The GT banding is misleading. It suggests a floaty ride and a long-legged gait, the sort of lolloping stride that you get in a Bentley or a big Aston Martin. It certainly doesn’t hint at rock-solid body control and darting, snappy agility. But the Mercedes-AMG GT has always felt more like an apex-to-apex sports car than a refined grand tourer, that distinctly athletic character best summed up by the car’s very responsive steering.
Truth to be told, when the AMG GT first appeared, its steering was so responsive that it felt hyperactive. It was light, unnaturally quick and very difficult to read. With that endless bonnet, the GT’s front wheels already felt about half the length of a football pitch away from where you sat, but that flighty steering made the car so difficult to tune into that they might as well have been the whole 100 yards away. The past tense Is important here because the latest AMG GTs steer so much better. They have revised racks with less aggressive ratios, which means their helms are actually intuitive and easy to read, allowing you to place the car exactly where you want it, with good feel.
The AMG GT C Is the fourth variant in the range, slotting in above the second-tier S and just below the hardcore, range-topping R. The coupe version will follow in due course, but Mercedes has chosen to launch the GT C as a Roadster first. Its twin-turbo 4-litre V8 develops 557hp – neatly splitting the 510hp S and 585hp R – with 680Nm of torque from 1900 to 5750rpm.
The GT C is much more than just a bridge between those two models, though. In fact, given that it borrows hardware from the R but not its singularity of purpose, the C could just be the pick of the entire range. The borrowed bits are mostly found at the back end. The rear arches are 57mm wider than a lesser GT’s, which adds visual muscle and accommodates a rear track 44m m wider, while the rear tyres are 10mm wider and wrapped around 20in wheels rather than 19s. There’s also an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, rather than the purely mechanical item found in lower-spec GTs that’s slower to react and less precise in the way it distributes torque.
But the big news is rear-wheel steering. First introduced on the R, in simplified terms the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels when cornering below 100km/h, effectively shortening the car’s wheelbase and making it more agile, while above 100km/h they turn in the same direction as the fronts, making the car more stable. Even though it has a fairly complicated roof mechanism and additional body strengthening, the Roadster’s weight penalty over the Coupe is around 60kg (the total here is 1678kg). The three-layer fabric roof stows or closes in 11 seconds at road speeds of up to 50km/h.
Despite the GT C’s standard-fit AMG Ride Control adaptive dampers, the low-speed ride is tense, although it does improve with speed. Once again, the AMG GT reminds you it’s a sports car, not a GT. With the hood in place, there’s little to tell you it retracts at all and the structure still feels very stiff. The cabin is a real highlight, meanwhile, with a good seating position and a very high standard of fit and finish. The steering is a night-and-day improvement over that of early AMG GTs. This clearly isn’t entirely down to the rear-wheel steering, however, because an entry-level GT we drove during this launch, which wasn’t so equipped, also steered rather brilliantly. Instead, rear-wheel steering helps to make the car feel shorter as you flick it between tight second- and third-gear corners, effectively bringing the front axle closer to where you sit.
With its trans axle layout, which places the twin-clutch gearbox between the rear wheels, the GT C has massive traction, aided by that electronically controlled LSD. Despite the firm ride there’s also good pliancy over bumps, so the body is rarely unsettled. The wider rear track makes the car feel more stable and better supported across the rear end than ever, too, which means you can lean on it even harder. When the back end does break away under power, it does so predictably. With a low centre of gravity and the bulk of the mass within the two axles, the GT C is lithe and agile, slicing through corners like a much lighter car.
The engine is monstrously powerful and very responsive, while the gearbox is quick and smooth. Dropping the hood invites the deep, rumbling exhaust note into the cabin, treating you to one of the most stirring soundtracks of any turbocharged car on sale today. On the downside, the GT C Roadster can begin to get a little wearing on longer journeys with its excessive road noise and unyielding seats. Apart from that, though, it is arguably the best AMG GT yet. Now bring on the lighter, stiffer AMG GT C Coupe!