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First Drive

Mercedes-AMG GT R 2017 review

We try the 'beast of the green hell’ (aka the Mercedes-AMG GT R) for the first time on UK roads. Does this V8 monster justify its Β£143,000 price tag?

Words By Will Nightingale

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The beast of the Green Hell. That’s the pet name given to the new Mercedes-AMG GT R – not by us, but by the company that created it.

The tag isn’t a direct reference to that lurid paint colour, either. It’s actually a nod to the NΓΌrburgring, known in racing circles as the Green Hell and which the GT R has officially lapped quicker than any other rear-wheel-drive production car in history.

Its time was 7min 10sec, which is quick. Blimmin' quick. The Ferrari 488 GTB took around 11 seconds longer, and even the four-wheel-drive Porsche 918 Spyder hypercar only managed to complete the lap 13 seconds faster.

That's mightily impressive, no question, and great for bragging rights down the pub. But cars that are built to be quick around race tracks aren’t always much cop on the road, so is the new GT R all about numbers, or can it deliver as many real-world thrills as our favourite supercars, the McLaren 540C and the Audi R8?

What's the Mercedes-AMG GT R like to drive?

Power comes from the same basic twin-turbocharged V8 that features in the regular GT. Here, though, it’s been tuned to pump out an extra 107bhp; that’s a total of 577bhp.

It’s all fed to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, making the GT R, you might imagine, a bit of a hooligan. Well, it can be when you want it to, but it actually transfers its power to a dry road surprisingly well. The extra-sticky Michelin tyres developed exclusively for AMG no doubt help.

The sprint from 0-62mph takes 3.6sec, a bit longer than the four-wheel-drive Audi R8 can manage, but above 50mph the GT R builds speed almost as frenetically as its German rival. And then there’s the noise. The regular GT is enough of an anti-social beast, but the GT R is one of the loudest cars we’ve ever tested.

Head over to our Instagram page to hear the AMG GT R in action.

It sounds brutish enough even in its most subdued Comfort mode, but switch to Sport or Race and turn on the switchable performance exhaust and all hell breaks loose. The thunderous throb at tickover will make your neighbours think a Chinook helicopter has landed on your driveway, and the pops and bangs when you blip the throttle are, frankly, terrifying.

Speed and sound have never been the GT’s problems, though; our major gripes concerned its slightly blunt and clumsy handling compared with the best supercars. But the GT R version is considerably more competent than its lesser stablemate, thanks to wider tracks, bespoke suspension, rear-wheel steering and active aerodynamics, the latter of which helps to suck the car down onto the road at high speeds.

True, the GT R still doesn’t feel as light or as agile as the best supercars in tight corners and quick direction changes, but through fast, sweeping curves it’s a match for anything. Equally, the GT R’s steering isn’t as feelsome as a McLaren 540C’s or even an Audi R8’s, but it’s far from numb and tough to fault for precision.

Mercifully, the GT R’s NΓΌrburgring heroics haven’t required a punishing ride, either. Leave the suspension in its default setting and the GT R actually rides most bumps quite well, although, again, an R8 or a 540C will isolate you better from anything with a sharp edge, such as a pothole.

What's the Mercedes-AMG GT R like inside?

The drama continues in here with a bulbous centre console fencing off driver and passenger. On it, you’ll find a myriad of buttons and switches to set the car up for different situations; among other things, you can adjust the responsiveness of the throttle, the stiffness of the suspension and the volume from the exhaust.

There’s also a curious yellow knob just above the air-con controls. Twist this and you can vary the interference from the stability control system; at one extreme, the car will immediately step in to help if you’re a bit enthusiastic with your right foot; at the other, you’ll have to rely solely on your driving skills. The latter setting is intended solely for track use.

The interior looks suitably special, with lots of manmade suede and gloss black trim. However, there are some rather unappealing plastics on show that you simply won’t find in an Audi R8 or a Porsche 911. The GT R’s infotainment system is also rather fiddly, and the long bonnet, which you can’t properly see the end of, means you’ll need to rely on the standard front parking sensors.

The paint colour? Yep, you guessed it, it’s called Green Hell and it costs Β£7500. There are, however, several cheaper and more conservative options, including red, silver and grey. Other options include a track package (roll cage, fire extinguisher and four-point harness), carbon-ceramic brakes and a host of styling upgrades.

Verdict and specs >

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