- I tested a 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R Roadster, a limited-run drop-top that topped out at $210,290 after many thousands in extras.
- The Mercedes-AMG GT R Roadster belongs to a select club of two-seat, front-engine cars that combine luxury with track-ready performance cred.
- The price tag might seem stratospheric, but Mercedes-AMG has so thoroughly crammed this machine with staggering power and premium appointments that it represents a bargain.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In Affalterbach, in the old Prussian Hohenzollern lands, they charmingly call it a “roadster.”
But I regret to inform my misguided, possible delusional, German friends at Mercedes-AMG that they have badly missed the mark. The Mercedes-AMG GT R Roadster is to the traditional, peppy two-seater, birthed under the gray British skies and dispatched across the world, what a broadsword is to a stiletto.
The Merc is not an elegant weapon for a more civilized age. The Merc means business and, coincidentally, has a pair of seats, two doors, and a drop-top. Yes, technically you could call it a roadster. But I would recommend front-loading that description with “mega” and posting a warning sign: Retire your dashing driving cap and insouciant weekend MG memories, and instead consider a helmet.
Mercedes-AMG flipped me the keys to a 2020 version of the limited-run powerhouse, which will only feature 750 examples and starts at about $190,000. This version was optioned out to an as-tested sticker of just over $210,000.
Here’s how the driving went down:
The 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R Roadster landed at our suburban New Jersey test center wearing a borderline divine “Brilliant Blue Magno” paint job — a luscious matte blue that cost about $4,000 extra.
I’d previously sampled a $168,000 Mercedes-AMG GT C. I called it a “stylish beast of a car that serves up excellent bang for the buck.”
The Merc arrived amid a veritable deluge of potent two-seaters, including the Aston Martin V8 Vantage …
… and the Aston Martin DB11 V8.
The Mercedes-AMG GT R Roadster was the most aggressively styled member of that trio — by a wide margin. The Merc held absolutely nothing in reserve.
As with the coupé, the Roadster is defined by its bold prow: The car looks like it could be all hood. The LED headlights pretty much turn night to day and have an adaptive high-beam function that’s useful for navigating country roads.
The enormous Mercedes tri-star badge (and more modest flush hood ornament) adorn the slatted grille.
And why not some jagged, slashing design elements on top of the side vents?
That’s carbon fiber, folks. The fin is part of a $5,300 package that adds a significant amount of the material to the exterior. FYI: “Biturbo” translates to twin turbochargers.
The hood also has a pair of blacked-out scoops. We aren’t quite in Corvette territory here, but the AMG GT R certainly doesn’t skimp on exterior attitude.
The front carbon-fiber splitter is part of the aforementioned package (as is the rear diffuser), but the 10-spoke forged-alloy wheels, believe it or not, we included at no additional cost.
The brakes are AMG specials — a high-performance composite spec, combining ventilated discs with bright-yellow calipers.
My test car wore sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires at all four corners. They’re almost too good at keeping the Merc’s nastier tendencies in check.
The rear spoiler is a showstopper, but maybe not in a good way. True, it provides the downforce that this beastly machine demands to remain stuck to the pavement. But it spoils what elegance there is in the generally brutal design.
Let’s slip inside the Mercedes-AMG GT R Roadster and savor the very Mercedes interior — an essay in what luxury car making is all about.
The “Saddle Brown” Nappa leather treatment is, in a word, exquisite. You aren’t going to find a better combo on inside-outside in the entire automotive world. Nobody does interiors as well as Mercedes these days.
Just two seats, of course …
… with a pair of rollover guards and a small rear windscreen that can be raised and lowered to cut down on turbulence. The black soft top stows in about 20 seconds.
The Mercedes multifunction steering wheel is gorgeous, but it has some features that are bit tricky to use — mainly, the small thumb pads that control instrument-cluster views.
The wheel has a pair of controls that manage the drive modes — Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus, Track, and Individual — and allow for additional performance tweaks. In practice, this is more about firming up the already firm suspension and tightening the steering, as well as intensifying the boisterous exhaust note.
The cluster itself, like the infotainment screen, renders information beautifully.
Drivers can drop out of automatic mode and flick through the gears themselves using the elegantly crafted paddle shifters.
Like everything else in here, they’re jaw-droppingly lovely.
These seats were made for racing! Indeed they were, as they have cutouts to accommodate a racing harness, should you want to take the AMG GT R Roadster to a track. That said, the seats are exceptionally comfy, and both heated and ventilated.
The AMG designations are scattered through the cabin. This embossed AMG crest on the armrest is my personal favorite.
Almost all of the car’s controls are located on the center console. The command center for the infotainment system is a piece of sculpture.
Love carbon fiber? Good, because the stuff is everywhere.
The 10-inch infotainment system is effective, but it comes with a steep learning curve. But all the expected functions, from Bluetooth pairing to navigation, are capably handled.
I wasn’t expecting much versatility from a two-seat drop-top, but even with the trunk reduced by the convertible compartment, the Merc swallowed a reasonable amount of provisions.
Now let’s get to what we’ve all been waiting for! That handcrafted Mercedes-AMG motor.
Grrrr! Here we have 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8, making 577 horsepower with 516 pound-feet of torque, piping the power through a carbon-fiber driveshaft and a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission to the Merc’s rear wheels.
The AMG GT R Roadster also has rear-wheel steering and a titanium exhaust package, not to mention a forged, dual-wishbone suspension and a limited-slip differential. These features combine to channel all that power into a ride that’s preposterously confident.
The engine was signed by the person who put it together. The cover is —you guessed it — carbon fiber.
AMG is Mercedes’ high-performance brand, respected throughout the motoring world, but the callouts are pretty modest. Here’s one on the grille.
And another at the rear.
My tester included a Burmester premium audio system that wasn’t cheap at $4,500, but it was succulent. Burmester is one of top audio setups currently available, worth every single penny.
So what’s the verdict?
The Mercedes-AMG GT R roadster genuinely borders on being too much car for the money, even with its lofty price tag. Ponder its use case: a fabulously well-appointed luxury two-seater with a ragtop and massive rear wing that’s eager to hit the track and anxious to surge forward in a loud and fiery straight line. You could deny the “roadster” tag and call it a German muscle car, or you could suggest comparisons with something like the outgoing, front-engine Chevy Corvette (far less expensive) or the Porsche GT3 (more of a price peer), but you wouldn’t be making any progress.
Cars like this are sui generis. They are few, and they are special. And they take nothing for granted. The use case is to blow your mind, plain and simple.
The GT R roadster does it with an impeccable yet somehow still rather terrifying blend of retro style, over-the-top design cues, a sumptuous interior, and a motor stolen from the gods — then takes it to a new level of sensory overload with the convertible configuration.
Such delights usually come at a price — but on balance, the GT R roadster’s isn’t as staggeringly elevated as it could be. Much like the AMG GT C I tested a while back, sticker shock becomes less shocking when you think about.
“So, is the AMG GT C worth almost $170,000?” I asked in my review. The answer: “It most definitely is. In fact, it might be a bargain — this much car, this much style, this much engineering? Just gazing upon it, I’d say $200,000, easy.”
Ditto the AMG GT R roadster. You’re just getting so, so, so much car, and it’s tuned for the track while still being scads of fun on the public roads. Beware, of course, that the ride is … shall we say, “crisp”? This is the critical compromise, and one should be clued in by the way the seats are configured to accommodate a racing harness.
Consequently, the AMG GT R is less of a proper grand tourer. It wants a lot of throttle in corners. It wants a lot of throttle in a straight line. Heck, it just wants a lot of throttle all the time.
Long-range motoring is potentially on the agenda, but there are better options. The comparison here really is to the Corvette, namely the Z06, which actually tops the AMG GT R’s horsepower output by a wide margin. I have taken trips of some 200 miles in the Z06; not the ideal platform. Likewise the GT R. To be honest, another GT-R — Nissan’s Godzilla — is the comfier customer.
Ultimately, the Mercedes-AMG GT R Roadster is a reward for something: a life well lived, a company sold, freedom from college tuition, a move toward a thoroughly impractical retirement. You also know what you’re getting into, just by raising to hood or contemplating that big ole rear wing. And while the price tag is humongous, it’s really a lot less than it could be.
Weird, isn’t it, that you have to push the envelope this far to find a value that’s so compelling?