The limited-edition Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro isn’t coming to Australia, but the even more focused and Black Series variant is due to land Down Under sometime in 2020
First, the bad news. The new Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro isn’t going to be hitting Australian showrooms. The sensationally focused new GT range topper has been denied local citizenship for a few reasons. Firstly, just 750 units will be built and all have been snapped up. Secondly, Mercedes-Benz’s local arm said that there wasn’t a huge amount of demand for the Pro, and again there are two reasons for that. Some customers that want the ultimate AMG track-day experience, are opting for GT4 and GT3 racing cars purchased through the AMG Customer Racing Programme. Even those with no intention of racing are buying bona fide race cars as track-day toys. Secondly, some very astute customers also know that an even more hardcore GT is on the horizon, with the Black Series variant expected some time in 2020. Not yet officially confirmed for Australia, the Black Series is an almost certain starter and customers are holding on until it arrives.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. What are we missing out on with the new Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro? We’re big fans of AMG’s GT R here on evo. It’s a riot on the road, and as capable on track as it is fun, which is to say ‘very’. However, AMG has shifted its focus even more to track work with this, the new Pro version: does it turn the GT R into a convincing rival to Porsche’s GT-series cars?
Sprouting aerodynamic addenda from every corner, the drivetrain is the one area where the Pro is no different to the standard GT R, but overall that’s no bad thing. The 430kW twin-turbo V8 feels as exuberant as ever, punching hard with its peak torque of 700Nm from just 2100rpm, and then revving out with a magnificent bent eight bellow; in many ways the V8 defines the whole car. It’s connected to a seven-speed DCT gearbox worked via paddles behind the steering wheel, which helps the Pro to a 0-100km/h time of 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 319km/h.
At the heart of the Pro’s dynamic offering are four manually adjustable coilovers, offering pre-load, rebound and compression settings, the latter for low and high speed. Obviously, that means there’s no longer a button on the centre console to adjust the damping, rather any changes have to be done crouched next to the car. There’s also a carbonfibre adjustable anti-roll bar on the front axle (an adjustable steel bar is at the rear), while the GT R’s uniball spherical joints on the lower rear wishbones are used on the upper wishbones, too. A carbonfibre shear panel adds rigidity to the structure by bracing the underbody, while the GT R’s dynamic engine and transmission mounts have been re-tuned to suit the Pro’s more track-focused brief.
The Pro package continues with the fitment of the Track Pack and ceramic brakes as standard, both options on the regular GT R, the former bringing an extensive roll-cage, a four-point harness and a fire extinguisher. The forged wheels are finished in titanium grey, while the roof panel is now carbonfibre and features a truncated middle section: the AMG carbonfibre package is also standard equipment, and the total weight saving in fact is 14kg over the regular GT R. That doesn’t sound like much, granted, but take into account that the cage of the Track Pack puts some kilos back into the car, so a like-for-like comparison would show a greater difference.
The other major change with the Pro is its increased aerodynamic performance. Louvres slashed into the front wings extract air from the front wheel arches, thereby cancelling lift, and the larger front splitter that juts out from the nose is complemented by dive planes attached to the front corners of the car. A vertical blade behind the rear wheel arches helps channel the air aftwards, while the rear wing has an additional gurney flap for increased downforce and now sits on milled alloy supports. It’s not as though the GT R was a weak-looking car anyway, but the Pro definitely has an even more purposeful air to it.
Finally, all AMG GT’s now benefit from the latest Mercedes cockpit design and technology – a fully digital instrument binnacle with a 12.3-inch screen, complemented by a 10.25-inch multimedia display in the centre console. You can choose from three different layouts for the ‘dials’, and it’s almost endlessly configurable via switches on the new steering wheel, along with further buttons on the GT’s broad centre console for adjusting the multi-stage dampers, the ESC setup, the exhaust valves, and so on. There’s also now the rotary mode switch on the wheel, plus a pair of multi-configurable switches just off the rim, that can also adjust any of the aforementioned parameters. With AMG Dynamics, not only is there now Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Race and Individual overall driving modes, there is are also Basic, Advanced, Pro and Master settings that affect steering weight and the ESC setup.
Our first encounter with the Pro amounts to 10 laps around a rather damp and cold Hockenheim circuit, and with no provision to compare it with the standard GT R either. Therefore, it’s difficult to draw too many conclusions at this stage about the Pro’s ultimate abilities, except to say it feels very much at home on the track. It swallows the wide long straights with ease, the new instrumentation flashing red to nag you to upshift, the V8 thundering away as though the exhaust exits almost underneath the driver’s seat.
That sense of theatre is something the Pro never loses, whether it’s the driving position, which sets you low in the car with the wheel near the chest, or the view to the rear obscured as it is by roll cage, or the vibrations of the engine – there’s never a dull moment in the Pro.
It’s always a shock in a GT R to discover how quickly and sensitively that long nose ahead changes direction, and the Pro is no exception. It turns into corners really positively, and while oversteer is only a squeeze of the throttle away in most scenarios, neither is the Pro the sort of car to squander acceleration out of tighter curves. As long as you’re progressive it finds excellent traction, aided of course by its nine-stage traction control setup, accessed via the yellow switch in the middle of the dash.
When it does start to move around, the proximity of the driver’s behind to the rear axle and the accuracy of the chassis means it’s not a scary car, despite the circuit being wet in places. The ceramic brakes are a highlight of the GT R PRO experience, pulling the car up convincingly, far deeper into the braking zone than you think is possible. While the speed of upshifts is ultra-quick, a slight delay on downshifts feels as though the gearbox can only just keep up with the braking force generated when the car is losing speed rapidly.
The GT R Pro is very much AMG’s 911 GT3 RS, but of course, until the advent of the new 992 GT3 in due course, that particular rival is not currently available. On price in the UK and European markets, the Pro isn’t far behind McLaren’s brilliant 600LT (our current evo Car of the Year champion) but it’s a credit to the AMG that the comparison doesn’t feel like a foregone conclusion. The Black Series will be more expensive again, and though we’re yet to see the spec, we’d guess that it will nudge $500,000. That’s serious money, of course, but the SLS Black Series was $645,000 new and examples now trade for more than double that.
With the Pro, the forth coming GT R Black Series and the AMG One hypercar, Mercedes’s performance arm has truly established itself among the supercar elite. Matthew O’Malley & Adam Towler
Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro
Engine 3982cc V8, twin-turbocharged
Power 430kW @ 6250rpm
Torque 700Nm @ 2100-5500rpm
Top speed 319km/h
Basic price not available in Australia