Sure, you probably imagine that driving a snorting beast like the Mercedes-AMG GT coupe around a gnarled German racetrack, and along speed-limitless freeways for a couple of days, is all schnitz and giggles. But the fact is, it can feel traumatic.
The kind of Germans who work at AMG – the mad-haus tuning arm that turns Benzes into bullets – tend to be gung-ho types, and so it was that they threw some jet-lagged journalists onto the famed Hockenheimring F1 circuit in a new variant of the deeply beautiful and utterly bonkers Coupe so extreme that it’s not even coming to Australia.
It’s called the GT R Pro and it features racing harnesses, carbon-fibre everything and a bright knob on the dash that allows you to adjust the traction control from Scary to Certain Death.
My instructor, the famous racing driver Bernd Schneider, leaned into my car and turned all the safety systems off and then gave me the sort of grin you’d expect to find on a serial killer’s face.
“My instructor, the famous racing driver Bernd Schneider, leaned into my car and turned all the safety systems off and then gave me the sort of grin you’d expect to find on a serial killer’s face.”
Obviously, any sensible person would simply sit back and explore the track at their own speed but, sadly, I was born with testicles, which means I’m forced to try and keep up with my colleagues, and crazy Bernd, even if the car I’m driving seems to be made out of equal parts anger and spite.
The Hockenheimring’s most notable feature is the Parabolika, which is a cross between a corner and a very long straight, and allows F1 cars to reach speeds north of 320km/h.
Roadworthy: GT R Pro
My GT R Pro, which is a road car, with number plates, hit 250km/h here. It also put my body through such a sustained period of groaning g-forces in the long, long Parabolika that all of my organs crept into my left armpit.
After four laps, during which I genuinely lost count of how many times the car squirrelled sideways out of corners, I feared that I was experiencing a cardiac episode. And I had to throw my boxer shorts away.
Out on Germany’s glorious public roads things were relatively sedate (if you can call sitting on 220km/h for several minutes at a time on a highway sedate, as you struggle to keep up with all the Porsches) as we cycled through the saner versions of the new GT coupe that we will be getting in Australia later this year.
All GT models will share the same, bi-turbo 4.0-litre V8 engine, but it behaves a little differently in each variant. The GT S is the sensible choice, which seems crazy when you mention that it’s got 384kW and 670Nm, and a top speed of 310km/h.
But it is the tamest version, and seems quite friendly and smooth on the road, at least in Comfort mode. It also feels solid to the point of being heavy in your hands, and a bit like driving a piece of giant teak office furniture.
Just right: GT C
The GT C, or Goldilocks as I call it, is only slightly faster – hitting 100km/h in 3.7 seconds rather than the S version’s 3.8 – despite making a lot more power, at 410kW, but it does feel a lot more alive and instantaneous in the way it reacts to your inputs.
It’s also harder on the road, but not too brutal, and in its sportier modes it is a fun beast to wrestle with. Like all the new versions of AMG’s master-werk, it features a flashy new interior with cleverly colourful LED switches in the centre console, new headlights, and an even better-looking rear end, with quad tailpipes.
Range-topping GT R
The range-topping GT R is for people who care about speed more than comfort and gets a massive rear wing, semi-slick tyres that are borderline dangerous in the rain and outputs of 430kW and 700Nm, plus a top speed of 318km/h. I found it… unnecessary in most ways, but it does make the most fantastically hellacious noises.
To be fair, whichever GT coupe you choose you’re going to really enjoy going deaf every time you go for a drive, because the combination of kettledrum-like cacophonies when you accelerate and crackle-bang pops on the overrun when you get off the throttle is simply stupendous. You can forget hearing the stereo, or your passenger, when you drive one of these things quickly.
Doing so is never less than invigorating because the GTs are long in the nose and overly demanding of their rear tyres. Making them all-wheel drive would probably be sensible, but that’s not what AMG is about. Wild, rear-sliding action, and terrifying track moments, is what AMG buyers seem to cherish.
And Australians buy more AMGs – as a percentage of all Mercs sold here – than anywhere on Earth. We can’t get enough of them, and the GT is the company’s greatest achievement.
Mercedes-Benz Australia says it doesn’t expect prices to move much, if at all, when the newly facelifted versions of the GT coupe arrive, so you can expect to pay just under A$300,000 for the street-friendly S version, around A$335,000 for the slightly more exciting GT C and very close to A$350,000 for the GT R.
And if they offer to throw in a trip to Germany with a racetrack component, get your heart stress-tested first.
Find your dream car at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show.