In the glow of five birthday candles, Mercedes has given its snarling AMG GT performance range king a schmick up.
Mercedes-Benz’s bold and bombastic two-door AMG GT super sports car range is now even more tempting after significant updates, the best bits flowing from the recently-launched AMG GT 4-Door Coupé.
All the better to make the hard-to-ignore GT range a tougher rival for the target it was aimed at with its launch in 2014 . . . Porsche’s 911.
Okay, the 911 and the AMG GT are poles apart in their engineering configuration and appearance, but they are chasing the same finicky, well-heeled sporty enthusiast market.
The feisty long-nosed two-door AMG GT models, topped by the GT R variant which forms the basis of Merc’s track weapon in international GT racing, are mechanically unchanged but have been gifted a welter of welcome, driver-friendly accoutrements.
Applying to Coupé and Roadster variants covering the GT S, GT C and GT R models, the improvements inherited from the four-door include fully digital instruments, a new so-called ‘performance’ steering wheel, and AMG’s new-gen infotainment system.
All are aimed at enhancing the intuitive operation of the rambunctious sporty.
That said, the new centre console with AMG Drive Unit controls placed in a vaguely V8 shape (with buttons to select the drive programs and control dynamic functions) may not delight everyone.
The new console does loom large in a tight cockpit space.
The 2020 AMG GT has a digital and customisable 12.3-inch instrument cluster perched in front of the driver, alongside a 10.25-inch media display that includes both Apple and Google smartphone integration.
The interior refurb also includes booting the old rotary input device into retirement. The bigger new Command screen and system is now operated by a single, larger touchpad on the console. It’s auto decluttering.
The Mercedes me Connect system gives the driver control over several key functions and he or she may view relevant vehicle data and service information via an app on a linked smartphone.
The smart AMG steering wheel includes a rotary controller for quick switching between drive modes, plus a second controller allowing the driver to nominate two performance shortcuts that can easily be touched and toggled during spirited driving without old mate being distracted.
Helping prevent bloodying that large and proud nose, a front-mounted camera has been added, while relevant road speed limits are displayed on screen.
Visual changes to the latest GT offerings are subtle but trainspotters will notice redesigned LED headlights, alloy wheels and rear bumper, plus fresh paint colour choices.
Dropped from the range are the old entry-level GT Coupé and GT Roadster, both of which didn’t have the same appeal to Aussie customers as the pricier models.
So the line-up now starts with the 384kW GT S Coupé, and progresses through the 410kW GT C Coupé and Roadster (which have a GT S front end and wider rear end from the GT R with rear wheel steer), to the manic 430kW GT R model (only in fixed roof form) replete with the latest nine-stage traction control et al.
The latest iteration of the much anticipated magnificently wild AMG GT Black Series with links to the GT3 race car has been spied lapping the Nurburgring and is likely to be available in Oz in limited numbers sometime in 2021 — offering north of 500kW.
The driving experience, though, is largely as it was with carryover peak power and torque numbers across the three models, powered by differently tuned turbocharged versions of the 3982cc V8.
Brought into the 2020 range too — oh thank you God (take your pick of any one of those 3200 religious deities identified by serious students of atheism) — is that fabbo, soul-stirring, genital-flicking exhaust sound (a selectable AMG system – you want loud or louder?).
Listen to this for a few stirring moments and it will banish any thoughts that an EV may one day sit sorrowfully in your garage, eating away at your manhood and turning your power bills into mountains.
But we don’t just buy cars for the wilfully, wonderful noises they make. Sports cars in particular must walk the walk.
Push down on the accelerator and any of the new AMG GT models — especially the GT R — turn the scenery into a blur in a matter of seconds.
The easily accessible V8 urge accelerates the super sporty into the future with urgency, taking 3.6 secs to rocket the 1575kg GT R to 100km/h.
Brakes are amazing, as is the power-down grip out of tight corners. Active rear axle steering is there to help get the rig pointed.
Like a machine of this sophistication and price should, the GT happily lumbers through the ‘burbs without jerkiness or clunking from the dual-clutch transaxle.
The ride comfort is often under threat from our mediocre road surfaces. While the steplessly adjustable coil springs (coil-over suspension), AMG ride control and adaptive adjustable damping (selectable in three settings), combine well on a race circuit, there is conflict with our goat tracks.
Tuned for European billiard tables, the big GT R with its firm underpinnings reacts poorly to potholes and sharp ridges. It doesn’t dive and roll, mind. The suspension is way too resolved for that.
Trawling through the drive modes keep you amused until you decide that Comfort keeps the exhaust bark to a sane level while the suspension rides the bumps a bit better.
If your kidneys are holding up and you feel the need for more bonkers settings, there are Sport and Sport+ which deliver more immediate throttle response.
The Race mode is simply too manic for anything but the track.
From memory there were a lot of differences in the power delivery and driveability with earlier versions, and that’s no bad thing.
It has always provided a sufficiency of grunt and excitement.
Still, we have a few niggles with the ride and the steering. At low and cruising speeds the steering is light and inoffensive. But when you want to get serious and challenge the chassis through some twisty stuff, for me there wasn’t quite enough weight to give the right amount of road feel and feedback.
With its look-at-me kerbside presence and topped-up levels of equipment, the Mercedes-AMG GT continues to be a major player in the exclusive world of grand touring.
Maybe it’s just my old bones and skinny arse, but I’d be opting for the GT C Coupé rather than the rawer, more brutal GT R with its spartan race seats.
I wouldn’t mind taking an extra 0.1 secs to reach 100km/h. I’m not in that much of a hurry. And I trouser the $30K difference.