You know that scene from Back to the Future when Marty sees a black HiLux for the first time, and he can't quit drooling? That's the feeling I get each time a Mercedes-AMG GT drives past.
That feeling was multiplied by 10 when we took delivery of our Mercedes-AMG GT C. Finished in Brilliant Blue metallic with AMG ceramic high-performance brakes in yellow, this car looked absolutely stunning just sitting there.
If you're a bit confused about the AMG GT line-up, I don't blame you. There are four variants to consider, of which you can get two in convertible trim (although a third, the GT S roadster, is coming in 2019).
The AMG GT line-up kicks off with the AMG GT at $258,711 (plus on-road costs) and then moves up to the AMG GT Roadster at $283,711 (plus on-road costs). From there it's the AMG GT S at $298,711 (plus on-road costs).
Stepping up to the AMG GT C (the car being tested here) will cost you $316,129 (plus on-road costs) for the coupe and $338,711 (plus on-road costs) for the AMG GT C Roadster. Finally, the top of the range is the AMG GT R, which is priced from $348,711 (plus on-road costs).
While there are key differences between each model, the most notable changes through the variants are:
- GT: 350kW/650Nm
- GT S: 384kW/650Nm
- GT C: 410kW/680Nm (plus wider track at the rear and rear-wheel steering)
- GT R: 430kW/700Nm (plus wider track at the front and rear)
Despite looking quite similar to the rest of the range, the GT C really hits the sweet spot between design, performance and comfort. Whereas the GT and GT S may be a bit soft for some and the GT R too hardcore, the GT C straddles that middle ground.
Looking at it from the front, you'll notice the vertical slat grille contains an active aero system that directs or redirects air through the vehicle's cooling system. The advantage is that at engine start it will reach operating temperature quicker (as the louvres remain closed, forcing heat to build up), which results in greater fuel efficiency.
As the pace and temperature increase, these louvres can open to direct air over the engine's cooling elements. Stopping our car is the optional ceramic brake package ($17,000), which measures in at 402mm x 39mm at the front and 360mm x 32mm at the rear, featuring six-piston callipers up front.
In terms of the body, the GT C is the same width as the GT R, which means it sits 57mm wider at the rear and has wide bodywork to suit that dimensional change. It uses staggered wheels with 19-inch wheels at the front and 20-inch at the rear. It sits on 265mm wide rubber at the front and 305mm wide treads at the rear (compared to 275mm front and 325mm rear on the GT R).
The rear axle also features a steering system that can input up to 1.5 degrees of angle in either direction to help with high-speed stability.
Inside the cabin, the GT C features all the creature comforts of most other Mercedes-Benz products. The centre stack offers all the drive controls, including the drive mode selector, manual gear adjustment, suspension modes, traction control, stop/start system, starter button and exhaust button. Behind that is the awkwardly placed gear selector.
Atop the dashboard is a 7.0-inch COMAND infotainment system. It remains a fairly fiddly system to use, but is backed up by an easy to use and accurate voice-recognition system that takes care of all the legwork.
Other creature comforts include radar cruise control, USB connectivity, Bluetooth telephone and audio, keyless entry and start, automatic windscreen wipers and adaptive LED headlights and heated seats.
Surprisingly, there's plenty of storage throughout the cabin, which means you won't have to stash your odds and ends in pockets before driving away. While the interior is nicely presented, it's let down by some surfaces that scratch quite easily (like the brushed-aluminium tunnel surrounds) and functionality flaws like the centre console that's almost impossible to open with one hand.
These things aside, the interior is a great place to be seated. The driving position is absolutely spot on and the steering wheel with a flat bottom sits perfectly in the hands with the steering wheel paddle-shifters within easy reach.
You won't have enough to load a double bed into the boot, but unlike cars like the Audi R8 and to some degree the Porsche 911 (although it does have an extra two seats), there's 350 litres of storage space in the hatch. So the AMG GT C is certainly practical from that point of view.
My biggest concern was with parking and day-to-day driveability. Those concerns vanished pretty quickly when I tried backing into our tight parking space at home. There's a good quality rear-view camera and both front and rear parking sensors. The only part that wasn't day-to-day driving friendly was the front lip, which sits quite low.
Under the bonnet of the AMG GT C is a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine that produces 410kW of power with a peak at 6750rpm, while peak torque of 680Nm is available from 1900–5500rpm. That torque is sent through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, with combined fuel consumption coming in at 11.5 litres of fuel per 100km. We sat at around 13.2L/100km after 500km behind the wheel, which included highway driving and a couple of mountain blasts.
In the world of dual-clutch transmissions, this is one of the best. Unlike a lot of these gearboxes designed to handle high amounts of torque, it's jerk free and feels nothing like a sloppy dual-clutch gearbox you'll find in entry-level buzz boxes.
It also means that Mercedes-Benz can build in faster shift speeds as the vehicle moves through its drive modes. The drive modes vary from Individual to Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Race. Each mode brings with it a greater level of engine, steering and suspension involvement, with Race mode also restricting stability control and bringing with it a launch-control function.
Mercedes-Benz has configured the GT C with one of the best launch-control systems on the market. It perfectly manages wheel slip off the line to ensure the car gets away with minimal fuss.
While the engine and power outputs may look similar, the GT C and R pick up two new turbochargers with a modified compressor design (compared to the GT and GT S), along with more boost pressure and a smaller aneroid capsule. Additionally, the exhaust ports have been optimised and the compression ratio subsequently adapted.
Let's talk about the noise. It's f*%#ing epic. Both at idle and once it's moving, it has a throaty burble that sounds unlike any other non-Mercedes-Benz V8 I've heard. Flick through to Sport+ or Race mode and that noise picks up depth and ensures you'll be hearing this from miles away.
At low speed the GT C is comfortable and compliant, which is thanks to the adaptive dampers. It rolls over potholes with ease and won't jar you as it hits unexpected bumps.
Visibility out of the cabin is good too – the mirrors are big enough to see around the sides of the car, while the front and rear ends are fitted with parking sensors to aid with navigation.
But, driving in and around the city is secondary to what this beast was actually built for.
Move the dial over to Sport+ and the throttle becomes razor sharp. In fact, it's almost impossible to tell you're dealing with a turbocharged engine here. It's so responsive that it's simply a slab of torque from 1900rpm all the way through to 5500rpm.
That means you can roll hard on to the throttle and be entirely comfortable with what the back end is going to do. It's easy to punch it and gradually roll on more throttle and lightly counter-steer to get a true appreciation for the amount of power under the bonnet.
Once the tyres are warm, it takes a fair bit of effort to unsettle the car. It doesn't feel quite as sharp through corners as a 911 Turbo, but it also doesn't carry its $400,000 price tag.
There is plenty of communication through the steering wheel, and while you will find the involvement of the rear-steering system imperceptible, it's constantly working to keep the car tucked in and hunkered down.
There's also no point trying to shift gears on your own. The Sport+ mode is like a virtual network link into your brain that predicts exactly which gear you want to be in. Hard dabs of the brake pedal provoke a shift down the gears with an epic crack, while gradual applications of the throttle hold gears long enough to blitz through corners.
Body roll, as you can imagine, doesn't exist. It sits dead flat through corners, and that's partly thanks to the AMG Dynamic Plus package ($4000) fitted to our car. This adds dynamic engine and transmission mounts, a firmer base suspension tune, an enhanced steering tune and better engine response. Plus, there's an interior style treatment.
Despite 305mm wide tyres at the rear, it's not impossible to have the GT C step out sideways with enough provocation, but it always feels predictable and never feels like it's about to chew you up and spit you out.
I really struggled to find anything negative to mention about the way it drives. The nine-stage traction control and extra power of the GT R would be cool, but potentially pointless when you consider how impressive this package is.
The other bonus is that the carbon-ceramic brakes don't squeal when they're cold either. Win-win.
You'd expect the AMG GT C to cost a fortune to service, but it's actually pretty reasonable. It comes with a three-year warranty with 12-month/20,000km service intervals. The first service is $876, with the second and third services coming in at $1652 a pop.
So what are the negatives? To be honest, I can't really think of anything worth mentioning. The most annoying things really are the centre console and COMAND. They're two things I'd have no issues living with if push came to shove.
There is one dilemma, though – it's called the Aston Martin DB11 V8. It costs $61,295 more. While it's slightly slower to 100km/h (4.0 v 3.7 seconds), it wears an Aston Martin badge.
At the end of the day, while this car doesn't have the badge cachet of an Aston Martin, it makes up for it with a pretty epic design that will absolutely turn heads, plus a dynamic driving range that hasn't previously been seen on a road-going Mercedes-Benz.
I'd own one in a heartbeat, and will continue to salute all you lucky people that have one sitting in the garage(s) at home.