Heavy Metal

The open-top version of the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT coupe is an adrenaline-fueled, 196-mph breath of fresh air

Mercedes-Benz’s new AMG GT C Roadster is the automotive equivalent of Led Zeppelin. Blip the throttle and you’ll swear you hear Whole Lotta Love blasting through tailpipes the size of storm drains.

Accelerating from standstill is a rather explosive affair in a car that can hit 60 in a neck-straining 3.7 seconds. The thunder of that big 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 ascending past the 4,000-rpm mark will make every part of your body tingle. I love this car.

When it hits showrooms this fall, it’ll be available in two guises: The aforementioned GT C Roadster, priced from $157,995, and the marginally more restrained AMG GT Roadster, with a $125,395 sticker.

See either in the metal and they look like the fruits of a wild-night coupling between Darth Vader and Courtney Love. Could a car face be any angrier?

There’s history behind this devilish design. The mile-wide grille, with its 15 vertical chrome teeth and platter-sized three-pointed star, was a feature of Mercedes’ iconic 300 SL, which competed in the Mexican Carrera Panamericana race back in the early ’50s.

There’s even more drama in the rear, where LED taillights wrap around divine curves. This is a case of breathtaking form following techno function.

Slide behind that wonderfully chunky, suede-covered wheel for a taste of the intimate interior. The AMG sports seats, with their pronounced side bolsters, may be perfect for lapping Sebring, but some drivers might consider them a little too huggy and overly firm for daily driving.

I’m really no fan of the instrument layout, either, especially the center console area. That huge quartet of vents looks like it came from a Pep Boys catalog, while the slot-in iPad seems flimsily mounted. Don’t get me started on that shrunk-in-the-wash mini shifter placed way too far back for comfort. Or the complete lack of usable storage space. Or the excessive wind buffeting with the top down. But to drive this car is to be 18 again—and prom night is here.

The GT C Roadster delivers performance and grit, with 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque. That’s significantly more than the 469 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of the regular (never call it base) GT Roadster.

The C also comes with more performance-focused technology, like rear-wheel steering, a limited-slip differential, and a Race driving mode that injects concentrated Red Bull into every system. It is brutally quick, especially mid-range when those twin turbos are blowing their hardest and approaching warp speed.

As you’d expect of an AMG-created cruise missile, the GT C Roadster carves curves like a Hot Wheels slot car. The steering feels like an extension of the frontal lobe; you don’t so much turn the wheel as think about it. Add to that the Gorilla Glue grip from the tires that is nothing less than otherworldly.

That being said, the regular GT Roadster is an equally magnificent beast, but with the intensity level ratcheted down a notch or two. It feels just as insanely fast but with a slightly smoother ride, a less manic soundtrack, and a mellower persona. It might be my favorite of the two, and I can’t remember the last time I reckoned less expensive was better.

POWER FILE

PRICE: $125,395 GT Roadster, $157,995 GT C Roadster ENGINE: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 POWER: 476-hp/557-hp C TORQUE: 464 lb-ft/502 lb-ft C TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic 0-60: 4.0/3.7 seconds TOP SPEED: 188/196 mph LENGTH/WIDTH: 178.9/76.3 (79 for C) inches

WHY WE LOVE IT: Because Porsche’s benchmark 911 Cabriolet finally has a true, hard-to-resist rival.

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