2018 Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster First Drive

Mercedes-AMG's 2018 GT C Roadster is an open-air rocket on wheels

If the GT C Roadster is the “lifestyle” version of AMG’s sports car, that lifestyle better include a speeding ticket budget.

First introduced in the fall of 2014 as the successor to the somewhat polarizing SLS, Mercedes-AMG made it clear from the outset that the GT was designed to go toe to toe with the Porsche 911 in terms of performance, accessibility, refinement, and available variations on the sports car theme. To satisfy the latter, Affalterbach has been busy fleshing out the GT lineup for the past few years, and the latest result of that effort comes in the form of the GT C Roadster.

Vehicle Introduction & Overview

Though drop-tops are typically considered “lifestyle” models by automakers in the sense that they’re inherently less performance-oriented than their coupe variants, the GT Roadster is a legitimately potent sports car nonetheless. The “C” variant serves as the most high-performance iteration of the GT drop-top, in turn making it the most capable roadster currently available in the Mercedes portfolio.

“The GT Roadster combines maximum driving pleasure with another positive trait: Great variety,” explained Axel Wollesen, Mercedes-AMG’s head of overall vehicle development. “And when we talk about the unique AMG driving experience, it’s not just about pure technology – we are also concerned with the emotional component.”

Trim Levels & Features

The GT C Roadster certainly looks the part, sporting the same aggressive stance, Panamericana grille, and wide fenders of the range-topping GT R coupe. “We as designers had a clear mission for styling our AMG GT Roadster – the open-top version should be instantly recognizable as a member of the AMG GT family,” added Vitalis Enns, head of design of Mercedes-AMG. “And each design element has a function.”

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Bradley Iger/Digital Trends
Bradley Iger/Digital Trends

With its three-layer fabric soft top up, the GT C Roadster offers a shape that’s nearly identical to that of its coupe sibling, but 11 seconds is all it takes to transform the GT C Roadster into a seriously quick open-air driving experience, one which will rocket from 0 to 62 mph in a mere 3.7 seconds on its way to a top speed of nearly 200 miles per hour.

Technology Overview

Also available as a coupe, the GT C slots between the GT S and GT R in terms of performance prowess and borrows a number of components from the GT R’s track-tuned parts bin. Output from the bi-turbocharged, 4.0-liter V8 stands at 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque in GT C configuration, putting it just 27 hp and 14 lb-ft below that of the R.

The roadster remains a more than capable tool for the business of carving through twisty mountain roads at extra-legal speeds.

The GT C also scores the R model’s trick electronically controlled limited slip differential as well as its active rear-axle steering. The latter turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction of the fronts at speeds up to 62 mph, which essentially shortens the car’s wheelbase to improve cornering. Above 62 mph the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the front wheels to improve high-speed stability.

The AMG Ride Control adaptive suspension system is standard on the GT C, as is an active exhaust system that can alter the volume of the V8’s song based on driving mode, throttle position and other real-time factors.

In terms of infotainment, like the rest of the GT lineup the GT C Roadster utilizes a touchpad and rotary knob interface setup rather than a touchscreen for inputs. While reasonably responsive, the system itself does lag behind the strongest offerings in the Mercedes lineup in terms of both features and presentation when compared to, say, the dual 12.3-inch screen setup found in the latest E-Class.

Interior Fit & Finish

Inside, would-be GT C pilots are optionally stationed in low, aggressively bolstered AMG performance seats, with the company’s air-scarf neck-level heating system also available on the option sheet for folks who want to a top-down sports car experience even when the outside temperature is less than ideal.

Like other models in the GT lineup, the interior of the GT C Roadster is segmented in the middle by a larger center console running from the instrument panel to the rear of the cabin which houses a collection of hard button toggles for performance features as well as the infotainment controls. A flat-bottomed steering wheel wrapped in nappa leather continues the sporty theme inside, and large gauges for the speedometer and tach keep information about velocity and engine revs readily available.

Driving Performance & MPG

Some performance enthusiasts scoff at convertible versions of sports cars, as the transformation typically adds weight, reduces stiffness, and diminishes overall capability versus a drop top’s coupe counterpart. While some of that remains true here in the GT C Roadster, the overall drawback is so negligible and the performance envelope so exceedingly high we doubt all but the most hardcore track junkies would notice.

The car is so outright capable that tooling along on the highway at sane speeds can seem like a waste of an exceptionally capable two seater.

The GT C Roadster chassis remains exceedingly rigid due in part to additional subframe bracing, though the convertible only gains roughly 75 pounds as a penalty versus the hardtop GT C thanks to the use of high-strength aluminum. Coupled with four-wheel steering, adaptive dampers, and the meaty high performance rubber that AMG shoehorned into the GT C’s widened rear track, the roadster remains a more than capable tool for the business of carving through twisty mountain roads at extra-legal speeds.

The optional carbon ceramic discs fitted to our tester are a bit grabby at the top of the pedal but provide ample stopping power, which is important considering how effortless it is to get the GT C Roadster into speed ranges that will get you thrown into the back of a squad car. This drop-top feels so stable there, even with the top down, you’d be forgiven for not noticing you’re going twice the posted limit on the highway (at least by us).

While the boosted 4.0-liter V8 doesn’t have the manic bark of the naturally aspirated AMG V8s of yore, its baritone bellow is characterful in its own right, particularly with the top down and the driving mode set to Race, where the exhaust flaps go their widest. Like in other GT models, the seven-speed dual clutch gearbox fires off shifts with near-instant response and is intuitive enough that we rarely felt the need to toggle full-manual operation on the center console to avoid gear selection confusion during spirited driving.

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Bradley Iger/Digital Trends
Bradley Iger/Digital Trends

Though the name might conjure up thoughts of high-speed jaunts across the Riviera, the GT C Roadster still more sports car than grand tourer. The optional sports seats are great for holding one in place during aggressive maneuvering, but their firm, sculpted frame and low seating position means that they can get a bit uncomfortable during extended driving stints. But more to the point, the car is so outright capable that tooling along on the highway at sane speeds can seem like a waste of an exceptionally capable two seater.

Conclusion

If you’ve got the coin and you’re unsure if the Porsche 911 or Jaguar F-Type fit the bill for your convertible luxury sports car needs, we’d be hard-pressed to find fault by adding the Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster to your short list, as it checks all the right boxes in terms of performance, style, approachability, and sophistication.

Pricing hasn’t been announced as yet, but officials say to expect the GT C Roadster to start at around $160,000, placing it above the Jag but still well below that of a comparably equipped 911 Turbo ragtop.

For that kind of money one would be right to expect a lot of car. Fortunately, the Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Highs

  • Effortless straight-line thrust
  • Responsive four-wheel steering
  • Lovely to look at

Lows

  • Considerable price tag
  • Clunky infotainment interface
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