Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster

Roof decapitation breathes new life into hot-rod hero

NATHAN PONCHARD

SPECS

Model Engine Max Power Max Torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Fuel economy Price On sale Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster 3982cc V8 (90°), dohc, 32v, twin-turbo 410kW @ 5750-6750rpm 680Nm @ 1900-5750rpm 7-speed dual-clutch 1660kg 3.7sec (claimed) 11.4L/100km (EU) $339,000 July

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

SUCCESSFULLY ripping the top off an already-cracking sports coupe is something Mercedes- AMG is pretty familiar with.

Remember the gull-winged SLS, the GT’s more expensive but not-as-great predecessor?

Shaving the roof off that bad boy turned an edgy, hairy coupe into a much more polished roadster – one that worked just as well lid up as it did roof down.

Much the same applies here, except that the terrific AMG GT coupe needed very little polishing in its transformation into a roadster body style. Thing is, though, just like the SLS, it’s an arguably better sports car with an electrically folding rag top. You lose none of the GT coupe’s dynamic nous, or any noticeable level of body strength, yet you gain a whole lot more in its ability to connect with nature.

Despite what appearances might suggest, besides the bonnet and doors, every body panel on the 2017 AMG GT roadster is new. From it’s freshly A-shaped ‘Panamericana’ front – much more aggressive than the previous V-shape style, according to chief designer Vitalis Enns – to its composite bootlid (made from a mix of plastic and carbonfibre), the GT roadster is one of those rare beasts that looks just as smokin’ with its roof erected as it does when the sky is flooding in.

41 And it’s refined too. Besides obligatory tyre roar on coarse surfaces, the GT Roadster’s beautifully contructed fabric roof is respectably free of wind noise at freeway speeds, and you can comfortably hold a conversation with the roof down at 130km/h.

But the new GT C variant takes the roadster’s tough exterior style to another level. Its rear guards, borrowed from the raceready GT R, are 57mm wider than the standard GT’s and house a

broader rear track with 20 x 12.0- inch rims (19 x 11.0-inch on the GT). There are also functional airextractor vents on either side of its fat rear bumper, and another horizontal vent below the bootlid.

The main upside to the GT C experience, however, is what lies beneath. It scores the same 9.5:1-compression 4.0-litre twinturbo V8 as the GT R, though software and exhaust changes downgrade its outputs slightly to 410kW and 680Nm (compared to 430kW/700Nm for the R).

No matter. The GT C still has mountains of muscle and vast reserves of exhaust thunder, shifting its 1660kg body (55kg more than the coupe) to 100km/h in just 3.7sec. Ratio changes help too, with different first and seventh gears and a shorter finaldrive ratio, yet she’ll hit 316km/h.

On road, you need to drive the GT and GT C roadsters back-toback to tell the difference in a straight line – the C adding a bassier urgency to its noselifting thrust, thanks to an AMG Performance exhaust (optional on GT) – but there’s a much greater difference in corners.

Where the standard GT will eventually start to understeer in tightening-radius bends, the C’s rear-wheel steer, taken from the GT R, rises to the fore by pivoting its chassis towards the apex and giving it the balance to access its impressive power-down ability.

Plus there’s an electronically controlled locking differential (also shared with the GT R) and superfat 305/30R20 rear Continentals clawing into the tarmac.

Compared to the 375kW GT S Coupe we’re familiar with (now tweaked to 384kW), both the 350kW GT and 410kW GT C roadsters feel dynamically sweeter. A more comfortable ride in the standard car, and agilityenhancing four-wheel steer in the GT C broaden the AMG roadster’s repertoire, giving each version seamlessly creamy, yet highly focused steering response, plus greater all-round polish. And if you feel the GT’s 360mm brakes aren’t big enough, the GT C scores 390mm front disc rotors, with carbon-ceramic items available over and above that.

The genius in the AMG GT Roadster, however, is the expansion of its personality and enhancement of its functionality, without spoiling its beauty. As a $284K GT, AMG’s convertible is a brilliantly effective sports car, at once refined and brutish, with enough style to please 98 percent of those who can afford it.

But the new GT C Roadster takes that to another level. Not only does it amp up the drama, but it carves through corners like no AMG GT before it (besides the R it so closely mirrors). It’s a hot-rod without compromise, and there aren’t many rag tops you can say that about.

GT C’s rear-wheel steer rises to the fore by pivoting it towards the apex

PLUS & MINUS

Base GT can’t match GT C’s turn-in; weirdly small gear shifter Superb styling; excellent ride and refinement; bullish V8; agility

Affalterbach highs

So far in 2017, AMG variants have made up 20 percent of Australia’s Mercedes-Benz model mix – the highest in the world – and that’s without any uplift from impending new models. The 450kW E63 S 4Matic ($239,900) arrives in June, quickly followed by MY17 AMG GT and GT C (coupe and roadster) and the GT R coupe. According to M-B Australia’s PR boss, David McCarthy, the $349,000 GT R flagship already has “a lot of orders [with deposits]”, which means “more than 30 but less than 100”. An ‘entry-level’ 420kW E63 4Matic is also on the way (December) for a saving of $30K.

OR TRY THESE...

Porsche 911 Carrera GTS Cabrio’ $307,890

A more understated alternative to a GT C Roadster, but still a stunning piece of kit packing arguably more dynamic character, just not quite the visual swagger.

BMW M6 convertible $313,300

Lacks the body stiffness of the Porsche and Benz rag-tops, as well as their agility due to considerably more weight. More a GT cruiser with a muted V8 burble.