HELL AWAITS

wheels EXCLUSIVE

WORDS ALEX INWOOD

It’s green! My first glimpse of the fastest and most advanced car ever produced by AMG is stolen through a door, broken briefly ajar as a technician slips inside.

I step right to see more of that brilliant hue, which seems to suck in all of the surrounding light, before a security guard slams the door shut.

“Uh uh uh!” she says sternly. “We wait for the master of ceremonies.”

I feel like arguing, but our MC is not a man you want to upset.

Tobias Moers is late. He’s also the boss of AMG, so we wait.

HEELS has come to Affalterbach at the exclusive invitation of Mercedes-AMG, to see the new GT R. And we’re the first media in the world to do so.

This is the harder, track-focused version of AMG’s flagship GT that’s designed to not only rival Porsche’s mighty GT3 RS but debut a glut of AMG firsts.

Active aero, rear-wheel steering and a big power jump from AMG’s hand-made 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 are all mooted, but until now Moers has been frustratingly tight-lipped. “It will be a big step,” was all he would say at the Geneva motor show three months earlier.

“Let’s just say it will be faster than an SLS Black Series around a racetrack.”

By the time you read this, the GT R will have made its public debut at Goodwood, but as I wait for Moers, that’s still more than three weeks away. No one outside of AMG has seen the production-ready version, let alone received a personal walk-through by the company boss.

“AMG has never done this before,” says AMG’s PR chief as she tucks my mobile phone into a brown paper bag. “You should feel special.”

When he arrives, Moers is straight down to business. The guarded door is cracked, we step inside the cavernous showroom and… there’s no green.

Instead, the GT R is covered in a silky silver cloth. It’s turning slowly on a moving section of the floor, and it’s not alone. Two other cars sit next to it, also draped in silver, turning in synchronised circles. “You can talk about GT R, but when I show you these two, they’ll have to wait,” Moers chuckles.

The first car in line is obviously the GT R (there’s no hiding that long bonnet) and Moers rips the cover off with a flourish. He’s like a proud dad, with a boyish grin spread across his clean-shaven face. “This is it!”

The reveal is so intimate – it’s just Moers, myself and the PR minders in the room – that there’s an awkward moment where I wonder if I should clap. Instead I just stare and drink in the GT R’s green aggressiveness.

It looks angry in the pictures, and has even more presence it has in the metal. It’s instantly more butch than the already angry-looking AMG GT S, with wider and lower bodywork that hides a squarer footprint thanks to wider tracks. Up front there’s Merc’s blingy new ‘Panamericana’ front grille, as seen on AMG’s GT3 racecar and headed for all Benzes, and the detailing is exquisite, especially behind the front wheelarches where a new carbonfibre fin rakes the GT R’s side.

It’s not, it has to be said, what you’d call pretty, but there’s a menacing sense of purpose to the GT R’s hulking stance. It’s a visual feast. And that new bodywork is not just for looks, it’s functional, too.

“There is active aero,” confirms Moers, running a hand under the tweaked front splitter, which is lower and wider. All up the front bodywork is 46mm broader than

GT-more

Even more versions of the AMG GT are coming, Tobias Moers told us. He confirmed that a convertible version and a GT4 racing car will arrive in the coming months.

Also in the pipeline is a Black Series version, meaning the GT R will soon be usurped as the pinnacle of track-honed performance in the range. Moers won’t be drawn on exactly how the Black Series will move the game on from the GT R, but admitted it will have more GT R, but admitted it will have more power – there’s easily another 20kW to 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 – and less weight. be found in the “We have saved some things for the Black Series,” he said with a grin. “It will be something special.”

Inside the AMG lair

Maybe it’s the slightly mad nature of the cars it produces, but I’ve always visualised the AMG factory as something designed by a high-tech Bond villain. Like an Apple store built into the side of a volcano. Or hidden beneath the earth’s crust.

The reality is only slightly less cool.

Nestled in the rolling hills of the German countryside northeast of Stuttgart, it’s a sprawling complex of silver buildings occupied by 1500 employees – double the number that AMG employed just a decade ago.

Despite the growing workforce, the AMG factory never feels rushed. Unlike other plants designed for volume, there’s a sense of craftsmanship and care.

Workers move slowly and methodically, especially in the engine plant, where each unit is hand-built by a single technician.

Each V8 takes 3.5 hours to build, V12s take five.

Not surprisingly it’s the racing engines and Pagani V12s that receive the most attention. Only two mechanics in all of AMG are permitted to work on these engines, each of which take two and a half days to assemble.

Another highlight is the Performance Studio, where AMG customers can spec anything from custom paint jobs to bespoke interiors.

Then there’s HWA, which builds and maintains AMG’s racing cars, past and present. On our visit, the workshop included everything from GT3 racers to a CLK LM that raced at Le Mans in 1998.

on the GT S; the rear even chunkier, measuring 57mm wider – “and there are flaps in the floor that close at speed to improve the aero efficiency”.

These carbonfibre flaps are mounted just ahead of the engine and move 40mm downwards above 80km/h, producing a Venturi effect, sucking the car to the road.

Ground effects isn’t new – it’s been all the rage in F1 for 35 years – but it is effective. Moers says the flaps reduce front-end lift by 40kg at 250km/h.

Other aero advances include front bar vents that open and close to further reduce lift and direct air to radiators. There’s a large double-diffuser at the rear, and that rather subtle carbonfibre rear wing can be adjusted manually. Thanks to the magic of all this adjustable aero, the GT R is both slipperier than the Under the skin, every part of the mechanical package has been honed for sharper performance.

The largely aluminium suspension now combines regular GT and generates 155kg more downforce.

package coil-overs with adjustable spring rates and adaptive dampers to provide what Moers says is “the next level of what we offer in terms of dynamics; it’s much stiffer and [more] aggressive”.

Then there’s four-wheel steering, fitted for the first time on an AMG – and a Mercedes for that matter.

“You can feel it working,” Moers enthuses. “It’s great and provides so much more stability.”

This addition allowed AMG’s engineers to further modify the steering with a faster, more direct variable ratio rack. “We can afford to make [the steering] faster because it’s so stable at high speed.”

The GT R’s new steering set-up will make its way into the rest of the AMG GT family later this year, fixing a weakness in the current range.

The engine is the same basic 4.0-litre V8 as the regular GT, but new turbochargers and more boost push the GT R’s outputs to 430kW and 700Nm – a hike of 55kW/ 50Nm over the GT S.

Noise has always been an AMG strength and there’s more here, thanks to three exhaust pipes. In Comfort and Sport modes only the hexagonal central exhaust is engaged, but dial the onboard electronics to Sport+ or Race and flaps in the system open to activate the wider pipes embedded in the carbonfibre rear diffuser.

The goal is not just increased volume, but a unique audio signature. “Sure, it is louder, but it has its own character,” says Moers.

Like the regular GT, the GT R employs a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission to shuffle its power to the rear axle, but it has different ratios and a shorter finaldrive.

“Everything is different,” says Moers, sweeping his hand through the air. “The ratios, the shift times, we’ve changed it all.”

With track-focused Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber that measures 275/35R19 up front and 325/30R20 at the weakn regula Nois h Sp engag a charac c a drive. ha m

Engine

Dry-sumped 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 now produces 55kW/50Nm more thanks to new turbos and 1.35 bar of boost (up from 1.2 bar).

There’s also revised engine mapping, a retuned combustion process and a lighter flywheel

Brakes

Standard stoppers comprise the same ventilated and perforated discs (390mm front and 360mm rear) as the GT S, though larger optional carbon-ceramics save 17kg

Tyres

GT R’s massive 325/30R20 rear rubber is the same size as fitted to the SLS Black Series.

Race-spec Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres will improve lap times and last up to 50 percent longer during track use

Suspension

AMG’s continuously variable, three-stage adaptive dampers remain, now paired with coil-overs with adjustable spring rates. A thicker but tubular (aluminium) rear anti-roll bar aids dynamics and saves weight

Four-wheel steer

AMG’s first four-wheel-steering system turns the rear wheels in opposition to the fronts below 100km/h for greater agility. Above three figures, the rears move in the same direction up to 1.5 degrees

Aero

GT R is the first AMG to sport active aero, which boosts downforce and improves drag.

Sculpted body also directs more air to the brakes for improved cooling, as well as towards the F1-inspired double-diffuser at the rear

Exhaust

Three-outlet exhaust is louder and meaner, and 6kg lighter courtesy of a titanium silencer and thinner stainless steel. GT R’s 1555kg kerb weight is 15kg lighter than the GT S, distributed 47:53 front to rear

rear, AMG claims a 0-100km/h improvement of two-tenths to 3.6sec. Top speed is 318km/h and, if Moers’ goal is achieved, the GT R should lap the Nurburgring in 7min 20sec.

The famous German track played a key role in developing the GT R, hence the Green Hell Magno paint that pays homage to the iconic 20.8km circuit.

“That time is the aim,” says Moers. “We haven’t achieved it yet, but we will.”

Awkwardly, that will put the GT R in the same league as the Nissan GT-R.

If anyone is qualified to gauge the AMG’s speed potential, though, it’s Moers. He first started at AMG as an engineer on the original C36 in the early 1990s, and continues to be heavily involved in research and development of new models.

Moers drives every model – even at the Nurburgring – and constant demands changes and refinements throughout development. This can make him frustrating to work for. Ask AMG employees what they think of Tobias as a boss and their faces cloud with a mix of trepidation and admiration, but they all agree his process produces better road cars.

I get a taste of this fanatical attention to detail as we slide into the GT R’s cabin. For the most part the interior is the same as a regular GT, aside from some yellow detailing and fixed bucket seats. Then Moers points out a key difference, placed loud and proud in the centre of the dash. “This is a traction control switch,” Moers says proudly, twirling the ominouslooking knob to the right. It clicks loudly.

“But I’m not happy with the dial itself. I’m going to change the dial.”

Nicked from the AMG GT GT3 racing car, the adjustable traction-control system has nine settings (1 being the strictest, 9 the loosest) allowing the driver to choose how much slip they’d like from the rear axle.

“It works, too,” Moers adds. “I tried it at the ’Ring last week.”

One thing that hasn’t changed drastically is the weight. AMG’s new flagship hits the scales at 1555kg, making it just 15kg lighter than the GT S. This isn’t for lack of trying – the GT R boasts carbonfibre front fenders, a carbonfibre torque tube (40 percent lighter than the aluminium one used in the standard GT) and a magnesium front deck – all of which save valuable kilos. Even the GT R’s wheels are hightech.

Moers claims the forged alloys weigh the same as rims made entirely from carbonfibre.

But while weight has been taken out, it has also been put back in. “It weighs about the same as the GT S,” Moers admits. “We’ve added heavy items like the four-wheel-steering system and the active aerodynamics.”

So what about price? It’s too early for an exact number, but Mercedes-Benz Australia says the GT R will land around $350-400K when it arrives in July 2017. That will put it firmly on the shopping list of anyone considering a 911 GT3 RS, yet unlike the Porsche, which is produced in limited numbers and is completely sold out, the GT R shouldn’t suffer from supply issues. AMG will make as many as it can sell.

What isn’t clear from this first static taste is whether the GT R will match the razor-sharp Porsche on track. That assessment will have to wait until we drive it in December.

As Wheels’ exclusive tour winds up, it’s obvious the GT R is more than merely a variant of an existing model. It’s a change in direction.

The days of AMG merely producing powermad cars that turn rear tyres into smoke are gone. Affalterbach’s engineers have entered a new era where advanced technologies are being harnessed to bend the laws of physics.

Dynamics, not power, is the new priority.

It’s a brave new world for AMG, and the GT R is just the first step.

Model Mercedes-AMG GT R Engine 3982cc V8 (90°), dohc, 32v, twin-turbo Max power 430kW @ 6250rpm Max torque 700Nm @ 1900-5500rpm Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch Kerb weight 1555kg 0-100km/h 3.6sec (claimed) Fuel economy 11.4L/100km Price $375,000 (estimated) On sale July 2017