World exclusive: TG rides shotgun in the 577bhp Merc-AMG GT R | Top Gear
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Goodwood FoS 2016

World exclusive: TG rides shotgun in the 577bhp Merc-AMG GT R

AMG's loopy new GT R goes for a FoS hill run. We tag along for the ride

  • On Friday, Lewis Hamilton pulled the wraps off this car. On Saturday morning, I rode up the Goodwood hill in it. It's the very green Mercedes-AMG GT R of course, and if you want to know all the information about it, click here for Stephen Dobie's report

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  • This is about giving you a hint of what it feels like to be in Merc's 577bhp Porsche GT3 chaser. Now, this is by no means definitive - I'm in the passenger seat, this is an early development prototype and in total with trundling out of paddocks, bombing up the hill and rolling back down again, I reckon I did no more than five miles.

  • My chauffeur for this exercise is AMG's boss, Tobias Moers. This is good, not just because I can ask him questions, but because he is a super-handy driver and wants to show off his new car. Likes a skid, does Tobias. Ever wondered why AMGs behave as they do? You won't after you've met Tobias – from the A45 to the S63, they seem to channel his personality.

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  • The first thing that strikes you about the GT R is how much like the GT3 racer it looks. Now this is mostly due to the vertically slatted grille, but aft of that the swollen bodywork looks noticeably more pumped than the standard GT/GT S. More aligned with the racing car, which presumably means the aero (as Stephen talks about here) is highly effective.

  • It has 577bhp powering 1630kg, yielding a power to weight ratio of 354bhp per tonne (a 493bhp, 1420kg GT3 RS has 347bhp per tonne), and yes, I know the Porsche accelerates faster (3.3sec to 62mph plays 3.6), but that's purely down to its superior traction. Take it from me, once up and running, the GT R does not feel slow. In fact it roars through its shortened gear ratios.

  • What I hadn’t expected was what seems to be a big sweet spot in the chassis. I had hoped, but I hadn’t expected. The reason I hoped is that there was a huge gulf in driveability, balance and composure between the old SLS and the SLS Black. The SLS was a bit of a handful, messy at the limit, while the Black was a mega piece of kit. The current GT S? I’m not a fan – it’s too snatchy, doesn’t have the compliance it needs on a bumpy road and on track it’s either understeering or – more commonly – snapping into alarming oversteer. See where I’m going with this?

  • From what I can tell, certainly from the confidence Tobias has in it, the GT R is a much friendlier, more capable machine. I know that sounds weird since this is the hardcore version, but you don’t really want a hardcore car that bites. You want it to be accurate and agile and obedient and communicative. This slings itself into oversteer happily and controllably. It breaks away more smoothly and appears to ride well, too. It doesn’t feel as locked to the road as the GT3 RS, but then this is front mid-engined machine and I think AMG’s take on a track car will be more exuberant than Porsche’s. Less focused on outright lap times, more focused on having a good time. But not in the same way as the 911R, if that makes sense. I drove that up the hill on Friday. That’s a gearchange worth bothering with.

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  • Anyway, as I said at the beginning, this is an early development prototype – the components are correct, but the fettling has a long way to go yet – deliveries don’t start until early next year after all. But the damping feels supple. I can’t tell you much about this new nine-position traction control as Tobias had it turned all the way off, but I do think it’s interesting that this seems to be the next motorsport technology to be carried into road cars. In recent months I’ve driven two other cars with multistage traction – the Lotus 3-Eleven and Aston Martin Vulcan.

  • We’ll have to see where Merc take the development of the GT R, but at the moment it feels surprisingly usable. But then this is early days, the real work starts after the car leaves Goodwood.

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