BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! Good lord, does the AMG GT S have a potent set of lungs. Its brutally loud exhaust system has the usual assortment of artificially-induced pops and crackles, and probably the fiercest of any car I’ve ever driven. And yes, that includes the AMG GT C and GT R, which I was fortunate enough to drive on the same day along with the S. I guess those two are just a little serious for such shenanigans.
The S may not be the entry point of the range, but it may as well be: the cost difference between this and the standard GT (the only derivative we didn’t try) isn’t huge, yet the S has more power, standard-fit adaptive dampers and a fancy electronically-controlled differential. So it’s the logical starting point for our AMG GT journey, and a compelling opening salvo.
I’m still not keen on the noise made by AMG’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 - it may sound like a demon gargling mouthwash from idle up to about 2000rpm or so, but the more you rev it, the more weirdly synthetic it sounds. A bit like what an old Gran Turismo game tells you a V8 should sound like. But there’s no arguing with what it can do: so long as the throttle’s being applied with the engine speed above 2500rpm, you’re presented with a thick wall of power and torque, plus some surprisingly good throttle response.
It feels very, very quick, this car, and of course, as soon as you back off, it appears as though a war zone is in full swing just behind the rear bumper. Call me childish, but I think it’s brilliant.
Body roll is barely existent, grip and traction in the dry is impressive, but there’s one thing sullying the driving experience: the steering. It seems to have moved on since the ultra-light, slightly nervous feeling setup on the pre-facelift car, but there’s a weird sloppy section around the centre point that’s off-putting when you’re driving hard.
Is it a proper sports car? I’d cautiously say yes, but there is a rationale for calling this a sporting GT given its size and weight. Compared to something like a Porsche 911, it’s a bit of a blunt instrument.
Not so the GT R. We were sent round the terrifying Bilster Berg driving resort track (we’ll bring you the full story on its lack of run-off, bonkers gradient changes and sphincter-tightening blind crests another time) to get a handle on the most extreme AMG GT. Jumping from one to the other, the driving experience is barely recognisable.
This most definitely is a sports car. Or a supercar, when you consider just how fast it is and what it can do. There’s none of that vagueness around the centre point of the steering experienced in the S: the setup here is fast, accurate, predictable and laden with glorious feedback. On track, the R is Porsche 911 GT3 good. It’s spectacular.
Remember what I said about roll being ‘almost’ non-existent in the S? They seem to have completely eradicated it in the R - few cars corner this flat. And few cars corner with such confidence - in the higher speed stuff, the chassis inspires far more confidence than a 577bhp, rear-wheel drive car with massive turbochargers ought to.
It’s partly down to the rear-wheel steering system. It’s not something you really feel working, but you do notice the effects of it, which is bemusing mid-corner stability, brought on by the rear wheels turning in tandem with the fronts. At lower speeds meanwhile, the rears turn the opposite direction, allowing for greater agility.
The other big factor is the electronic driver aids. I know the three final words are likely to make you want to close your laptop/hurl your phone across the room in disgust, but stick with me here. What’s awesome about the massively complex range of driver assists in the GT R is - like the rear-wheel steer - you don’t really notice them working. You’re just able to take liberties with the throttle pedal without being rewarded by masses of tyre smoke and much bent aluminium and carbonfibre - it’s very good at metering out the power, and you never get the sense that it’s joylessly pulling the V8’s anger back.
We did our entire run in Sport Plus, with the hope of doing the next one in Race Mode, which allows for far more slip at the rear axle. The only trouble was we had to ditch that last run, if we wanted a road drive in the GT C. Which we rather did. Race Mode will have to wait for another time, and probably a track with more run-off.
In an ideal world we’d have tried all three cars on both road and track, but the day’s setup involved just the GT R on the circuit, with the GT S and GT C on the surrounding roads. Even with that slight spanner in the works though, it’s clear from the way it drives that the GT C is closer to the R than the S.
Looking at the spec, that shouldn’t be a surprise. It has the 57mm widened rear axle shared with the GT R (complete with rear-axle steer), along with the track-focused GT’s more potent turbochargers, although the V8 has been turned down slightly to 549bhp. The main bits you’re missing are the R’s super sticky, slightly wider Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres (the C runs Pilot Super Sports), and a lot of the passive aero.
But who cares about the last point: without a rear wing, especially in the matte black finish of the Edition 50 test cars we sampled, it looks stupidly mean. Particularly from the back; it’s wide, squat and purposeful. This is not a car you want to mess with.
Like the R, its steering feels streets ahead of the disappointing setup in the S. In the dry, the rear-end clings on stubbornly (while in the wet it breaks fairly easily, but not violently), and the front-end is fabulously sharp.
In terms of straight-line performance, there’s precious little in it between the C and the R: it’s viciously fast, and has the same surprisingly sharp throttle response. A turbocharged engine should be compromised in some way, but it’s stupidly hard to find a chink in that 4.0-litre lump’s armour - apart from maybe the noise, which is mitigated by the delightfully daft exhaust crackles.
The seven-speed dual clutch gearbox is brutally fast meanwhile (as it is in all GTs), and properly smacks the next ratio in if you switch to manual mode and leave the shifts to the very last moment before hitting the rev limiter. It’s addictive.
Want some figures? You’re looking at 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds, just a tenth slower than the R, and a tenth up on the S. At the top end, it’s able to tickle the 200mph barrier, topping out at 196mph.
"Every AMG GT is likeable in its own way, but there's one that shines brighter than the rest: the C"
So far, so sickeningly gushing, but there are some annoying aspects of the C and the GT range as a whole. Concerning the C, it’s incredibly stiff. That’d be fine on the track, but even on the smooth-ish roads around Bilster Berg you get the sense that as soon as some road imperfections and speed bumps are brought into the equation, your mood would sour pretty damn quickly.
Then there’s the sheer size of all the GTs. It’s bigger than the Porsche 911 - itself a sizeable chunk of sports car these days - although not quite as much as you’d think. The problem is the way the bonnet stretches out to the horizon - it gives the sense that the car is even larger than it actually is, to the point where the GT feels cumbersome on tighter roads. That long snout isn’t the easiest thing to place during spirited driving, either.
Do I care about any of these things? Not really, no. Every AMG GT is likeable and incredibly competent in its own way, and there’s one that shines brighter than the rest: the C.
You get the best of the R in a lightly toned down package you’d be happy using both on the track and off it, and as we know, bonkers fast cars without fixed wings are cooler. They just are.
It’s currently only available in limited-run, Edition 50 trim for £139,855 (only slightly cheaper than the R), but when the regular version is here, that entry price will drop by around £12,000. For what you’re getting, that’s a bargain - it’s not often sophistication is blended with silliness quite so magnificently.