The 2018 Mercedes-AMG GT-R is a velvet-wrapped hammer, minus the velvet
You can tell when the Germans want your attention with a car. Instead of the usual silver, black, or gray paint that fogs the roads between the Rhine and Oder rivers, they do something like Crushed Grasshopper Metallic.
Actually, the color is called AMG Green Hell Magno, a tribute to Jackie Stewart’s hardly complimentary nickname for the infamously bloody Nürburgring Nordschleife, where the AMG GT R spent many an hour being honed from a luxury GT into a monstrous track tool. AMG’s record with sportsters bearing six-digit prices is mixed. The somewhat eccentric McLaren-built SLR of 2003–07 gave way to the gullwing-door SLS, another soft and heavy cruiser with a spectacular 6.2-liter V-8 but a hood so long and flat that to drive it felt like steering an aircraft carrier from the fantail. In 2014, AMG produced a sort of second draft on the SLS called simply the AMG GT, a tidier and more handsome package with conventional doors and a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 good for 503 horsepower in the S version.
Alas, in today’s sports car market, the Nürburgring lap time rules all, and the $157,995 AMG GT R took its whack at the Green Hell in December 2016, an arsenal of special stock tech goodies riding along. They include rear-steering, flared carbon-fiber front fenders, larger wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 semi-slicks, a V-8 juiced to 577 horsepower and breathing through a titanium exhaust, and a nine-setting stability-control system operated via a yellow (see what we mean about color?) dash knob.
Although it’s roughly Corvette sized, the GT R seems huge, mainly because the cockpit, with its high windowsills and massive center console, swells around you like some carbon-fiber cake rising in the oven. You forget all that on a track, however, as the V-8 pounds out its bawling soundtrack—who says turbo engines must be quieter?—and the car spears flat through corners with its rear wheels helping turn the beast and its aerodynamic aids squeezing the fat, sticky Michelins into the asphalt. The yellow stability-control knob makes the GT R a good learning tool; you can start at level one or two, where the intervention foolproofs the car against any mistakes, and work your way up the scale as your confidence grows. At the upper levels, the system allows full sideways play but steps in at the right moment to prevent calamity.
And the GT R’s Ring lap time? Seven minutes, 10.9 seconds, good for seventh quickest ever among production cars.