by Karl Furlong
Perhaps the best thing about the Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster is that Mercedes hasn't tried to build a Porsche 911 replica. Rather than try to match the deftness and astounding agility of the 911, AMG has cooked up its own recipe of what a halo roofless sports car should be. Blending sensational style with an atmospheric V8 and a luxurious interior, this car is the ultimate ego-booster. This year, the base twin-turbo V8 is even more potent at 523 horsepower, while the GT C still produces 550 hp and will see the brute complete the 0-60 sprint in well under four seconds. That's not as quick as its German rivals, but the GT sure isn't short on theater. You'll need to contend with a stiff suspension and a cabin that feels especially cramped with the roof up, but otherwise, this is a high-end drop-top that does not disappoint.
This year, the base AMG GT Roadster has received an increase in power by 54 hp. This makes it two-tenths quicker to 60 mph than last year's model. Mercedes has also improved the standard specification, with features now including a rear electronic limited-slip differential, the AMG Ride Control suspension with adaptive dampers, a high-performance composite braking system, and brake calipers painted in red. There is also a new lithium-ion starter battery, while customers can now access a Race driving mode.
A new special edition variant called the Stealth Edition joins the lineup. It comes with extras like the AMG Exterior Night Package, various darkened exterior elements, a carbon fiber roof, the AMG Interior Night Package, and unique badging.
The ability to drop the roof only adds to the glamor of the AMG GT Roadster. While a 911 can occasionally pass you by unnoticed, there's no chance of that happening with this Mercedes. The broad Panamericana grille, stretched hood, and curvaceous rear-end blend together beautifully. As standard, the convertible comes with a power soft-top roof, 19-inch AMG five-spoke alloy wheels, rounded quad-exit tailpipes, and LED headlights with integrated LED daytime running lamps. You can distinguish the GT C by its wider rear fenders which accommodate larger 20-inch wheels at the back, chrome accents down the side and in the front air intakes, and trapezoidal-shaped exhaust outlets. The new Stealth Edition, meanwhile, has a more menacing look with its matte black wheels, carbon fiber roof, and darkened headlights.
Both longer and wider than the Porsche 911 Cabriolet, the AMG GT Roadster's dimensions include a length of 179.4 inches, a width of 76.3 inches (81.7 inches including the mirrors), a height of 49.6 inches with the roof up, and a 103.5-inch wheelbase. The more muscular GT C has a significantly wider body at 79 inches, while it's also marginally longer at 179.7 inches. In terms of curb weight, the GT C registers a figure of 3,838 pounds.
With the arrival of the all-conquering AMG GT Black Series last year, Mercedes-AMG must have felt that customers who could only stretch to the base GT deserved more power. For that reason, the cheapest GT now produces 523 horsepower and 494 lb-ft of torque from its 4.0-liter bi-turbo V8 engine, compared to 469 hp/465 lb-ft last year. As before, power goes to the rear wheels exclusively via a seven-speed AMG SpeedShift dual-clutch automatic transmission. The extra poke has reduced the 0-60 mph time from 3.9 to 3.7 seconds and the top speed is 193 mph.
The more powerful GT C still manages 550 hp and 502 lb-ft, along with a 0-60 time of 3.6 seconds. Although the gap in acceleration between the two has closed somewhat, the GT C remains the more hardcore sports car with its active rear-wheel steering, tauter damping rates, and sharper steering responses. Both cars sound wonderful and are fast enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, but the Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet remains quicker. The quick-shifting DCT doesn't spoil the fun and does a fine job both in town and on the track.
Driving the AMG GT for the first time can be quite an intimidating experience. It's difficult to tell where the elongated hood ends, and the big engine up front may lead you to believe that the drop-top would be overly nose-heavy. However, it's more front-mid engined than you'd think, a layout that improves its balance and makes the AMG feel more athletic than expected. The steering itself has good weighting and allows you to place the roadster with precision, while wide tires provide more grip than you can use most of the time. These characteristics combine to make the AMG fun both on public roads and on a track, although it stops short of a 911's finesse. This year, the base GT also gets an electronic limited-slip differential, a high-performance braking system, and adaptive dampers straight out of the box. The GT C's active rear-wheel steering improves maneuverability even further.
Using the AMG Dynamic Select system, you can quickly toggle between Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ modes. We'd leave it in Comfort most of the time as the GT's ride is noticeably unsettled by bumps and surface changes; if you want a relaxed cruiser, rather get an E-Class Convertible.
Both the GT and GT C Roadster manage identical EPA-rated economy figures, although there's nothing economical about their proclivity for gasoline. In each case, the roadster will return 15/20/17 mpg city/highway/combined. The Porsche 911 Cabriolet has a smaller engine so wins this battle with best figures of 18/24/20 mpg. With a 19.8-gallon gas tank, the combined cruising range of the AMG GT Roadster works out to approximately 336 miles.
While suitably sporty, the high dashboard and fat center console can make the GT Roadster's cabin feel rather cramped, even if head- and legroom are acceptable. Of course, lowering the soft-top improves the experience. Due to the low seating position, getting into and out of the drop-top requires some muscle, but it's always worth it once you fire up that V8. There are standard AMG Performance seats with both heating and power-adjustable controls linked to a memory system. They provide good support but, once again, thick bolstering can feel confining for larger-framed individuals. In the GT C, soft Nappa leather upholstery adds to the upscale aura; the craftsmanship is more than worthy of a car bearing that famous badge.
While the AMG GT Coupe has a reasonable amount of trunk space, the same can't be said for the roadster. It provides just 5.8 cubic feet of packing space, which is minimal even for only two people's luggage. There aren't many in-cabin storage solutions beyond the cupholders, door pockets that aren't particularly deep, and a small center console that won't accommodate much more than your phone.
The base AMG GT Roadster is stocked with features like dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable seats with memory settings and heating, a garage door opener, the Airscarf neck-level heating system, power-folding mirrors, and of course, a power soft-top that can be raised or lowered in around 11 seconds at speeds of up to 31 mph. Some other Mercedes models offer more standard safety gear than the GT, but it still enjoys both front and rearview cameras, adaptive cruise control, attention assist, front/rear parking sensors, and adaptive high beams. Color display buttons on the center console can be used to tailor settings like the suspension, exhaust, and the active rear spoiler. The GT C adds ventilated seats along with keyless-go with hands-free access. Available options include Wi-Fi connectivity.
A comprehensive infotainment setup comprises a 12.3-inch customizable digital instrument cluster, a 10.25-inch central display screen, and a physical rotary controller as part of the COMAND system. It's not the very latest MBUX setup, but the GT's offering doesn't lack features. It comes with navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, HD Radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, an SD card reader, voice control, Bluetooth, and dual USB audio ports. A basic four-speaker sound system has been fitted to save weight, but customers can opt for an optional 10-speaker Burmester surround sound system. The GT C, however, gets the 10-speaker Burmester system by default and the option of an 11-speaker 3D surround-sound system. For track days, AMG Track Pace stores performance data like lap times and speed and can be accessed via the central screen. The AMG-specific digital gauge cluster also comes with a race timer.
The Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster hasn't been recalled in some time, but there was an issue relating to an improperly deploying airbag towards the end of 2017. If the drop-top does let you down, Mercedes offers a standard limited/powertrain warranty that runs for four years or 50,000 miles.
It's pretty normal for high-priced exotics not to be flung into a wall of cement, and that's the case with the AMG GT Roadster as well; both the IIHS and NHTSA have not evaluated this Mercedes for crashworthiness.
Providing some peace of mind are all the expected safety items in a car like this. As standard, the GT Roadster comes with brake assist, electronic stability control, dual roll bars, and a suite of eight airbags including knee airbags for both occupants. In addition, the AMG comes with front/rear parking sensors, front and rearview cameras, LED high-performance headlights, attention assist, adaptive cruise control, pre-safe, and adaptive high-beam assist. There are a few notable omissions, though, and you'll need to go for the GT C to get standard blind-spot monitoring and lane-keep assist.
Almost every car that Mercedes-Benz makes now has an AMG high-performance variant, but this hasn't diluted the appeal of the AMG GT. It has seductive styling, a wonderful twin-turbo V8 engine, and surprising agility. Inside, you get a luxuriously tailored cabin with most of the mod cons you'd expect, bar a few key driver-assist technologies. In roadster form, the ability to drop the roof and hear that V8 howl even more loudly only adds to the fun. While it can't match the searing pace of the quickest Audi R8 and Porsche 911, you rarely find yourself driving the AMG and thinking about how much better things could be behind the wheel of something else - it's this that could be the GT Roadster's finest achievement. If you have the money and can live with the slightly confining cabin, it's an achingly desirable machine that will provide many years of joy.
At the time of writing, Mercedes had yet to reveal pricing for the AMG GT Roadster, but last year's base GT started at just over $127,000, with the GT C adding another $30,000 or so to that.
Last year, we chose the AMG GT C as our pick, but the base GT makes a stronger case for itself this time around. It's very nearly as quick and now comes with extras like the AMG composite braking system and adaptive dampers, while still coming in at a saving over the GT C. That said, we'd still go for the more powerful GT C with its more aggressive appearance, bigger tires, higher-quality upholstery, and improved handling thanks to the addition of rear-axle steering.
Mechanically identical and with similar performance, both the drop-top and fixed-roof versions of the AMG GT are spectacular sports cars. The base versions each receive a bump up in power to 523 hp this year and some added extra features. They're also similarly kitted out, but the roadster does have the option of lowering the roof for those breezy summer days. In the coupe, you do get more headroom than when the roadster's roof is closed, plus close to double the cargo space; the coupe offers 10.1 cubic feet while the roadster can only manage 5.8. For these reasons alone, the coupe is the more practical choice between the two. The coupe is also less expensive, leaving more room to add a few options. Either way, both versions are an absolute blast to drive.
At first glance, the 911 Carrera Cabriolet appears positively modest alongside the GT Roadster. Although sleek and sporty, the 911 isn't nearly as much of a visual attack on the senses as the AMG. To drive, the 911 is anything but modest, though. Even the base model with just 379 hp takes little more than four seconds to reach 60 mph, and when properly equipped, the more powerful 4S will out-sprint the Mercedes. The 911 not only offers all-wheel drive, but the availability of a wonderful manual gearbox as well. In any configuration, the 911 is a more balanced proposition. It's sharp without being twitchy, feels lighter on its feet (mostly because it is), and is even comfortable on the highway. The 911 has rear seats, but they're not anything approaching spacious. While the Mercedes is more exciting, it's difficult to argue with the all-round competence of the Porsche.