27 January 2021
27 January 2021
If the Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO was a living animal, unleashing it on the Phillip Island motor racing circuit would be akin to releasing an apex predator into its natural environment.
On the windswept tip of southern Victoria, the highly-evolved GT R PRO is thoroughly in its element. Unrestrained by urban speed restrictions and away from traffic, it can pounce from corner to corner and snarl down straights, chasing lap times with singular focus.
The GT R PRO is a triumph of evolution, an extreme expression of a two-seater sports car philosophy that began with the 1950s-era Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing, was reborn in 2010 with the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, and took on its existing shape in 2014 with the first iteration of the Mercedes-AMG GT.
From that point, there was never any question that hotter versions would emerge – first the AMG GT R, a sharpened grand tourer with such poise that it has corralled the Formula 1™ field for several seasons as the official Safety Car, and now the GT R PRO, the closest relative in performance and intent to the Mercedes-AMG GT3 racing car that has hotly contested many of the world’s most prestigious sports car races.
Unlike the stripped-and-ripped GT3, however, the GT R PRO retains most of the civility of its grand-touring predecessor. The driver-focused cockpit is draped in Nappa leather and Dinamica® upholstery and the carbon-fibre AMG bucket seats are surprisingly comfortable to settle into. A four-point safety harness and the bolted steel roll cage behind you – both included in the standard Track Package for Australian-delivered cars – are constant reminders of the GT3-inspired muscle that ripples just below the surface. As is the long bonnet out front that conceals one of the most potent V8 power plants found in any road-legal series production car in the world.
Unlike many other modern-day members of the Mercedes-AMG family, the GT R PRO sends its prodigious 430 kW and 700 Nm to the rear treads only, a feature that announces itself with a playful shimmy upon acceleration from the pit exit towards the famous sweeping Turn 1. Cold tyres are the culprit, and it’s the first and last time the AMG tracks anywhere but true to its steering inputs.
Mercedes-AMG has built a battery of performance enhancers into the DNA of this car. Few are individually noticeable from behind the wheel, but together they combine to glue the GT R PRO to the road surface. Bespoke carbon-fibre wizardry offers aerodynamic benefits as the GT R PRO tops the rise on the front straight at nearly 230 km/h and arcs into the long, fast first turn at around 165 km/h.
The use of strong, lightweight components including carbon-fibre and aluminum means the stiffened chassis feels agile through the Southern Loop, yet never too lively thanks to the coil-over suspension that allows minute control of compression and rebound characteristics via an integrated dial on the steering wheel. Traction control intervention can also be adjusted on the fly by fingertip control, allowing the driver to experiment until they discover their own ideal setup.
In practice, the depth of engineering genius baked into the GT R PRO means that any driver, from novice to pro, can quickly dial into its utterly predictable handling characteristics and begin to carve chunks off their lap time as the coupé’s awesome capabilities are fully revealed.
Perhaps the most impressive feat is that this faux racer can be driven straight out of pit lane and onto the road, where its power can be dialled back in favour of a civilised and luxurious touring coupé. It’s a neat party trick and guaranteed to ensure the extremely limited numbers of this talented performer arriving in Australia will be quickly snapped up.
By Steve Colquhoun