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Car Review

Mercedes-Benz AMG GT Black Series review

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Published: 04 Oct 2020
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

Previous Black Series cars have been performers. Gregarious, big noise, big-character cars. This is different. It’s more focussed, more track ready. Because that’s what rivals, specifically the GT2 RS, are. It’s hard to escape the impression that Merc has decided to go all in on the Black Series, intent on taking it one step beyond where Porsche has gone. Start to pick it apart – the aero complexity, the cooling, the bespoke componentry, the hidden world beneath the outer intimidation, and it’s clear Merc is out to prove that anything Porsche can do, they can do… more.

None of which is telling you what it’s like to drive but hopefully is giving you some context. Which can be condensed into one takeaway: see that rear wing? It’s not there for show. It’s hard to ignore though – it’s there obstructing your view rearwards and making the GT’s otherwise soft and rounded rear end look anything but.

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Distracting though that panorama is, the view forward is the one you need to concentrate on. Endless bonnet, yanked tight into the belly of the beast, corners thrapping past, kerbs rattling the suspension, punch the power, punch the brakes, attack, attack, attack. It’s all-consuming, the Black Series.

It starts with the engine. It doesn’t throb and burble any more, instead seeming to channel all that energy into forward motion. Still sounds spicy, but the noise is less playful now, harder, more monotone, more race car. And obviously you get pushed along pretty hard. But it doesn’t feel like it, at least on track, because this is a car in harmony with itself. Unlike the (markedly faster and more threatening) McLaren 765LT, the torque is more available here, less spiky in its delivery. AMG claims 590lb ft is available everywhere between 2,000 and 6,000rpm. In practice you need to keep it over 4,000, but from there the acceleration builds beautifully.

But it never overwhelms the chassis. Of course it would if you wound the traction control full off (and you do need to slacken it significantly, as it gets distracted by bumps and surface changes) and buried the throttle in second gear, but the engine is responsive and plenty powerful.

The brakes – no quibbles about stopping power, but a little less travel down the footwell would help confidence, as would some more weight in the steering. Through medium speed turns it’s too light to give you a proper sense of the forces the car is having to cope with. And there are a lot of forces involved here. The Michelin Cup 2 R tyres provide astonishing grip, and above 100mph you can feel the extra air pressure stabilising the car in a straight line and into corners.

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The chassis is set-up towards a little understeer initially, but it’s easily managed and the limits are high. It pays to be patient with the throttle, let the car come further out of the corner so you can get to full throttle sooner, but there’s plenty of information coming back to let you play with the balance mid-corner. Quick changes of direction challenge it more, and if it does let go at the back, it goes quickly. It’s best if you drive it as it wants to be driven – be calm and progressive and reap the benefits. There’s no slack in the system, so inputs are obediently, immediately responded to and that gives you confidence.

Body control is reassuringly solid, and damping of a quality that makes me think it’ll actually be just fine on the road. I did keep thinking the steering was over-assisted and wanting a shorter brake pedal, but fundamentally I was having a ball. There’s something about this Black Series over and above other cars of this type – the GT2 RS, the 765LT – that’s more of an event. It could be something as simple as the fact you sit so far back and view the world through a letterbox slot, but the experience is very motorsport, very GT3. I suspect the 765LT would be faster around most tracks (it’s almost two seconds faster from 0-124mph), although in an unguarded moment one of the test drivers told me the Black Series is only five seconds slower than a GT3 car around the Lausitzring – and from memory I think in a similarly unguarded moment a couple of years ago, I was told the lap time difference between a 789bhp, 800kg of downforce McLaren Senna and a race GT3 at Estoril was about the same, which would make the Black Series even more formidable than I thought.

But that’s all smoke and mirrors, and not really what the Black Series is about. The point is it's race car fast, but you don’t have to be a racer to have a great time in it. It looks crazy, recreates the racing experience better than pretty much anything else out there and flatters the driver.

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