The GT Pro is a serious track weapon. There’s no overlooking the meaner visual cues: a longer front splitter braced by small metal rods and flanked by flics (those small winglets at the front corners of the fender); slotted front wheel arches for increased downforce; a carbon roof with a slight double bubble profile; and a beefier, fixed rear spoiler mounted on slick milled aluminum brackets.
But what really matters on track is underneath. The 577-horsepower twin-turbo 4.0 liter V8 and seven-speed dual-clutch remain unaltered, as does its bass-heavy boom spilling from the tail with a palpable pulse. What sets the GT Pro apart is a series of stiffening, sharpening and refining measures. The underside gets a carbon fiber shear panel, a structural reinforcement that stiffens up the rear end for added stability. Retuned dynamic engine and transmission mounts yield a more direct feeling between powertrain and chassis. Further sharpening the handling are details like uniball spherical bearings at the upper rear axle wishbones (the GT R only has the stiffer setup on the lowers), which significantly limit toe-in and camber play for more buttoned-down body control at the limit. New coilovers are two-way adjustable, while trick carbon fiber roll bars (with a hollow design at the rear) round out the suspension upgrades.
It was cold and wet during my track time at the Hockenheim Grand Prix circuit, but I learned quite a bit about the Pro’s refinements. Climb into the cabin and, at least in the European model on hand, a roll cage, fixed bucket seats, and four-point racing harnesses greet you like a proper race car. A few upgraded interior items gracing all 2020 GT models include new TFT mode-setting buttons on the steering wheel and a big 10.25-inch multimedia screen alongside a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster for an added bit of techy modernity. But the GT R’s cabin ergonomics are certainly not for everyone. From the massive transmission tunnel to the awkward backwards reach required to click into ‘Drive,’ the AMG GT R has a lot of form follows function going on. The shifter’s positioning is so weird I found it easier to shift into D with my elbow.
Once you become accustomed to clunky parts of the low-slung cabin, the GT R Pro’s driver seat proves a buttoned-down space from which to maneuver this long-nosed supercar. There’s a simple purposefulness to the new steering-wheel-mounted buttons, which use tiny TFTs to display mode settings. While the cabin is upholstered with a typical six-figure sportscar’s combination of leather, carbon and Alcantara trim, it’s neither strikingly stylish like an Aston’s, nor is it as classically executed as a 911. Rather, the GT R Pro (or all the other GT models, for that matter) feels and looks like the purpose-built, high-speed AMG that it is.
As with all AMG GTs, the lengthy nose turns with disarming ease, a trait that descends from its SLS AMG ancestor. The GT, however, is aided by a rear-wheel steering system that enhances agility at lower speeds while increasing stability during the high-speed stuff. It, along with other parameters like traction control, are governed by a so-called AMG Dynamics system. The settings can be adjusted to one of four modes — Basic, Advanced, Pro, or Master — and uses variables such as speed, steering angle and yaw rate to control the car’s level of sideways debauchery. Considering my drive consisted of a high-speed cat-and-mouse game with Bernd “Mr. DTM” Schneider in the rain at speeds up to 150 mph, I opted for the recommended “Sport +” setting — the reins are looser than in Sport, but tighter than in Race.
My tester was equipped with the optional Pirelli P Zero street tires, not the Pro model’s standard Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s. The choice was made based on the cold, wet conditions, and it seemed to be a wise one. The GT Pro accelerates with good straight-line traction in the wet, with the electronic rear differential laying down the power effectively. Turn in is sharp, and especially at lower speeds you can feel the tail rotating thanks to the rear-wheel steering. The system is smart enough to not induce oversteer, while feeling quite natural in the process.
This particular experience at Hockenheim turns out to be an odd one because the wet racing line is the most effective, but not necessarily the most intuitive, way around the track. And even when following Bernd Schneider’s tire tracks, it’s possible to be caught off guard — like when I directed just a touch too much of the V8’s 516 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels during a high-speed corner and felt the tail snap, which almost immediately corrected itself via traction control. It was a heart-stopping moment that would have been virtually impossible to fix without electronic intervention at those speeds and with so much torque on hand.
And yet the electronics didn’t feel overtly intrusive throughout much of my track sessions. Sure, you get a little sideways every now and then, but the GT’s front/mid-engine, rear transaxle arrangement offers enough balance to make the chassis respond predictably and progressively. Brake feel is excellent, offering enough feedback to make it relatively easy to avoid excessive use of the anti-lock braking system. Once or twice it did trigger more than I wanted it to, but a quick release and re-application of the pedal made it easy to regain control.
Would I have preferred dry, high-grip conditions under which to test the new King of the AMG GT Hill? No doubt, yes. But what I did learn about the GT R Pro’s performance in the wet conveyed the solidity of its underpinnings and a degree of finesse and feedback that suggested it would be a phenomenal performer in the dry. One clue to its ultimate nature: a camouflaged version clocked a verified 7:04.632 time at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, some 6 seconds quicker than the standard issue GT R. Considering the two share the exact same powerplant, that’s an impressive feat — and makes the GT R Pro an appealing choice for those seeking the ultimate track capability from Mercedes-AMG … at least until the Black Series comes.