2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R

PHOENIX — There’s much to say when writing about the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R, not the least being that it’s one of the best track cars ever produced, possibly the very best.  Let’s start with the details: 577 horsepower 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8, a cranium-compressing 516 pound-feet of torque, AMG Speedshift  DCT 7-speed transmission, limited slip electronic differential, 16-inch compound carbon-ceramic disc brakes, rear-wheel steering, and extreme-performance sport tires.

Zero to 60 mph time is just over three seconds, and it has a top speed of 198 mph (electronically limited). Base price is $162,900 plus $995 shipping and a $1,000 gas guzzler tax.

Mercedes GT R’s birthplace at the world’s most famous and awe-inspiring Nürburgrin Nordschleife racetrack, a 12.9-mile 73-turn course (40 right and 33 left) that bends, swoops, and turns through the heavily forested Eifel mountains in Nürburg Germany. Because of its dense forest cover, Sir Jackie Stewart nicknamed it “The Green Hell.” Stewart won the 1968 German Grand Prix on the track. The folks at AMG — with their dry sense of humor— call the GT R “the Beast from Green Hell.”

For our weeklong testing, Mercedes delivered a not-so-subtle flat-painted GT R in a color called, what else, Green Hell Mango. It’s the vehicle’s signature color and a $9,900 option. Focused on track performance, in addition to the massive horsepower, it features an adjustable rear wing, lightweight carbon-fiber bodywork including the front splitter, rear diffuser, front fenders, and three underbody braces, and super sticky tires.

During my time with the GT R, I had the opportunity to spend some time at a local private racetrack. The first thing you notice when running hot laps is the vehicle’s incredible agility and stability with thanks to one of its key AMG technologies: rear-wheel steering. This feature gives the GT R an added pointiness and directionality while adding stability to the initial turn-in when approaching the apex. Below 62 mph, the rear wheels turn opposite the fronts, and above that speed, they turn in the same direction.

Slipping behind the wheel, you’ll immediately notice the cabin cockpit is on the tight side. Taller drivers like myself (6’ 6”) will use every seat adjustment down and back to the limit, and will still barely fit. Push the starter button and the 577-horsepower roars to life with a ferocity that’s raw in all the ways you hope it would be and yet sophisticated and refined in all the ways you expect from a Mercedes.

The powertrain response can be altered using any of the five drive mode settings: Individual, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and Race. There are separate buttons for the dampers with two settings, exhaust notes, manual gear-change lockout, and stability co
ntrol. In addition, there’s a nine-position yellow knob located in the center of the dash to manage the traction-control system. We found it wasn’t necessary to utilize during our driving.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun it is to nail the throttle in the Race setting, pointed down the racetrack with a beautiful, hellish, big and bellowing exhaust notes in response to the vehicle’s stupendously quick acceleration. Track curves come quickly and the GT R absolutely loves the foot-wide monster meat Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 325/30 ZR20 tires that never seem to give up grip; they’re about as close to racing rubber as original-equipment tires can be.

With all its power, one might expect the GT R to deliver the sensation of a white-knuckle experience but you would be completely wrong and surprised that it’s actually fairly civil. A lot of technology and advanced engineering has gone into the GT R’s exemplarily performance, making it quite accessible to driving enthusiast consumers and not just trained race car drivers. The cleverly devised suspension, handling, and engineering make the car wonderfully drivable without making it an exhilarating near-death experience. In fact, the experience is so addictive you’ll look for any reason to get behind the wheel.

For all its capabilities on the track, the GT R is actually quite comfortable on the road when selecting the Comfort or Individual settings. To be sure, the ride is firm and it’s still a hardcore sports car, but we still managed to relax with the sounds from the high-end optional Burmester Surround Sound audio system and even had room for two sets of golf cubs beneath the rear hatch.

So now comes the bad news (sort of). Mercedes has announced it is dropping the GT R for the 2021 model year. However, the good news is, it makes room for the record-breaking Black Series that just set a record as the fastest production car at the Nürburgring, unheard of for a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive machine. The new GT Black Series starts at $325,000 – nearly double the MSRP for the GT R, but doesn’t give you double the horsepower. Rather it generates a whopping 730-horsepower with gobs of aero tweaks, upgraded suspension and massive amounts of carbon fiber. It lapped the track in 6 minutes, 43.6 seconds. The Black Series will begin to arrive in U.S. dealerships in early 2021.

By the way, if you’re interested in driving the Nürburgring, its open most weekends and evenings as a public road. For a small fee, you can drive any road-legal vehicle around the racetrack. Mind you, there are rules, so check those out before you get on the track.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $162,900
Price as Tested: $203,520
Engine/Transmission: 4.0-Liter 577-hp twin turbocharged V-8 paired with an AMG SPEEDSHIFT  DCT 7-Speed transmission
Fuel Economy: 15/20/17 MPG City/Highway/Combined
Seats: 2

Where Built: Sindelfingen, Germany

Crash Test Results: The AMG GT R has not been crash tested by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Fab Features:
Massive amounts of track ready high-performance capability
Ceramic composite braking system
Green Hell Mango exterior paint color

— Jim Prueter