As light rain starts to bead across the windscreen of the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro, I’m forced to momentarily divert my attention away from maintaining the optimal entry speed for turn one of the Phillip Island Grand Prix racetrack and question whether the Pro in the car's name is, despite my position behind the thick-rimmed steering wheel, a little ambitious for my level of bravery on a fast and soon-to-be damp circuit.
This is, after all, just one of 15 Australian delivered examples of a limited 750-production unit run of AMG’s most track-focused variant, of their twin-turbo V8 sports coupe.
And I haven’t been at a racetrack for a while. Let alone a wet one. And certainly not in a $453,200 (before options and on-road costs), rear-drive, light-weight, Solar Beam Yellow, German powerhouse.
Nothing like jumping back in at the deep end!
Now, even lightly feathering the throttle, the sharp exhaust note reverberates around the largely carbon-fibre body and, noting I’ve made a rare clean exit from the twin-apex Southern Loop, and that there still isn’t enough rain to trigger the automatic wipers, I feel encouraged to dig deep and wind on the power.
The car responds with a slight twitch and a wiggle from the 325mm wide rear Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, the sharp bark of the twin-turbo V8 increases in both volume and ferocity, and I push the yellow Benz well past a howling 5000rpm into a near-instantaneous shift, to carry on.
I know my heart rate is elevated, and I know there’s an unflattering bit-tongue concentration face going on, but as the radio crackles from the far more experienced instructor in the AMG GT R ahead of me “good job, well done, now hard on the brakes…”, I am led to believe that even if I don’t feel particularly professional, the Pro is doing a good job of hiding it.
|2021 Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro|
|Engine configuration||4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol|
|Displacement||4.0 litres (3982cc)|
|Power||430kW at 6250rpm|
|Torque||700Nm at 2100-5500rpm|
|Transmission||Seven-speed AMG Speedshift DCT|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim, combined||11.4/100km|
|Fuel use on test||30L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating (year tested)||Not tested|
|Warranty (years / km)||5 years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Porsche 911 GT3 RS|
|Options as tested||$16,400|
Based on the $368,335 Mercedes-AMG GT R, the GT R Pro is Affalterbach’s take on the track-day braggery game that has kept Porsche in GT-variants for the past couple of decades.
This is for all measure, the AMG-flavoured Porsche 911 GT3 ($326,000), or at this price a GT3 RS ($415,700); a lighter, more track-focussed car for those who have the skill to push things harder and faster, and yet still need to tootle home via a quick stop at Woolies to pick up some milk.
For the near $85,000 premium (roughly equivalent to a highly spec’d AMG A35) over a ‘normal’ R, the Pro receives carbon-fibre canard wings on the front bar, as well as a lower, adjustable carbon splitter. The headlamps feature a new LED signature and there are cooling vents in the carbon front guards.
Up the back, there’s a new carbon diffuser which extends to the wheel spats, plus a carbon roof, some trim elements and of course, an adjustable carbon-fibre rear wing. There’s even a carbon panel under the rear subframe, to further increase chassis rigidity without adding much weight.
You’ve got a reasonable selection of colours; Magnetite Black and Jupiter Red are no-cost choices, Designo Diamond White Bright Metallic is a $3400 option, Selenite Grey and Brilliant Blue Magno matte finishes are $3900 but our car in its multi-layer Solar Beam Yellow is a bit of a hero and a hefty $16,400 addition.
All cars come with contrasting stripes, just so everyone knows to be sure you bought the Pro.
|2021 Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro|
|Wheels/tyres||Staggered – 275/35 R19 front / 325/30 R20 rear - Michelin Pilot Cup Sport 2|
The suspension has been revised, with owner-adjustable coil-overs, a carbon fibre adjustable stabiliser bar up front and a hollow-steel one in the rear. Plus there are lightweight, forged alloy wheels in staggered 19-inch front and 20-inch rear fitment, running those previously mentioned and now well-heated Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres.
Back in the cockpit, I’m adhering to a ‘no sudden movements’ approach of piloting a near half-million-dollar car, at pace, around a racetrack, but even without stamping on the accelerator, you can feel the eagerness and responsiveness of the twin-turbo AMG V8.
I judiciously squeeze the throttle and the GT picks up pace. Rapidly.
It's worth knowing that if you launch it from a standstill, the Pro is good for a 3.6-second run to the tonne; but I'm well above that now, the numbers on the digital speedo flicking in random increments as the car essentially outruns the dash's ability to display it in real time.
Gear changes from the AMG Speedshift dual-clutch transmission are sharp and fast. There are paddles on the column, but I’ve mostly left the car in its self-shifting setting, as it manages to be more aware of the gear I need than I do, and never seems to not want to be in a position where it can’t pull away hard.
Output is the same as a GT R, as here too 430kW is yours at a very loud 6250rpm, but the response driven by all 700Nm being available between 2100 and 5500rpm somehow feels just that little bit sharper thanks to the lower weight.
It’s not much lower mind you, around 25kg, but the way the soundtrack is amplified through the composite body panels surely presents a convincing argument for it being even lighter.
The dynamic engine mounts carry over from the regular ‘R too, the Pro perhaps shining a light on the impressive capability that often seems overlooked on the non-special-edition car. I don’t know about you, but I’m more of a hindrance to a 25kg weight saving than any carbon fibre will ever be.
And while it is very much at home on the circuit, the best part about the Pro, and probably the thing that resonates with many buyers, is that when you aren’t trying to keep it flat past the hay shed, you’re got all the regular Mercedes-Benz accoutrements at your fingertips.
Adaptive cruise, DAB digital radio, dual-zone climate control, even parking sensors at both ends, make the Pro a highly usable lightweight supercar. You’ve even still got a 350-litre boot, behind the steel half-cage that is.
Like in an A, B, C, E, S or any other three-pointed alphabet, you can customise the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and fiddle with the myriad screens and settings on the 10.3-inch main display.
And, if you are really dedicated, the pre-installed AMG Track Pace app will record and display your telemetry for the day, which should make for even more competitive carpark banter. More amusingly, you can bring up your fuel consumption chart which strangely maxes out at a flat 30L/100km (combined claim 11.4L/100km). I know it's lying, and the real juice-thirst is substantially higher, but just think of the reward points...
The cabin itself is comfortable, with the GT offering a traditionally low-slung seating position, with your legs stretched out and your body nestled into the carbon fibre racing seats. A four-point harness is standard, as are regular seatbelts, and the new carbon roof panel even includes scallops to help with helmet clearance.
The yellow traction control dial, as found also in the GT R, sits prominently below the climate control, allowing drivers to step back through nine-stages of traction assist on the fly. I choose to ignore it. Not so pro after all.
In general though, as a single-focus office, using only the Dinamica wheel and column-mounted shift paddles, it works really well.
Trying to do anything else though, with the massive central console over the transmission tunnel, requires a double-jointed left arm to comfortably use the buttons and other functions of the car.
Conveniently, I haven’t needed to ‘Riggs’ my shoulder to access these, nor have I even looked at them, as with the dial-up drive-mode and shortcut LCD buttons on the wheel, all the configuration I could possibly need is right in front of me.
That said, at this point, hard on the brakes after the hill at Lukey Heights, adjusting anything is the last thing on my mind. Here, the car moves around and yet still feels stable, almost as clean and efficient at wiping off speed as it is at putting it on.
I lift off, turn into the near 135-degree bend at MG, and again start to wind out the twin-turbo V8. There is clear communication from the rear of the car, squirming ever so slightly as the big Michelins deal with the challenge of lateral grip.
There’s a swift change in direction required here, from the right-hand exit of turn ten into the left-hand entry into the long sweeper at eleven. Get it wrong, and you tend to push too wide and need to wash off speed, but the nose of the big Merc is impressively planted and accurate. I point, it turns. Aerodynamics at work.
Beyond the wings, flics and vents, there’s also an active carbon fibre element under the splitter that extends automatically when the car is in Race mode, increasing the Venturi effect of airflow under the car, essentially sucking it to the road.
Plus, if you want to take configuration and setup further, you can adjust the angle of the rear spoiler, and the compression and rebound rates of the shock absorbers without complex tools or equipment. Doing this is definitely a pro look in the carpark.
However the car has been configured for PI though, seems pretty good to me as I’m now running wide to the exit of turn twelve, foot to the floor, all 430kW and 700Nm now shouting as loud as can be as I pass the pit buildings well into the 200s.
|2021 Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro|
|Colour||Solar Beam Yellow|
|Options as tested||$16,400|
|ANCAP safety rating||Not tested|
|Warranty||5 years / unlimited km|
The GT has very long legs, there’s no hint of approaching a terminal velocity as the numbers skip forward on the speedo far more quickly than I have mind to concentrate on.
Through my helmet I feel the hollow sharpness of that exhaust noise growing ever louder. Shifts up merely a split-second skip in the now brutal onslaught of noise.
Even over the iconic crest under the MELBOURNE gantry, the car feels as solid as a rock. The rain has passed, grip is good and I’m feeling decidedly more 'Pro' than I was just 4.4km ago.
Back on the big carbon brakes, a little squirm again, then flow in to that fast entry to turn one and around we go again.
Impressively easy to drive at speed, the GT R Pro’s inherent skill and experience is somehow bringing me up to a more talented level. Not quite professional, but certainly more confident.
And fair to say, that I haven't even touched on the ability envelope of this car. The tyres and aero all felt they were working, but I'm sure I was off the pace sufficiently enough to ensure that neither were explored to their full potential.
So we should all rush out and buy one?
You can, sure, but know that to get the most out of the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro, all elements need to be of a professional standard, and that includes the person behind the wheel.
Consider that GT driver Maro Engel was able to shave a bit over six-seconds from the Nurburgring lap time of the ‘normal’ GT R (7m 10.92s against 7m 4.63s), which sounds impressive, but over a near 21km circuit, that’s not a huge gap. Moreover, that gap will cost you about $14,000 per second.
Faster is faster, but I’m pretty sure you or I couldn’t do that, thus limiting the value and worthiness of opting for the Pro over the GT R, purely for extra performance.
And I'm not too proud to admit, that I would never be able to explore the capability of the Pro enough to justify its step above a GT R. The car in this instance, substantially more pro than I.
The GT R Pro then needs to be considered on its merit as an engineering showpiece. A testament to what Mercedes can do through motorsport, to help you on the road. It is a rare and special car, destined for just a few rare and special owners.
For the rest of us, the Pro is a race car with numberplates, that does a great job of making regular people look and sound like they know what they are doing. Professional in name, and representation, bolstering the ability, and wide-smiling face, of whoever it is behind the wheel.