2021 Mercedes AMG GT, All you want to know about a Great Car
2021 Mercedes AMG GT Black Series First Test: Hyper Focus
Keeping your eye on the prize at the expense of everything else.
- Otherworldly athleticism and reflexes
- So, so much power
- Absolutely obliterates racetracks
- Not appropriate for anything resembling daily driving
- Could use a bit more steering feel
- Takes hours to find its limits, if you can even reach them
There’s a well-worn chestnut in the automotive world that it’s better for a given car to be a chef’s knife than a multitool, to transcend in one specific discipline rather than be OK in several areas. An expert beats out a dilettante. Whether or not this particular sentiment holds water is rarely if ever up for debate; that’s why it’s a chestnut. Most car people just seem to accept it a priori. It’s dogma. As for me, sure, I love a distinct, clear-cut tool like a Caterham 7. It has one purpose: to go fast.
Everything else like comfort, practicality, safety, and your skin be damned. That said, I also love the Rivian R1T, a truck with more superpowers—835 hp, 3.1-second 0-60 time, luxury cabin, off-road chops to conquer Moab, built-in stove!—than a giant squid. Now that’s all been said, meet the Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series, a car built for one reason and one reason only: to set the production car lap record on the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
Guess what: The mighty AMG did exactly that, beating out the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ’s 6:44.97 record run by more than a second, with a time of 6:43.62. Impressive, especially when you consider the GT Black Series’ time is a massive 21-second improvement over the AMG GT R Pro’s ‘Ring performance. To quote a certain hotel heiress, that’s huge.
Hats off to Mercedes-AMG for setting such an ambitious goal and then achieving it. (And before you fire off any angry emails, yes, there’s the tuned Porsche 911 GT2 RS with the Manthey Performance Kit, which is an aftermarket purchase. You cannot buy a GT2 RS from the Porsche factory capable of repeating the Manthey car’s 6:43.30 lap. The GT Black Series is also notable because it’s the very last car that former AMG CEO/current Aston Martin CEO Tobias Moers signed off on. Talk about going out on a high.)
What makes the latest Black Series so capable on the world’s best racetrack? For an in-depth explanation of every reason, please read Angus MacKenzie’s first drive review. It gets into all the nit and grit. From a 1,000-foot view, the GT BS gets a souped-up version of AMG’s omnipresent 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V-8. Thanks to such niceties as a flat-plane crank, reworked camshafts, and a new exhaust system, the M178 LS2 whips out 720 horsepower between 6,700 and 6,900 rpm, as well as a vigorous 590 lb-ft of torque from 2,000 to 6,000 rpm.
Read those numbers again. Staggering stuff, especially considering that the version of this engine in the GT R makes “only” 577 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. Every piece of the suspension has been gone through, the aero’s extreme—why yes, the wing does have a wing on it—and the Michelin Pilot Sport 2 R tires are simply fantastic. There’s even a 328-foot-long carbon fiber thread that wraps around the transmission mounting points to save 3.4 ounces. I’m not even sure what I just typed, but the results on the Nürburgring speak for themselves.
What About At The Test Track?
Glad you asked, because our test team put the GT Black Series through its paces, and in some respects the results were historic. Let’s start with acceleration. They’re not groundbreaking, but the numbers are seriously quick for a rear-drive car. The GT BS clocks in at a relatively trim 3,655 pounds, down from the GT R’s 3,680-pound figure, and it hits 60 mph in 2.9 seconds before covering the quarter mile in a pretty dang quick 10.6 seconds at 136.1 mph.
While there are rear-drive cars that have done better, that population is small. However, in terms of the GT Black Series’ actual competition, most of them do accelerate quicker. The 711-hp, 3,398-pound Ferrari F8 Tributo ties the Mercedes to 60 mph but outguns it in the quarter at 10.3 seconds at 139.3 mph. The Ferrari is not alone.
The naturally aspirated, also RWD, 3,390-pound Lamborghini Huracán STO, which has 90 fewer ponies and 153 fewer lb-ft of torque, hits 60 in 2.8 seconds. Then there’s the out-of-production but still relevant Porsche GT2 RS that’s not only quicker to 60 mph (2.6 seconds) but scoots down the quarter in 10.3 seconds at 139.3 mph. Blimey. Speaking of Britishisms, have you heard of the McLaren 720S?
That fully carbon-fiber, 711-hp, 3,167-pound rocket hits 60 mph in 2.5 seconds—beating even the 755-hp 765LT’s 2.8-second blast—and blows through the quarter mile in 10.1 seconds at 141.5 mph. That not only bullies the GT Black Series, but also tops the 765LT by 0.1 second.
The 3,093-pound 765LT seems to be traction limited at the launch, as its trap speed is an insane 144.5 mph. What about the big (3,902-pound), bad (760-hp), AWD Aventador SVJ that the AMG took the ‘Ring record from? It can reach 60 mph in 2.5 seconds and conquer the quarter in 10.3 seconds at 136.4 mph. You can see plainly the AMG is not the quickest.
Nor does it have the best brakes, though it almost has the best brakes. The 991.2 Porsche GT2 RS and Dodge Viper ACR sit tied in our record books for the shortest stop we’ve ever recorded from 60 mph: 87 feet. The GT Black hauls itself down from 60 mph in a super-short 93 feet, tying it with the significantly lighter 720S, and beating every other car mentioned above save for the Porsche. The Ferrari is worst here, needing a still damn good 98 feet to stop from 60. If I may share another automotive adage with you: A car is only as good as its brakes. Think about it.
Handling is where the AMG GT Black Series really distinguishes itself. The ‘Ring champ’s figure-eight time of 21.9 seconds muscled its way into a three-way tie for all-time first place along with the aforementioned Porsche GT2 RS and the million-dollar McLaren Senna. Its peak grip of 1.17 g beats every car I mentioned previously, with the lone exception of that darn Porsche. They tie.
So, there are the data points that help explain why this extreme Mercedes beat every other production car ever made around the Nordschleife. Just before I wrote this story, I happened to have dinner with Tobias Moers, and he told me two interesting things. One is that a version of this engine will appear in an upcoming mid-engine Aston Martin, very likely the next Vanquish. The other is that even to him, the GT Black Series is a bit of a one-trick pony.
Liked And Respected
That’s the thing. We like this car, we respect this car, but nobody on staff loves this car. Well, cards on the table, I personally loved the GT Black around one particular high-speed corner of a track because I was able to tackle said corner at 120 or so mph, about 15 mph faster than I’ve ever dared in any other car. But on the street? Or at least on the winding canyon road? Didn’t work so hot.
What’s the problem on public roads? My theory is that racetracks—where the AMG was designed to shine—are relatively wide. At its narrowest, the ‘Ring is about 40 feet across. A public road in California? One lane is 12 feet wide on the freeway, less than that up in the mountains. I’m thinking the AMG just can’t fully function inside such tight quarters. It needs more room to maneuver. Of course, being a great or even good street car was never the point. One mission: Beat Lamborghini on the ‘Ring. That’s it.
We did take the Black Series to a track, but in hindsight it was the wrong track. Willow Springs has two tracks, the high-speed, nine-turn, expert-level (meaning dangerous) Big Willow, and the much smaller, slower, and safer Streets of Willow. We were on Streets, and the poor AMG found itself constantly in slow, second- or even first-gear corners. The exact opposite of what the ultrafast Nürburgring is like.
On the Streets of Willow, the AMG hit perhaps 130 mph at the very end of the straight. I can think of four separate sections on the ‘Ring where the Black Series would be above 150 mph (if not faster) and would be sitting at those speeds for long chunks of time. A low-speed, junior-varsity track just isn’t the place for a monster of this nature. Then there’s the price, which isn’t low. It’s $327,050 to start, $335,595 as tested, and greedy dealers are charging—and getting—$300K over sticker. Not kidding.
Where does that leave the 2021 AMG GT Black Series? Well, if bragging rights are your thing, it’s hard to beat a car that’s quickest around the world’s benchmark track. Huge accomplishment and bravo to you, AMG. And if you think about the money people are spending to procure one of the 1,700 that will ever be built, it’s clear at least some portion of the wealthy car-collector community views this car as an investment.
And they’re probably right. For me, though? The car is too focused, too compromised, too specialized. In the same way a Toyota Prius sacrifices almost every other characteristic upon the altar of efficiency, the GT Black Series is simply too much in one direction. I’d be much happier with an AMG that can do it all. Which is why, for years, I’ve been recommending the AMG GT C to anyone who will listen. Sometimes too much just isn’t enough.
2021 Mercedes AMG GT Overview
The absolutely stunning bodywork of the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GT will no doubt draw your eye, but it’s more than just a pretty face. The low and wide GT is also an extremely capable high-performance sports car. This is Mercedes’s front-engine answer to the rear-engine Porsche 911. Offered at various point points, the GT features a hand-built twin-turbo V-8. Although this AMG isn’t as immersive to drive as its archrival from Porsche, it’s still super athletic, and most models are surprisingly civil on streets that aren’t racetrack smooth.
Those who prefer a more refined grand tourer will appreciate the 523-hp GT and 550-hp GT C, and those with sportier desires will gravitate toward the 577-hp GT R and GT R Pro. Most models are available in coupe and softtop-roadster forms, but the track-focused Pro and almighty 720-hp Black Series are hardtop only.
What’s New for 2021?
For 2021, AMG gives the basic GT fresh standard features, more power, and a Stealth Edition. With an additional 54 horsepower and 29 pound-feet of torque, the GT’s engine now makes 523 ponies and 494 pound-feet. Estimated acceleration times and top speeds also increase, with a claimed 60-mph time of 3.7 seconds (two-tenths quicker than before) and a top speed of 194 mph for the coupe and 193 mph for the roadster.
Both body styles now come standard with a lithium-ion starter battery, a Race drive mode, the AMG Ride Control sport suspension with adaptive dampers, an electronic limited-slip rear differential, and a braking system with iron rotors and red-painted aluminum calipers. The Stealth Edition gives the GT a sinister look, with blacked-out elements on the inside and outside of the car.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
Given its power bump and expanded feature content, the regular GT should do the trick. The coupe costs significantly less than the roadster, but we prefer the pageantry and open-air experience that comes with the droptop. We’d select a set of the 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels for the look and enhance the GT’s luxury by choosing one of the nappa-leather options for the cabin. Lastly, to help us fully appreciate our six-figure investment, we’d spec the ventilated front seats, passive hands-free entry, and 10-speaker Burmester sound system.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Every Mercedes-AMG GT has a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, but depending on which model you select, the hand-built engine will deliver a different output level. It produces 523 horsepower on the base GT, which comes standard with adaptive dampers and a limited-slip rear differential. Mercedes hasn’t detailed any changes to the 2021 GT C and GT R engines, but in the previous model year, they made 550 and 577 horsepower, respectively.
The last GT C roadster we tested was brutally quick, and with the top down, it allowed us to fully appreciate the sound of AMG’s snarling exhaust note. We’ve also driven the even sportier GT R roadster and GT R Pro coupe. The former isn’t quite as quick as some mid-engine rivals, but we still appreciate its surprisingly civil ride. The Pro is perhaps a little too hardcore for daily driving duties, but its myriad enhancements over the R make it quicker and more entertaining to drive at the racetrack.
The new Black Series takes up the mantle as the ultimate GT coupe: It’s essentially a street-legal race car. Along with using more lightweight materials and a host of track-focused modifications, it features a flat-plane-crank version of AMG’s twin-turbo V-8 and makes a whopping 720 horsepower.
Starting at $154,550
- HIGHSTwin-turbo V-8 makes great power and sounds, truly showstopping styling, hugely capable and surprisingly civil.
- LOWSDriving experience isn’t as intimate as the 911’s, not as quick as some rivals, cabin may cause claustrophobia.
- VERDICTThe GT’s robust lineup is objectively gorgeous and impressively balanced for street or track duty.
2021 Mercedes AMG GT, On Youtube