Johannesburg - The Mercedes-AMG GT R is the type of car we used to draw when we were at school. Those flamboyant lines look like the work of a starry-eyed teenager doodling exotic sportscars in a notebook at the back of the classroom.
The long bonnet, the wide and hunkered-down stance, and its general “do you know who I am” bearing makes for a look that doesn’t take prisoners. In this R version, that styling is further amped up by black wheels, pumped out front and rear fenders, a fixed rear spoiler, and a special ‘Panamericana’ grille with 15 chrome-plated bars as used in Mercedes-AMG racing cars.
The R, just as a reminder, is the full-fanged version of Merc’s line up of two-seater grand tourers. Like the rest of the GT range it gets a turbocharged 4-litre V8 under that long snout, but in this case fettled to produce 430kW of power and 700Nm of torque – making it the most muscular GT you can buy. And the most expensive, at R2.8-million.
Merc has nicknamed the GT R the ‘Beast of the Green Hell’ after the legendary northern loop of the Nurburgring where it spent much of its development time, and it’s available in an appropriate ‘AMG green hell mango’ colour exclusive to this derivative. It’s available in red too, if that’s more your speed.
Courtesy of some added turbo boost pressure, the hiked power output is claimed to slingshot this Benz to a top speed of 318km/h and 0-100km/h in 3.6 seconds.
We took the car to the Gerotek test centre in Gauteng and achieved 0-100 in four seconds dead, along with a speedy quarter-mile of 11.8 seconds. Not quite as quick as claimed, but pretty impressive for a rear-wheel drive car where, when using launch control, even the extra-wide 325mm Michelin Pilots struggle for traction as 430 angry kiloWatts explode into life.
Unlike all-wheel drive sports cars that just grip and go in an almost sanitised show of accelerative efficiency, this Benz executes some wheel chirp and a tail wiggle before the tyres grip properly and launch the car toward the horizon. It’s all part of the drama that makes the GT R ooze charisma, and that charm offensive is raised by one of the most sonorous V8 war cries we’ve yet heard, along with loud exhaust pops when you lift your foot off the throttle. There’s a button that opens the exhaust flaps and liberates even more aural pandemonium, if you want the front-row-at-the-Metallica-concert experience.
There are several drive programmes (Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and Race) which adjust the throttle, gearshift, stability control intervention, and suspension firmess - but even in the mildest of those modes this an uncompromising beast of a sports car made to feel at home on a race track, and little else.
There’s a roll cage behind the seats, and driver and passenger sit in one-piece racing bucket seats that have forward and backward adjustment only.
In normal driving this Merc feels like an angry pit bull straining at the leash. The throttle, even in Comfort mode, is hyper sensitive and the suspension is unyielding. It’s a super-firm ride that exaggerates every little bump and cat eye, jarring your body enough to make you wince.
But show this GT R a smooth and twisty stretch of tar and it’s all focused intent. For a car with such a long nose it turns in with impressive sharpness. There’s no front-end heaviness or understeer, and the steering’s crisp and direct, allowing you to accurately stick those apex clipping-points.
It’s a tail-happy beast that requires progressive power inputs; stabbing at that throttle will just get the rear end dancing – unless that’s your intention and you have a lot of runoff area to play with.
In full party mode (aka Race), it’s a decidedly twitchy car that requires big skill and even bigger cojones to drive fast.
Merc’s nickname for the car is well chosen because this is truly a beast: a vicious, primal thing with the attitude of a hissing cobra, and requiring similarly specialised skill to handle.
One could criticise this Benz for being so compromised in day-to-day driving, but then again it’s a pleasure to encounter a machine that’s so unapologetically single-minded in its intent.