Glen Waddington pits a 549bhp soft-top against April’s undecided UK weather
It’s all too easy with a car like this to spend a day with it, turn dampers and throttle map up to 11, declare your love for it (somewhat breathlessly), then (somewhat thankfully) hand the keys back while you’re still in one piece. You can learn a lot more in a week.
And the GT C Roadster arrived at the end of a particularly gruelling week: Octane was on press and I was feeling distinctly under-par. So I bimbled home in Comfort mode, transmission selector in D, roof up, heated seats on. And a very cosy and comfortable GT it turned out to be, with a surprisingly supple ride, well-sealed from the elements, and even reasonably quiet (so long as the exhaust wasn’t in Sport+ mode).
Over the weekend I drove it a little harder, roof-down, savouring the crackle of the exhaust (now in Sport+ mode) and the burble of the V8, flicking out of D and onto the paddles (you get eight ratios to play with). Still in Comfort mode for the suspension, mind, and thankful that the cockpit keeps the breeze out very effectively indeed.
But you don’t want to read about how refined this car is. And thankfully, by Monday, the lurgy had retreated and I fiddled a bit more with a few of those settings. Though I meant what I said about spending just one day with a hyper-sports car. It can be pretty wearing. Only this one, it turns out, isn’t.
With the Drive mode set to Sport, the dampers firm-up and the whole shebang feels a bit keener; even more so in Sport+. You can play with an Individual setting, so dampers, engine/transmission, traction control and exhaust note can be tailored to your desires, and you can blend them according to mood and conditions. Importantly, there’s a bunch of switches around the centre console that allows you to make further, simple adjustments while you’re on the move. In the end, my favourite setting turned out to be Race, with the damping knocked back a notch: full-force in that case is best left to a smooth track, not a British B-road. And boy does that V8 crackle, exactly the kind of accompaniment to gurd you on with a throttle response so sharp you could slice marble with it.
The GT C’s forceful acceleration is of the order that seems to warp time and distance: it’s properly blistering, as you might expect thanks to 549bhp and 502lb ft from its 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 (the latter at only 1900rpm), which make for 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds and potentially 196mph flat-out. But as impressive as the bald figures is the feeling that you could so easily achieve them. That innate suppleness must have much to do with it. Sure, you’ll get a little bit rattled over sharp corrugations, but even over British-style broken tarmac, the AMG always stays in contact with the road surface. This car gets its power down brilliantly, and shifts ratio quickly, without drama, seeming always to be in the right gear when left to its own devices or obeying your paddle commands instantaneously.
It also has four-wheel steering. While manoeuvring, the helm seems surprisingly low-geared: you have to turn the rim more than you might expect. At speed, the reverse is true. It’s incredibly responsive, and you soon get into a rhythm of minimal inputs in return for rapid changes in direction. And while you always feel connected to the road surface, you rarely feel bruised by it. You simply skim along.
The GT C sits fractionally below the full-fat, semi-race-spec GT R in the range, but up from the 515bhp S and the standard car’s 469bhp. You’ll pay around £140,000 for the privilege of ownership, so it’s an expensive proposition by comparison with, say, Jaguar’s F-Type SVR, though it’s a fair few grand cheaper than Porsche’s 911 Turbo S Cabriolet.
Lopping the roof off doesn’t feel as though it’s caused much damage. This thing feels absolutely solid for the most part, with only a hint of steering column shake over rough surfaces to betray any loss of torsional stiffness. And, really, you’d have to be an overt purist to claim that would put you off it.
The looks, I have to say, are a bit of a grower. I thought it was too flash at first, but after a few days I caught myself looking back at it (it’s especially comely from the rear), and noticing how it garnered admiration rather than envy from other drivers. In that respect it’s more like an Aston than a Porsche. Interior styling goes with the V8 soundtrack: I initially had it down as a well-made Corvette, but while I’m still not a fan of the trad curves in the dashtop or the overblown centre console, it actually works really well, in terms of switchgear being well-placed, heating and air-con that work just so, finding an effective driving position, and feeling comfortable while you’re going about your business – be that bimbling while bilious, or generating a mile-wide grin on your favourite road.
Whatever the weather, and whatever your mood, the Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster makes for a fabulous way of enjoying every minute of every drive.