With my foot pinned to the brake pedal coming into a corner, the Mercedes-AMG GT R barks as it flicks down another gear. Its front end is eager, diving toward the apex with commitment. Cresting the uphill turn, a slow roll onto the throttle wakes the front-mid-mounted V-8, the power rotates the rear as the GT R squats out of the corner. Ears ringing, engine bellowing, more speed than I’d care to admit.
These moments always stand out—when it’s clear you’re not driving a good car, but a great one. A McLaren 720S on first corner exist, a Shelby Cobra 289 on first rotation, an S2000 hitting VTEC, and now a Mercedes-AMG GT R Roadster browbeating its way up Bear Mountain.
The speed isn’t the magic. Of course it’s fast; it’s a 577-horsepower sports car with AMG, GT, and R in the name. All three of those badges mean “the fast one.” By my count, that means the AMG GT R is speed cubed. That they make a GT R Pro and a Black Series version is hilarious overkill, the kind only available at Mercedes-AMG and Dodge dealerships with Hellcat inventory. This car already struggles to contain all 577 hp, its traction control working overtime to keep the massive P325/30R20 Michelin Sport Cup 2 rear tires from spinning as it rockets to 60 in 3.5 seconds. There are certainly faster cars, but few launch with the same hold-the-hell-on fervor.
Credit in part goes to the 7-speed dual-clutch transaxle. It’s delightfully uninterested in coddling you in its most aggressive setting, slamming through gears so forcefully that I’m convinced it’s made out of hammers. Few automatic gearboxes in the world are this fun to row through, each gear reports with a belly-shaking thunk. Dial the chassis and drivetrain into their comfort modes, though, and the shifts become sophisticated and smooth enough to fade into the background.
Noise, too, will burst from every seam of the GT R as you rocket down a backroad. Especially in drop-top guise, the AMG GT is one of the best sounding modern sports cars. Its deep, rolling-thunder note is complemented by sharp barks on downshifts, playful pops on exhaust overrun, and whip cracks on upshifts. Under every overpass and through every tunnel, I found myself dropping three gears or more and letting the wall of noise crescendo to redline.
All of this muscle car chest beating is charming enough as it is, the $210,290 Merc doing a convincing Shelby impression. But it’s in corners where the AMG GT defies inertia: a 600-hp, 3746-lb Mercedes with its engine in the front that somehow pirouettes with the precision and enthusiasm of a mid-engine supercar. Its long nose stretches for acres in front of you, but darts to the apex as soon as you breathe on the steering wheel. Positioned as you are directly above the rear axle, you get every ounce of the drama that each corner has to give. The bow of the big Merc is leading—still under your direction, but ripping you along from ahead as it rockets over an apex. Pin the throttle as it passes below you and you’ll feel yourself dip as the rear end squats to unleash the firepower on the next straight. You might get a similar driving sensation by steering a Sidewinder missile with a lasso, but you’d miss out on the GT R’s talkative steering.
All of it is raw, so unfiltered, that it’s perpetually surprising how advanced the GT R is. Its incredible turn-in comes from one of the best-tuned four-wheel-steering systems in the world. Ditto the traction control, that—despite not having the massive adjustability of the GT R coupe—gives you a lot of rope to slide around, but won’t let all 577 horses trample you.
The downsides are simple and common among supercars. First, it’s so mind-warpingly quick that it’s hard to find a road where you can really flog the GT R. Second, if you’re dead set on a GT R Roadster, Mercedes is only making 750 of them. After they’re gone, you’ll have to settle for a GT C Roadster. All the better—the GT R is so stiff, low, and aggressive, most people would be better off with the 550-hp GT C that’s likely just as much fun. Last, the GT R Roadster’s $189,750 base price ($210,290 as equipped) may cause fits. The car is objectively too fast and aggressive for road use, and pricey for most buyers. But if you can handle those drawbacks, the AMG GT is the most exciting, tactile, all-consuming front-engine sports car on sale right now.