The Mercedes-AMG GT S can hold its own on a track, something we found out firsthand during our 2016 Car Awards testing. But now Mercedes has a new version that isn’t just comfortable with track driving — it’s built for it.
The shade of green worn by the 2018 Mercedes-AMG GT R at its launch this week wasn’t chosen just to get attention. It’s called “AMG Green Hell Mango,” a reference to the Nüburgring. The German racetrack known as the “Green Hell” is where Mercedes (and every other carmaker, it seems) perfects the handling of new models. Naming a paint color after the ‘Ring could be seen as a boast, but Mercedes and in-house tuner AMG intend to back it up.
While the name may lead to confusion with a certain Nissan, there’s no mistaking the AMG GT R for anything. The “Panamericana” grille first seen on the AMG GT3 race car gives it a look that’s both more distinctive and aggressive. The front fenders are made from carbon fiber, and are 1.8 inches wider than on the AMG GT S, while the rear fenders have aluminum extensions that widen them by 2.2 inches. That allowed AMG to widen the track and fit larger, 20-inch wheels. The rear end is decorated by a large rear spoiler and central exhaust outlet.
Beneath all of the flashy bodywork, AMG employed some aerodynamic trickery. On the underbody, in front of the engine, is a carbon-fiber flap that moves downward when the car reaches 50 mph in Race mode. This changes airflow and helps suck the car down onto the road. There are also active grille shutters that close to reduce drag, and open when extra airflow is needed to cool the engine. At the back, AMG added a double diffuser, and cut a hole between the taillights to vent heat from the exhaust.
Power comes from the same 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 used in other AMG GT variants. In the GT R, it produces 577 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, up from 503 hp and 479 lb-ft in the GT S, and 456 hp and 443 lb-ft in the new-for-2017 base model. That power is sent to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic transaxle. Mercedes says the GT R will do 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, and reach a top speed of 198 mph.
The chassis gets some upgrades as well, including a rear-wheel steering system. Below 62 mph, it turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction of the fronts to increase agility, and in the same direction as the front wheels at higher speeds for stability. An adaptive suspension system is also on the menu, and traction control with nine programmable levels.
The 2018 Mercedes-AMG GT R will go on sale in the U.S. sometime in mid 2017. Pricing will be announced closer to that time, but expect the GT R to cost significantly more than the $132,125 (including destination) base price of a 2017 GT S. Expect to spend a lot more on tires too.