Mercedes-AMG GTR 2017
Mercedes-AMG GTR 2017
All is quiet on the northern front. Normally, on a weekday afternoon, the Nürburgring Nordschleife would be crowded with prototypes being tested or the exotica of a high-end track day. Instead we arrive to find it completely deserted, with the only car authorized to use the 12.9-mile-long track being the almost painfully green Mercedes-AMG GT R that is currently sitting silent in the short pit lane. Mercedes must have written a sizable check for exclusive access, the famous circuit booked to give us a taste of its 577-hp range-topper’s capabilities.
Mercedes-AMG GTR Video:
Mercedes-AMG GTR is in its spiritual, if not corporeal, home. We might be 191 miles from AMG’s base in Affalterbach, but every part of this car has been designed to perform here, especially against the clock. The R is wearing a bright metallic shade of paint that puts us in mind of a streaking frog, officially known as Green Hell Magno. This is a reference to Jackie Stewart’s famous description of what the Nürburgring was back in its driver-slaying heyday (we hope he’s getting a licensing fee) and evidence of the obsession with the place that grips the auto industry.
The ’Ring Is the Thing
As cars have gotten faster, it has become harder to distinguish them through raw performance statistics. Straight-line metrics such as acceleration and even top-speed numbers are losing their relevance in a world where top sports cars routinely hit 60 mph in three seconds and many can do 200 mph. Hence the importance placed on setting lap times of the Nordschleife.
This place is a historical anomaly, a circuit designed to show off the monstrous speed of prewar Grand Prix cars and long since adjudged too dangerous for more powerful motorsport categories. Nothing faster than GT3 cars competes here these days, and the Nordschleife’s main function is as a dynamic playground for chassis engineers and, through the Tourist Driving sessions when anyone can have a lap in return for 29 euros, to keep YouTube stocked with crash videos.
But it has also become the place where everybody wants to set the fastest time. It’s not quite true that the bullshit stops when the stopwatch starts—manufacturers send cars here with unlikely performance options, driven by fearless specialists. Yet a Nordschleife time has become a widely accepted benchmark of relative performance. The fastest road-car time remains that set by the Porsche 918 back in 2013, but everything from SUVs to front-drive hatchbacks vie to be quickest in their segment. There’s even a panel-van record, the nine-minute, 57-second lap turned by a modified Volkswagen Transporter. When it looked as if time setting would be banned last year, there was an uproar.
Enter the GT S
Records aren’t going to be set today, but with Mercedes GT3 driver and ’Ring specialist Thomas Jäger driving, there’s a chance to experience what a fast lap feels like ahead of when the GTR sets its own time in the next couple of weeks.
We also have Frank Emhardt, the development boss of the GT, on hand to talk us around the car. He introduces its movable aerodynamic elements, its upgraded engine, and the rear-steering system that can electrically steer the rear wheels by up to 1.5 degrees. (Read more in our previous deep-dive story.)
Mercedes-AMG GTR is anticipated to go between 20 and 25 seconds quicker than the current GT S, but Emhardt doesn’t attribute the difference to any one thing. “It’s the combination,” he says. “The aero brings more downforce and more confidence, the suspension works better, and the rear steering improves cornering and stability at speed.”