When it comes to packing maximum vehicular excitement into a single weekend, few venues can match the sheer intensity of the Goodwood Festival of Speed. While the surfeit of events held annually in the orbit of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and various other high-profile auto shows suffer no shortage of horsepower, few pack as much vehicular lunacy—and as many lunatics—into a single four-day weekend as Goodwood. As such, we can’t think of a better venue to publicly debut the glowworm-green, 577-hp Mercedes-AMG GT R, the highly anticipated track-focused variant of the maker’s performance flagship, the Mercedes-AMG GT.
To call the GT R’s debut exterior color “green” is almost an understatement. Officially dubbed AMG Green Hell Magno, in tribute to the nickname given to the Nürburgring’s north loop by Jackie Stewart back in the day, as well as the massive amount of development time spent there for the GT R, the matte finish is so intense that it looks as if it were applied by dipping the GT R into the same vat where green Skittles are made.
Combine the green finish with the LED brows on the headlamps and the large outboard vents, and the front view has the vibe of an angry amphibian predator. The grille, named AMG Panamericana and making its first production-car appearance on the GT R, closely resembles the unit employed on the Mercedes-AMG GT3 race car and is intended to evoke the grille used on the 300SL that won the 1952 Carrera Panamericana Mexican road race. That it works as well as it does with the GT R’s otherwise contemporary design is surprising—and encouraging, given that we hear the grille will appear on several more products in the near future.
The large outboard vents are fully modern and have electrically operated louvers to direct airflow for optimum efficiency. Closed at speed, they reduce drag; if required, they can open to send fresh air to the intercooler heat exchangers. A small carbon-fiber splitter that resides below the chin is said to increase downforce. The design of the front fenders (also made of carbon fiber) has been altered, resulting in a width increase of about 1.8 inches; the rear fenders are aluminum and increase width by 2.2 inches versus the standard model. Carbon fiber also is found in the unpainted roof—which not only saves weight but also offers a tiny respite from the sea of green—and in back with a diffuser and a manually adjustable wing. Look closely to spot a horizontal incision just below the hatch; it’s there to let heat escape from the new center-mounted exhaust.
Hidden from view in the underbody is a new movable aerodynamic element ahead of the engine. This carbon-fiber component moves automatically downward 1.6 inches at 50 mph when the car is in Race mode, creating a venturi effect that, as Mercedes says, “sucks” the car to the road; it reduces front-axle lift by about 88 pounds at 155 mph while leaving the downforce on the rear axle unchanged. When activated, a radiator air outlet opens to guide air toward the double rear diffuser, which is said to improve the handling stability of the rear axle while also routing more cooling air to the brake rotors. Concerns about damaging the component by bottoming out are addressed with a spring-mounting system that allows it to flex upward easily. At the GT R’s top speed of 198 mph, the combined influence of all of these aerodynamic features increases downforce by 342 pounds over the standard AMG GT.
The GT R’s chassis is also a study in weight saving. Some 90 percent of the spaceframe components are aluminum, while a carbon-fiber torque tube between the engine and the seven-speed transaxle—as on the GT’s predecessor, the SLS—is said to be 40 percent lighter than the component in the standard GT S. A cross-shaped carbon-fiber underbody brace replaces the aluminum one in the GT S, saving weight and increasing torsional rigidity. A pair of carbon-fiber stiffening struts in the engine compartment are 50 percent lighter than their aluminum counterparts.
Inside, AMG Performance seats cribbed from the AMG GT S get the nappa leather and microfiber treatment, while brilliant yellow seatbelts are optional, as are instrument dials with yellow highlights.
A lot has been made of the GT’s attempt to horn in on Porsche 911 territory, including from us here at C/D. As the gold standard of a class that includes players such as the Aston Martin Vantage, Audi R8, Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Jaguar F-type, and Maserati GranTurismo, the 911 is consigned to life with a target on its back. And seeing that Mercedes-AMG plans on making as many GT Rs as it can sell, we don’t expect a cease-fire anytime soon. Pricing for Mercedes’ latest 911-aimed howitzer hasn’t yet been released, but we figure the Mercedes-AMG GT R should ring in around the $200,000 mark when it hits showrooms next summer.