The Rumble in the Hood
For the last seven mornings, the earth tremored at my place, and it had nothing to do with tectonic plates. In fact, the source was easily identified by residents in the area.
While appreciated by some and scorned by others, the Bi-Turbo 4.0L V8 power plant emitting the shock waves was assembled by Norman Sutter in Affalterbach, Germany. That’s where the hand-built engines are manufactured to power Mercedes-AMG products.
With its “one engine – one builder” credo, each unit is signed by the technician assembling the power plant in the antiseptically-scrubbed environment, which resembles a hi-tech lab more than an engine facility.
The resulting “work of performance-art” delivers 550 horsepower and 502 lb-ft of torque to the Roadster’s rear wheels through the management of a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transaxle.
The big numbers combine to produce a very small number.
According to Mercedes literature, the AMG GT C is capable of a 0-100km/h charge in just 3.7 seconds. That’s pretty much super-car territory, and enough to pull flesh from bones.
But an all-out assault on inertia isn’t what’s so enjoyable about the ferocity underfoot. Rather, it’s the low-RPM pull-like-a-freight-train response to shallow pokes into the half-century of torque that pleases so thoroughly.
Daily drives within city boundaries seldom present appropriate opportunities to fully load the throttle of a GT C and run it through to seven grand. That’s why the immensity of torque low in the rev band is so desirable and richly rewarding.
But when the road opens up, hell hath no fury greater than a full-throttle punch into the future delivered by bi-turbo brawn and gear changes measured in the thousandths of a second when Race Mode is active.
Yes, I wrote, “Race Mode.”
Not often you see Race Mode as a selection beyond the more typical Sport and Sport-Plus options for recalibrating engine response and chassis dynamics, not to mention exhaust porting.
In Race Mode, the GT C is wound tighter than a cheap watch. Power delivery is brutal and instant, followed by machine gun crackles when the throttle is lifted that would have cops in South Central L.A. heading for cover.
Fortunately, Comfort Mode presents a more civil side of the GT C in which drive-ability is emphasized, though, the label of “Comfort” is more akin to time in a dental chair than a Barcalounger.
The GT C’s ride quality is on the harsh side; bumps in the road don’t go unnoticed.
Despite thoracic punishment, I was impressed with the rigidity of the GT C’s chassis and the complete absence of shake and shudder when roadway abrasion is encountered. The inherent solidity effectively counters ride discomfort.
While I loved looking out over the GT C’s exceptionally wide hood, fully visible from the driver’s seat, I was troubled by the placement of the side-view mirrors and the visual intrusions they impose when cornering.
Extra care must be taken to ensure that pedestrians in crosswalks aren’t obscured by the mirrors when executing a turn.
When the fabric soft-top is in place, rearward visibility is also compromised.
Apart from concerns related to visibility, the GT C’s cockpit is stunning. Its seats are firm and manage to grip the human form in the equivalent of an automotive bear-hug.
In addition to being heated and cooled, the perches emit heated air from vents built into the seatbacks at neck height. Referred to be Mercedes as “Neck Scarves,” they bathe an occupant in warm air on a chilly day. Need I say more?
The GT C benefits from the inclusion of the latest in-car tech from Mercedes-Benz, which can feel overwhelming initially but makes sense when a little time is taken to understand and adapt.
As expected, fuel-economy is nothing short of dismal. Over my week of seat-time, I never saw anything less than 17.3L/100km – yikes. Still, you get what you pay for in this world, and that includes horsepower.
With the mighty GT C, you also get plenty of attention. The car announces itself audibly before appearing, and when it does, all eyes are at attention.
Young males are attracted to the low-slung roadsters like moths to a light, while older gents are more discreet in their sense of awe.
Interestingly, most people that engaged me in conversation under-estimated the cost of the GT C, feeling that it was more in-line with a Ferrari price tag. Still, with an “as tested” sticker of $187,690.00, it’s almost immaterial.
Returning this week’s tester to Mercedes-Benz was not an emotionally-easy moment. Despite my initial ambivalence toward the GT C, I bonded with it far more than expected.
Like a favourite song that won’t leave your brain, the tremor-inducing rumble in the hood won’t leave mine.
2018 Mercedes-AMG GT C
Price as tested (before taxes): $187,690.00
Configuration: front engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 4.0L bi-turbocharged V8 / 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transaxle
Power/torque: 550 hp / 502 lb-ft
Fuel-economy ratings (L/100km): Best not to know
Warranty (basic): 4 years / 80,000km
Competitors: Audi R8 Spyder, Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible, Ferrari 488 Spider, Lamborghini Huracán Spyder, Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet