After handing the parking attendant a ticket to retrieve a car I hadn’t yet laid eyes on, I was cautiously excited to see what has been called “the Beast of the Green Hell” for the first time. And when the Mercedes-AMG GT R (DAI.DE) rolled out of the parking elevator in its Mars Red paint job, there was no denying the beast was here.
Even the other parking attendants, who are used to seeing some pretty exclusive cars in midtown Manhattan let out a gasp. “That… is one hot car,” the attendant said wistfully, shaking his head as he handed me the key. Yeah, it really is.
It’s got the look
The GT R is simply stunning to look at — and hear (we’ll get to that in a minute). Starting with that wide ‘Panamericana’ grille, this car is planted low and wide. It seems the front of the car, which is aggressive yet sleek, goes on forever hugging the ground until the windshield finally appears along with the carbon-fiber roof, sloping down to the back. The rear end finishes in a tightly wrapped package that immediately reminded me of a Porsche 911 (PAH3.DE). Kudos to Mercedes — its tweaking of the original Mercedes-AMG GT design really works here.
It’s an awesome sight to take in. The carbon fiber tail is a bit aggressive, but it works for this car given that this is the GT R, meant for a more race-oriented aesthetic. But this car isn’t just looks. It has the heart of a muscle car — and a soul.
The beast within
The engine in the GT R is what dreams are made of for muscle car fans. The 4.0L V8 twin-turbo powerplant produces an astounding 577 horsepower with 516 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a Mercedes AMG 7-speed dual clutch mounted in the rear in transaxle form for better weight balance and includes an AMG electronic limited slip diff. Mercedes reports a 0-60 mph time of 3.5 seconds.
The AMG GT R’s intimate interior is decked out in leather, Dynamica (Mercedes’ version of Alcantara suede) and carbon fiber trim that is both tasteful and sporty. You feel like you’re sliding into a racecar cockpit when you enter, as this car is quite low to the ground. Once you’re inside you notice the seats are firm, but still with enough give and bolstering to keep you reasonably happy. I wouldn’t recommend a 500-mile road trip in these seats, but it would be doable.
My only complaint, one that others have voiced before, is that the sloping center stack is a little awkward to access given the GT R’s low seating position, especially when trying to use Mercedes’ COMAND scroll dial and touchpad. I’ve never been a fan of that input device, and in this configuration it was even more awkward to use.
Push the start button and you know you’re not in your father’s E-class sedan. The sound coming out of out of the titanium exhaust is more like a roar; it is loud and wonderful.
Mercedes and AMG of course allow you to use different driving modes like Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and Race. An Individual mode allows you to tweak settings to your liking. That being said, shift into drive and pull away and you’ll be surprised how driveable this car is, even in midtown Manhattan. In the city, just keep it in Comfort mode and you’ll survive some potholes and bumps.
I preferred Sport and Sport Plus for most driving conditions. In these more aggressive settings, with a firmer ride and more responsive throttle, the turbos don’t take long to get wound up, as power comes on right away. Be careful though, anyone overzealous on the gas pedal will get a big surprise with the rear breaking loose, letting you know that this car really means business. One needs to respect this powerful machine.
The feeling behind the wheel is engaging, especially driving along an open freeway with long, sweeping curves. The GT R hugs the ground like a stalking cat, and all one has to do is tap the throttle and you’ll get more power than you can deal with. And that power comes in in almost any gear, and when you hear that bellow coming out of the rear it just puts a smile on your face.
The GT R doesn’t feel like you’re driving a cold, scalpel-like German sports car looking to shave off a tenth here and there on a race track. No, this car is alive, and it makes me feel like I’m driving a muscle car, dare I say, even an American one.
Yes the firm European ride is there, but the way the GT R looks (maybe you squint extra hard and see a Viper resemblance), its stance on the road and that engine — this car has the soul of Detroit in it, by way of Stuttgart.
The 2018 AMG GT R starts at $157,000, and can go much higher from there. Our tester came in at $187,345 and included options like carbon ceramic brakes ($8,950), AMG Exterior Carbon Fiber package ($4,000), convenience package ($1,600) and Distronic Plus (which is like a radar cruise control, and one of the best implementations I’ve experienced). In my opinion, all you need is the base GT R and Distronic Plus, as the car already comes with Mercedes’ Collision Prevention Assist and Attention Assist as standard safety features.
Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter here.