The beast from Green Hell. It’s an extremely catchy line. And AMG’s justification for that is that this Mercedes-AMG GT R was developed at the Nordschleife a.k.a Green Hell.
What makes it special?
This should make the GT R extremely planted and easy to drive around the less challenging corners of the Madras Motorsport Race Track. And, as an extension of that, it might be so good dynamically that it might actually be boring.
What’s more, it runs on the fattest tyres I have ever sampled on a sports car. After all, 275-section at the front is still fine, but the 325-section rear tyres seem like overkill. Especially when you consider the GT R makes 590bhp and not 1000bhp.
Looks like my dreams of oversteering into the sunset are going to be shattered.
What I think it can do?
Thankfully, there’s more to the Mercedes-AMG GT R than just tyre smoke. For starters, it has a great paint job. And it looks sensational. It sounds great too – not as loud and brute as the R8 – but snarly all the same.
It also has four wheel steer. Wider play of the bumpers front and back. And modified suspension, all in a bid to lend the GT R even more grip. It also has active aeros that activate at over 80kmph in Race mode.And, if all this wasn’t enough to glue the GT R on to the racetrack, it has a huge rear wing as well.
Add to it the howling V8 with almost 600bhp, and the AMG GT R should be a brutal car to drive. It should be hard on your senses as it hauls you forward every time you touch the gas. And it should threaten to throw you out of the window every time the steering is turned. And, it won’t be anything near flamboyant or silly because it just won’t wiggle its behind. I guess, grip, comes at a price, after all.
The track test
One sighting lap in the AMG GT R, and I was in love. It was a slow lap but the car felt so tight and so centered around me, it pushed my happiness co-efficient sky high. Plus, I knew for a fact that I am in the coolest-looking car on the track, and was everyone’s envy. Guess it’s good to pull rank sometimes.
And then when I came to the start-finish straight and floored the throttle, that brutal acceleration I had imagined earlier turned real. The GT R might run rear tyres as wide as Formula One cars, but the car’s torque still manages to overwhelm them.
I could feel the AMG’s traction control fighting the tyres urge to wheelspin as my right foot was still trying hard to kill the throttle pedal with all the force I could manage. And then, suddenly, the tyres found purchase. And it was only then that I feel the sheer force of the car’s acceleration.
And almost instantaneously, I braked more than required in an effort to regain psychic strength. Now, with less pace than intended carried into the bend, I ended up understeering through C4 and C5! Yes, you heard it right. But I devilishly smiled at myself. “So it’s geared to understeer when taken easy and oversteer when pushed to the limit”, I told myself. Knowing what to do next, I immediately weaved my right foot to attack the long C6 and C7 so that I can swiftly apply what I just absorbed. “Be more aggressive”, I told myself all throughout the long curve as I accelerated briskly thanks to the confidence I gathered.
And before I could fathom what was happening, I was already at C1, and approaching it very fast.
Thankfully, I had left all the electronic nannies on. So I braked, and turned, and prayed, as the car twitched around, but it held. And even as I was still unwinding the steering for the short straight between C1 and C2,I began panicking all over again because this was two out of two corners wherein the GT R’s pace was too much for me to handle.
The rest of the lap was less taxing. I was still flooring it and getting the braking all wrong going deep into bends. But, by now I knew the car could handle my tomfoolery. Did I say the AMG GT R might be boring around the MMRT? Well, don’t ever let me take up soothsaying because I was so wrong. The GT R is manic and fun and fast and completely intoxicating.
And it oversteers!
At the next lap I decided to be brave. I switched to Race mode with limited help from the electronics. I didn’t put the ESP off completely, of course; being brave is good, but I didn’t want to be stupid. Now, the GT R was a completely different beast.
Going into faster corners – C5, the bowl and C9 – the GT R’s tail would come out beautifully. It wasn’t a snap on and off movement. The turn-in would get the rear to step out slightly and then as I got on the power, it came out even more. And on the two occasions I stamped on the throttle instead of feeding it like I would a Rottweiler, the ESP got me back from my near 90-degree slip angles without a whiff of drama.
Did I mention I loved the GT R? And, not just its colour or its old-school racecar stance, but driving it as well? Well, I did. A lot!
But, the GT R posted quite a slow lap time for all its hardware. There’s no doubt that the Mercedes-AMG GT R is fast. It’s fast around a straight line, it’s fast entering bends, and even though one has to wait a bit longer than usual to accelerate hard out of corners, once that biting point is reached, it does shoot out like a bat out of green hell.
The slow lap time was down to both the car and the track and how they came together, says Rayomand Banajee. Now, Rayomand was our lap poster. He is also a racecar driver, mentor to karting kids, and an overall good guy. He says MMRT proved to be quite tight for the GT R given its active aeros, its size, its weight, and its power. Also, the rear wheel drive setup made it twitchier than the rest around the tighter sections of the track. On something like a BIC, the GT R would be a lot quicker and closer to others of its brethren.
There was another handicap the GT R had to deal with at our track day. Mercedes wanted us to save the tyres as it had something else planned for the car the very next day. And so Rayo had to take a lot easier than he would have liked to. Take the ‘tyre-saving’ cap away, and the AMG GT R would have been at least three seconds quicker around Chennai.
Oh, well. Maybe next year then…
Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi