Think of the GT C that has been added to the Mercedes AMG GT lineup as the equivalent of the Carrera GTS in the Porsche 911 roster. Both cars are the third step up on the power and expense ladder. Both come standard with distinctive interior and exterior design details. Both have fatter rear haunches to accommodate wider wheels and an increase in track compared with their lesser brethren. And both are topped by a track-oriented model further up the price and power scale—the GT R in the AMG’s case and the GT3 for the Porsche.
Although AMG has copied the model structure that Porsche has successfully developed over more than 50 years of the 911, it does so with a completely different sort of car. The GT has its engine in the front rather than in the rear. That engine is a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8, not a twin-turbo 3.0-liter flat-six. And instead of the 911’s clean and classic lines, the GT snaps and crackles with visual firepower.
While not an overtly retro design, the GT sports a rather lengthy hood by modern standards—one that recalls the 300SL from the 1950s. The same goes for the gaping new Mercedes grille inspired by the SLs that campaigned in the Carrera Panamericana, the legendary Mexican road race of the same era. With its beefy vertical bars that look like the teeth of some giant prehistoric catfish and the pie-sized three-pointed star centered in the opening, the grille dominates the appearance of this flamboyant car. The small, sleek greenhouse tacked onto the tail end of the body further emphasizes its muscular nature.
In this latest C variant of the GT, that muscularity is enhanced from the rear view by an increase in overall width from 76.3 to 79.0 inches. The wider bodywork accommodates a rear track increase of 1.7 inches, as well as 12.0-inch-wide rear wheels with 305/30ZR-20 tires instead of the 11-inchers with 295/30ZR-20s on the S. This wider bodywork and track are shared with the street-legal GT R track special—which set the sixth-fastest time ever at our annual Lightning Lap showdown—although that model can come with even fatter rear tires.
The GT C’s engine also has more in common with the GT R’s than with the one in the base and S versions of the GT. Those two cars share a common turbo and intercooler package and have been uprated slightly for this year, with the base engine now developing 469 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 465 lb-ft of torque at 1700 rpm, while the S makes 515 ponies at 6250 and 494 lb-ft at 1800. The key difference is peak boost pressure—14.5 psi for the base engine and 16.0 for the S.
Between the added power and the shorter gearing, the GT C is notably more energetic than the hardly slow base and S versions. Driving on the back roads of northern Germany near Bad Driburg, the C model leaps ahead when you squeeze the accelerator and kicks down less often than its brethren. Even if you put the gearbox in manual mode and leave it in top gear, there’s still plenty of grunt. Throttle response is also prompt, with notably less turbo lag than in a modern 911 at low rpm.
Drivers can select among five driving modes—Individual, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, and Race—that adjust suspension stiffness, throttle response, shift programming, stability-control intervention, and exhaust sound. In Individual mode, you can personalize a setting of your own. For casual driving, for example, we rather enjoyed having the transmission in full manual mode, the exhaust spitting back under deceleration in the Sport+ mode, and the suspension and throttle response at their softest settings. This provided a satisfying combination of driver involvement and overall comfort.
When left to shift automatically, the dual-clutch transaxle generally swaps cogs intelligently and smoothly, but there’s an occasional slight lurch that you never experience with a Porsche dual-clutch. The GT C coupe stickers for $146,995; the roadster version is $11K more. Those prices are more than $20,000 higher than the equivalent 911 Carrera GTS tariffs, but some of that difference reflects varying levels of standard equipment. For example, adding the automatic transmission and rear-wheel steering to the Porsche swells the sticker by more than $5000. Chalk up the rest to exclusivity. The 911 has been around for more than 50 years, and while the car doesn’t sell in high volumes, Porsche sold more than 1000 of them in the United States in August alone. Meanwhile, Mercedes sold just over 800 GTs in the first eight months of the year. Coupe or roadster, from the base car to the hotted-up R model, the AMG GTs are visually arresting, blindingly fast, and extraordinarily rewarding to drive. And, at least for now, they’re even rarer than some Mercedes.
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