineering, but my hindbrain couldn’t care less.
Nor does my hindbrain much care that the helm of the GT C is less like the scalpel of a 911 and more like the leather grip of a machete. It’s not a blunt instrument – it’s far too vicious for that – but it’s certainly less composed. The nose lifts more under acceleration, and powering on early gets the taillights shaking.
Happily, I’ve had the opportunity to drive a GT C in perfect, desert-dry conditions, and can report that it’s a scream. Particularly for your passenger. The happier news is that it’s just as entertaining when you can’t approach one-fifth of the limits of the car, or when road conditions are such that shenanigans need to stay corked up.
The GT C feels just that little bit more special than the obvious choice of a Neunelfer. It’s lightly deranged underhood, where the 911 feels ruthless but efficient. It moves around more under throttle and braking. Being a newer model, there’s also a little more exclusivity.
There’s no question a 911 GTS (the trim that corresponds closest to the GT C) would be just as quick and perhaps more competent. Opt for the all-wheel-drive version of the Porsche, and it’d be as undemanding as a Golf R.
So equipped, you’d have to put some miles on the thing to dig out a personality. It’s not a bad problem to have, just that the 911 might not feel special until you’d tucked a road trip or two under its wheels.
The GT C, on the other hand, felt immediately special the first dry night I was able to sneak in. It growled and crackled through the night, snorting up boost and howling its V8 song along concrete underpasses. The cockpit was as snug as a woodstove-heated cabin, the sky broken by sullen and unseen clouds threatening rain.
The weather was iffy. The tires were wrong. The car was just right.
|2018 Mercedes-AMG GT C|
|Engine Displacement: 4.0L|
|Engine Cylinders: V8|
|Peak Horsepower: 550 hp @ 6,750 rpm|
|Peak Torque: 502 lb-ft @ 1,900 rpm|
|Fuel Economy: 15.6/11.7/13.7 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space: 350 L|
|2018 Mercedes-AMG GT C|
|Base Price $178,000|
|A/C Tax $100|
|Destination Fee $2,795|
|Price as Tested $184,195|
|Optional Equipment $3,300 – AMG Track Package (dynamic engine mounts, Alcantara steering wheel) $3,300|