AN iron fist in a velvet glove. A boxer in a tuxedo. Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde.
All the above would be perfect to describe Mercedes-AMG’s GT “family of cars”.
It wasn’t I who coined the underwhelming phrase “family of cars” by the way.
“GT Family of cars” is what was printed on the media tags that were handed out to us when we arrived at the airport.
But there was nothing familial about the monstrosities that were parked outside.
The cars that stood in the autumn afternoon outside Paderborn airport looked menacing.
“A pack of GTs”, “gang of GTs”, “murder of” and “mob of” would be more appropriate collective nouns to describe them.
Certainly not “family of cars”. This is simply misleading. It was as if we were going to test a batch of B-classes.
The lowest GT in the totem pole in the parking lot, appropriately named just “GT”, made 476 horsepower (hp). The GT-S and GT-C make 522 and 557hp, respectively. Lurking at the Bilster Berg track a few kilometres from the airport was a congregation of GTRs with 585hp under each of their seductively sculpted hoods.
In looks, the GTs are beautiful, in either coupe or roadster form. The Panamericana grille is the centrepiece of the car, giving it the unmistakable three-pointed star identity. The long bonnet and small glasshouse perched towards the rear hearkens back to the golden era of W198 300SLs from the 1950s.
The classical, beautiful proportions, though, hide a great deal of intense and modern engineering.
Each aluminium spaceframe weighs just 231kg. Despite its feather weight, it boasts extreme rigidity, says Mercedes. In the development of the chassis, the carmaker says the aim was to achieve optimum lateral and longitudinal dynamics as well as steering precision through a light but rigid chassis. The aluminium body, with carbon-fibre and composite components, helps further reduce weight.
Under the long hood resides the 4.0-litre biturbo V8 which is assembled and installed in the hand-finishing section in Affalterbach under the “One Man - One Engine” principle.
The compact engine with a “hot inside V” layout (with the turbochargers mounted in between the blocks) has no lag and delivers explosive power from low in the rev range. Equipped with dry sump lubrication, it is positioned low in the chassis.
Combined with the AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 7-speed transmission which sends drive to the rear axle, the drivetrain catapults the GT from a standstill to the century mark between 3.6 and 4.0 seconds, depending on model variant.
The GT cars have a top speed of between 302 and 318 kph.
With such heady speeds, Mercedes has equipped the various GT variants with aerodynamic tools to improve its performance.
The AIRPANEL active air-management system, which consists of vertical louvres positioned behind the front apron, can open and close in a minute. Extendable rear aerofoils also aid with aerodynamics. On the AMG GT-R there is an active aerodynamics profile in the underfloor while a fixed rear aerofoil with manually adjustable blade keeps the rear stabilised.
Nowhere is the performance of these aerodynamics more evident than when you unleash the full fury of the V8 on an unrestricted section of the German Autobahn.
We started off with the more highly-tuned GT-C before proceeding to a GT-S. The first car we drove, finished in Magnetite Black Metallic, looked positively menacing even while standing still in the parking lot at the Bilster Berg racing circuit in Bad Driburg.
The first thing that you realise when you get behind the wheel and start to move is how wide the car is.
At 1,939mm, the GT-C is wider than an S-class, leaving not much space on the narrow German country roads.
If you’ve driven any recent Mercedes-Benz, you would recognise many of the commonalities shared across the manufacturer’s range of cars.
Inside, the GT-C felt vaguely familiar in terms of feel and materials, but the seating was pure sports car, sitting low and towards the rear of the car.
Because of the width, the passenger too is located quite far from the driver.
The three pre-set drive programmes “C”, “S”, “S+”, and the individual driving programme “I” are present. The settings influence factors such as throttle response, shifting and suspension. The GT cars though, have an additional “RACE” setting to unleash their racetrack performance.
Press the ignition button and the car roars to life with the unmistakable gruffness of a V-8. Push down the accelerator and it burbles and pops with and auditory .
Once on the move, the car is not difficult to handle and rather civil, considering its pedigree.
Steering is aided with four-wheel steering. Below 100kph, the rear wheels twist to aid steering, effectively making the long wheelbased GT-C turn faster than would otherwise be possible.
Above 100kph, only the front wheels steer. With its long wheelbase, the car has remarkable straight line stability. The same attribute also reduces wheel load transfer when accelerating and decelerating, giving the car less tendency to pitch, which is a good thing because of the combination of immense power and powerful AMG brakes .
The GT family of cars are no doubt halo cars, never destined to sell in volume numbers on Malaysian soil.
Despite this, it is remarkable how civil the cars are despite their immense power outputs. It would not be a stretch to even say that they could be driven daily on Malaysian roads , if you could afford it.
After all, despite its sportiness, the car still bears a three-pointed star on the front grille.
Driving the Beast of the Green Hell
If the GT-S and GT-C with their manic performance are not impressive enough for you, there is always the GT-R - a totally bonkers abomination of green fury.
Painted in AMG Green Hell Magno to illustrate its association with Nurburgring, where most of its development occurred, the hear t of the beast pumps out 585hp. Good enough to lap Nurburgring in seven minutes and 10.9 seconds in the right hands.
On the Bilster Berg track with its blind corners, climbs, tight corners and yours truly at the wheel, we moved at a significantly slower pace.
It started drizzling towards the end of the first lap, and with slicks on four corners, the GT-R revealed its tail happy nature.
But despite the unfamiliarity of the track and the rain, it was evident how potent the beast was.
There is a very long list of upgrades that differentiate the GT-R from the humbler GTs in the range.
For starters, it is even wider and has increased boost pressure and Nanoslide coating on the cylinder liners - just like in an F1 engine. But the list doesn’t end there, nor would it fit in the remainder of this column.
Mercedes says there was extensive transfer of motorsport technologies to series production in the GTR and calls it a racing car approved for use on public roads. We have to agree.