I recently had the chance to drive the Mercedes-AMG GTR, which is a very exciting car with a boring name. This opportunity came courtesy of Fletcher Jones Motorcars in Newport Beach, California, which is the largest Mercedes-Benz dealer in the United States. You should see this place. They have enough G-Wagens to make Dubai look like rural Kentucky.
But, anyway, the AMG GTR. This is the latest variant of the Mercedes-AMG GT, and what I’ve learned is that the AMG GT is named in a tremendously confusing manner. There are four versions: First, there’s the base-level AMG GT (469 horsepower). Then there’s the AMG GTS with 515 hp, then the AMG GTC, which is not a convertible but rather an even higher-performance version with 550 hp. Finally, there’s the GTR, the top dog, with 577 hp. Oddly, you can also get this car as a convertible, but only the AMG GT and the AMG GTC. Don’t ask me why.
Regardless of the confusing lineup, the AMG GT is an amazing car — and several years ago, I filmed a video with an AMG GTS and I was blown away by how much it was both a sports car and a luxury car, much in the way the Porsche 911 has always been. Was this finally a legitimate competitor to the 911? It seemed so. And now there’s the GTR, which seems like it may finally be a legitimate competitor to the Porsche 911 GT3.
Well, I wouldn’t go quite that far. The GT3 seems to cut out practically everything that isn’t necessary in the pursuit of creating the ultimate pure sports car, whereas the AMG GTR has an attention monitor that makes sure you aren’t getting drowsy while you’re behind the wheel. It’s no GT3. But the idea is the same: Take the regular sports car and make it racier, with a giant wing, carbon ceramic brakes and big power. On that level, the AMG GTR is certainly the GT3 of the AMG GT lineup — but I wanted to see exactly how this thing drove. Surely Mercedes-Benz, the brand of stately luxury, of head-of-state limousines, can’t actually create a sports car to rival Porsche in terms of driving experience and performance?
Well, they can, and they did. I spent some time behind the wheel of the AMG GTR, and I discovered that it’s everything you might want from an all-out sports car: It’s fast, and I mean really fast, as 0-to-60 happens in about 3.5 seconds, on the way to a top speed of nearly 200 miles per hour. But it also makes all the right noises, with a loud, angry, aggressive exhaust reminding you that this is a true, old-school, big-engined sports car, not some modern-day sports car that relies on turbocharging or plug-in hybrid power so it can still post strong fuel economy numbers. Sure, the AMG GTR is turbocharged, but there are still eight cylinders under the hood. You won’t forget it.
You also won’t forget you’re in a rather special car when you start to actually go around curves, because the AMG GTR is impressively stable in high-speed cornering, with precise steering that very nearly matches the "true" exotics that cost far more. I’m surprised just how good the steering feel is, how flat the AMG GTR feels in cornering and how glued to the road it really seems. It’s impressive, to say the least.
With that said, the AMG GTR does give up one important detail that I think made the GTS so good: it’s not so great as a daily driver. Even in the softest suspension mode, the GTR feels harsh over bumps, and its low front end poses a concern for scraping on driveways. Drive a GTS every day, but drive the GTR only on weekends — or at the track.
Fortunately, you can probably afford to buy two, because the thing about the GTR that’s most impressive is that it’s a surprisingly good deal. Yes, it seems insane to call a car with a $159,000 base price a "good deal" — but that’s half the price of Ferrari and Lamborghini models that perform only marginally better. No, you don’t get the low-slung look or the mid-engine design, but you save some big money — unless, of course, you opt for the bright green ("AMG Green Hell Magno"), which costs $9,900. Do that, though, and you’ll stand out just as much as the guy with the Huracan or the 488 GTB — and you’ll laugh just as hard every time you stomp on the throttle.
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