2020 Mercedes AMG GT R Pro first drive review: Porsche 911 beater

The Porsche 911 remains the epitome of the everyday sort of sports car – and, depending on the trim, the everyday supercar as well – but the title of best German sports car is getting a serious challenge by the updated 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT. Now offered in four trim levels, from the GT, and GT C, through the GT R, and finally the track-focused GT R Pro, it's the latter, most intense version of AMG's fearsome coupe that should be giving Porsche some sleepless nights.

"No other current production Mercedes-AMG is as close to motor racing as the new AMG GT R Pro," Tobias Moers, Chairman of the Management Board of Mercedes-AMG GmbH, explained to me. "The AMG GT embodies the core of our brand. At its debut four years ago, it not only turned the heads of customers and sports car enthusiasts but also created new dimensions in the competitive department."

Four years in, and it's time for a minor refresh. All model year 2020 Mercedes AMG GT cars now come with new LED headlights, similar to those fitted to the Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door. It gives the sports car a more menacing and aggressive look. Combined with the new AMG Panamericana grille design introduced in the reworked 2018 AMG GT, the new car will make the Porsche 911 and Audi R8 look tame by comparison, which is no bad thing. The exterior changes continue at the back, with a new rear fascia, frosted tail-lights, and revised tailpipe designs.

Thankfully, Mercedes-AMG retained the glorious AMG-tuned 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 motor in the 2020 Mercedes AMG GT. The standard GT Coupe and Roadster gets 469 horsepower, while the GT C has 550 horsepower courtesy of its turbocharged V8. If that's not enough, the GT R and new GT R Pro should satisfy your appetites. Both models squeeze out 577 horsepower from the V8, and receive a host of new kit to further refine the handling and precision of the vehicle, most particularly in the GT R Pro.

It starts with a newly-developed AMG coilover suspension system, which can be configured individually for any particular racetrack. The coilovers were designed specifically for the GT R Pro and allow the driver to dial in the perfect settings for spring preload length and damper rebound/compression. Unlike conventional aftermarket coilovers, the settings can be changed without using special tools and can be done quickly via an integrated adjustment dial on the dampers. In the real world of performance driving, the biggest benefit of an adjustable suspension system is controlling or influencing dive and body roll under hard acceleration, braking, and cornering as needed.

The suspension changes in the Mercedes-AMG GT Pro go further, with the rear torsion bar now crafted from hollow steel. This not only saves weight but is adjustable as well. In the meantime, the front torsion bar is also adjustable and is made of carbon fiber for additional weight saving. The GT R Pro also receives Uniball spherical bearings in the upper wishbones. Where previous models of the AMG GT get the same set-up in the lower wishbones of the rear axle, the GT R Pro gets the same treatment in the upper wishbones. The result is better handling and traction since the toe-in and camber settings remain the same even under high loads.

The Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro also receives retuned dynamic engine and transmission mounts. This not only improves the agility of the vehicle, but it also brings better feedback and high-precision response when you're attacking an off-camber and winding bend. And, paying homage to Mercedes GT3 and GT4 race cars, is the redesigned front apron. There are now two flicks at the sides of the carbon-fiber apron, which transitions seamlessly into the front splitter. This helps to stabilize the front splitter at higher speeds. It also gives the AMG GT R Pro a race-ready look.

The GT R Pro comes standard with a bevy of carbon-fiber trim and components including front splitters, fender fins, side mirrors, rear spoiler, and rear diffuser. The spoiler is even fitted with a spoiler lip to further increase downforce in the rear axle. And as with all AMG GT models, the GT R Pro also comes with a redesigned carbon-fiber roof to lower the center of gravity. When all is said and done, the GT R Pro can produce 200 pounds of additional downforce at 155 mph compared to the GT R with approximately two-thirds of the downforce pushing over the front axle.

It won't be hard to discern the AMG GT R Pro on the road. It comes with unique vehicle wrapping and traditional racing stripes that run on the long hood, roof, and hatch. The stripes are also evident on the sides of the vehicle. You can choose not to have the GT R Pro wrapped, if you like the sheen and brilliance of a painted finish. However, if you're buying the new 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro for track duty, choosing the standard wrap is advisable to protect the paint.

The interior changes are impressive as well. All models of the Mercedes-AMG GT now come standard with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.25-inch multimedia display, which is again derived from the GT 4-Door. Of course, no AMG model is complete without the new AMG performance steering wheel, which again made its debut in the AMG GT 4-door coupe. It comes with the familiar three-spoke design, integrated touch control buttons, galvanized gearshift paddles, and a flattened bottom section for a unique sporty feel. The tiller is covered in black Nappa leather in the GT while the GT C gets a combination of leather and DINAMICA microfiber. The GT R gets the full DINAMICA treatment in the steering wheel. Considering microfiber is good for picking up dirt and dust, I'm wondering how the finish and texture will last if you drive the AMG GT C and GT R Pro with sweaty palms and no racing gloves.

Sweaty palms seem like an occupational hazard, too. In order to extract pure, unadulterated driving performance, the 2020 Mercedes AMG GT packs a new AMG Dynamics driving mode in the AMG Dynamic Select System. Besides the usual Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus, Race, and Individual mode, the system now includes AMG Dynamics mode which integrates with the electronic stability program or ESP. AMG Dynamics will optimize power distribution in the rear axle while enhancing steering response. The system will basically calculate how the car reacts to deliver an almost telepathic driving experience. The AMG Dynamics setting is configurable in four modes: basic, advanced, pro, and master. The latter is only available in the GT C and GT R.

I spent some track time in the Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro under less-than-ideal weather conditions. While a slippery course may not be ideal for setting lap times, though, it did give me a better perspective on the behavior and dynamics of the vehicle. Mercedes remains silent on the curb weight of the GT R Pro, but the car easily breaks 60 mph from a standstill in 3.5-seconds. The top speed is rated at 198 mph. Straight-line speed is not the Pro's forte, though: it's in the track's corners where it truly shines. It accelerates brutishly, and it's easy for the rear tires to break traction in third gear with a heavy right foot. The upshifts are equally brutal but are nevertheless exciting, as the V8 obliges with a mighty roar. At this point, the fear factor is slowly creeping in. Couple this with the vulgar yet exhilarating exhaust bark at full chat, and you'll get nothing but goosebumps as you rush to the next corner.

Thankfully, the new GT R Pro is more obliging to the inputs of an average racing driver. Yes, the Pro may be the most hardcore version of the AMG GT, but AMG was able to make the car more approachable or willing to be tossed around without inducing a heart attack. In my opinion, the most special thing about the Pro is the willingness of the vehicle to communicate with the driver. But don't get me wrong. This car will bite you hard if you're not careful, but it does so in a gentler manner. The steering provides tons of feedback and the quick ratio makes it easier to correct mild oversteer. Make no mistake about it: the Pro is still very much an AMG car. It can slide its tail out like nobody's business, but the chassis and suspension settings allow you to make the slightest mistake without upsetting the stability and directional control of the vehicle.

It's safe to say the GT R Pro is not for novices or the faint of heart, but it's possibly the most extreme and rare AMG sports car yet. Mercedes will only build 750 examples of the GT R Pro, with 150 units slated for U.S deliveries. Considering the AMG GT R model commands around $170k without options, the GT R Pro won't come cheap with prices expected to start at $200k. The 2020 Mercedes AMG GT and GT R Pro are expected to go on sale later this year, but Porsche should start worrying today.