A cigarette boat is an illicit weapon, built for speed and shaped like a blade. Dagger-like, it stabs through the waves, combining a small, open cabin with a knife-like profile and a surfeit of engine.
Now, apply some wheels. Some really wide wheels.
Hammering up a canyon road, our Solarbeam Yellow AMG GT C Roadster is the tarmac-shredding version of an ocean-going speedboat, and just as exhilarating. By the simple expedient of lopping the roof off its halo car, Mercedes has created a new halo car for its AMG brand, and perhaps the ultimate escape capsule.
The GT C is brutal in the bends, with rib-crushing mechanical grip. Its twin-turbocharged heart provides instant thrust and a predatory growl. Put the twin-clutch transmission into its most aggressive mode and it bangs through the gears with kidney-punching ferocity. It’s all rather lovely, and you should probably run out to buy one immediately. Or at the very least, a lottery ticket.
Mercedes-Benz makes a semi-ridiculous array of both convertibles and AMG products. For drop-tops, there are soft-top versions of the C-Class, the E-Class and the S-Class. Then there are the folding metal roofs of the SLC and SL, open grand tourers that are both beginning to show their age. Full AMG models of all are available, save for the SLC, which gets the new AMG-lite twin-turbo V-6.
Above them all stands the GT C Roadster, which joins five other variants of the AMG GT, not including the racing version. It’s not clear as to why Mercedes-AMG needs to have so many versions of its halo car, but then again you can buy nearly 25 different flavours of Porsche 911.
Canada will not be getting the lesser AMG GT Roadster, because Stuttgart has noticed our small market’s relatively large appetite for its highest-powered trims. Not to mention it probably assumes we all wrestle bears for fun, so why not let those crazy Canucks have the full-force one? Happy horsepower, from my side.
Thus, a surfeit of choice becomes straightforward. The GT C is the fastest, most thrilling Mercedes you can drive without a helmet. By adding in more boost, AMG wrings 577 horsepower from its twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V-8, good enough for a sprint to 100 kilometres an hour in 3.7 seconds, and a top speed of 316 km/h. Where permissible, of course.
Forget the numbers. Where the GT C shines is in time-warp, right-now, goodbye passing power. On the twisting roads cut into the Arizona canyons, passing zones are few and short. The GT C makes short work of anything and everything.
Further, the handling grip exceeds anything you might need on the street. Mercedes has played it safe with a staggered 265-millimetre width up front and 305 mm out back – there will be maybe a hint of push at the front if you really overdo it – but the GT C’s standard four-wheel steering makes it far more reactive than the old SLS AMG.
And then there’s what happens when you do get stuck behind an oblivious boat-trailer or decide to just cool your heels on the highway because a bright yellow convertible might as well be a giant neon sign flashing, “Hello, officer!” at every well-patrolled overpass. The GT C has some quibbles, such as a shifter designed for people with prehensile elbows, rear visibility as that of a U-boat and cargo space smaller than some motorcycles, but it is, over all, not much less comfortable nor more difficult to live with than the greying SL.
Even the new AMG performance seats, which are bolstered like a bobsleigh, don’t fatigue the driver, and feature Mercedes’s Airscarf fan system that blows hot air around your neck. Whatever speed you’re at, the GT C’s cockpit is the place to be.
AMG has shed its blunt-instrument reputation, creating a machine that is, at once, deft and ferocious, brutal yet relatively unchallenging. It’s a powerboat for the road: It’ll mess your hair up, but you’ll stay dry.
- Base price: TBA
- Engine: 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V-8
- Transmission/drive: Seven-speed dual-clutch/rear-wheel drive
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.4
- Alternatives: Porsche 911 Carrera GTS convertible, Audi R8 Spyder
- Looks: This might be Mercedes’s best-looking machine in years. The Panamericana grille’s borrowing from the near-race-spec GT R is not exactly subtle, but the also-cribbed 57-mm-wider rear wings and 12-inch-wide rear tires give the GT C a crouched muscularity.
- Interior: Mercedes interior treatments continue to be among the best in class, leagues beyond the 911’s spartan button-fest (although Audi’s virtual cockpit has both beat). Less impressive are some of the ergonomics, and the Comand infotainment system comes with a bit of a “why have they done that?” learning curve.
- Performance: Simply ferocious. In both road holding and handling, the GT C is a monster. We ran across a group of Ford engineers testing camouflaged Mustangs, likely the new GT500 and facelifted GT350, on our route. The GT C spun around thanks to the tight circle afforded by its four-wheel steering, then leapt after them like a desert cat after a hare.
- Technology: For those who will take their GT C to the track – pretty much the only place you can exploit its true potential – AMG offers the Track Pace feature. Set up to work with an iPhone, Track Pace lets you record a video of your lap along with telemetry data such as speed, gear, steering angle, acceleration and braking. You can then either use the data to improve as a driver or to brag about your exploits online.
- Cargo: The tiny trunk is slightly more spacious than that of the Jaguar F-Type, which is a low bar to be easily stepped over. Pack light.
Built to be driven until you run out of gas or your face starts to hurt from all the grinning.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.