Mercedes’ first real sportscar was the legendary 300SL Gullwing, launched in 1954 and inspired by competition success at Le Mans and the Carrera Panamericana by the racing coupe of the same name. But the SL quickly evolved into something more mature and comfortable, meaning we had to wait until 2009 and AMG’s Gullwing-referencing SLS before there was a true Mercedes sportscar back in the range.
The SLS was AMG’s first ground-up car (as opposed to a souped-up regular Mercedes) and evolved into the more conventional GT in 2014, the new car based on the same aluminium structure but ditching roof-hinged doors for conventional ones and launching AMG’s all-new twin-turbocharged V8 engine. The range has expanded and been updated, latest versions wearing a grille inspired by that Panamericana-winning 300SL of 1952.
All GT’s share the same basic front/mid-engine, dual-clutch transmission and rear-wheel drive layout in the classic transaxle configuration for perfect weight distribution. There are coupe and roadster variants and four states of tune to choose from. While it may seemingly overlap with the SL range in many respects the GT is a very, very different car that wears its sporting breeding on its sleeve.
The range progresses from GT to GT S and then GT C, with the track focused GT R at the top of the pile. With its more rounded character but some of the extra performance, attitude and technical features of the GT R, the GT C is arguably the pick of the range, the widebody shape giving it a more muscular stance while rear-wheel steering brings a new level of agility.
Standard features include the Premium Equipment Line (optional on lesser models and comprising Keyless-Go, Burmester surround sound, Parking Assist Parktronic with reversing camera and power mirrors), Comand infotainment with navigation, Adaptive Brake Assist, automated LED headlights and a switchable Performance Exhaust. An optional Driving Assistance package costing £1,695 adds Blind Spot Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Distronic radar cruise control and the Pre-Safe system, items you’d reasonably argue should really be standard at this level.
In the GT C the trademark 4.0-litre V8 – shared in basic form with a multitude of AMG models – has a thumping 557PS (549bhp) and 679Nm (501lb ft) of torque, enough to blitz 0-62mph in just 3.7 seconds and top out at 197mph. Make no mistake, this is a very, very fast car indeed and the muscular power delivery – and sound – are key character traits AMG wants every GT customer to enjoy to the full.
Rear-wheel steering can meanwhile tune the chassis for faster response in the corners but increased stability at high speeds, this best of both worlds ability intended to make the GT C perform as well on back roads as it does on long-distance blasts. The rear-set driving position takes some getting used to, especially with the noticeable rear-axle steering effect, and it’s stiff and noisy for a GT. But it feels properly exotic and its rarity adds a sense of exclusivity not found in rivals.
The GT C might distil AMG’s macho character into one hard-hitting package but its real job is to offer an alternative to the all-conquering Porsche 911 Turbo. And while they may be chalk and cheese when it comes to looks, mechanical layout and character Mercedes has come closer than most to challenging the 911’s dominance. It also offers an interesting comparison with the new Aston Martin Vantage, with which it shares its engine, fundamental mechanical layout and price point.
The GT C is defiantly old-school in looks, sound and driving character but it’s also luxuriously appointed and, brittle ride aside, comes close to challenging Porsche’s mastery of supercar performance in a package you can enjoy every day. And the GT C is, as promised, the pick of the bunch with a well-honed combination of attitude, blistering performance and charisma.
Cost of our car: £129,260 (£141,945 with options).