I’m being chased. He’s in my rear-view mirror, mid-teens and stocky, sprinting down the middle of the road. I slow for the lights and two more lads leap off the pavement, swarming around the car.
There’s no escape: their phones are out. It’s Saturday afternoon in Knightsbridge and I’ve just been papped by the supercar spotters.
To be fair, I was asking for it. The new Mercedes-AMG GT R isn’t exactly subtle, especially in its signature shade of Green Hell Magno – a snip at £7,500. The ‘Green Hell’ is, of course, Germany’s notorious Nürburgring circuit, where this 585hp coupe was honed over hundreds of hours to achieve one of the fastest production car lap-times ever. All of which is pretty much irrelevant on the Brompton Road; not that my new-found friends seem to care.
At less than £150,000, the GT R isn’t quite in the supercar big league – at least in terms of price. Its rivals are the Audi R8 and Porsche 911 Turbo, rather than the Ferrari 488 or Lamborghini Huracan. Yet the reaction it gets from London’s pre-pubescent petrolheads is second-to-none. We’re all over Snapchat and Instagram before we even reach Hyde Park.
There are three factors at play here. Firstly, Mercedes’ flagship sports car is rare: one of just a handful in the UK. Secondly, there’s the styling: squat, stanced and unashamedly voluptuous, with a gaping grille that recalls the 1952 Panamericana road racer. And lastly, there’s the noise: a traditional AMG V8 rumble amplified here to Spinal Tap levels of thunderous excess. God knows how it must sound at maximum attack on the ’Ring.
All very good, I hear you thinking, but how does it drive? After all, a car that’s optimised for the racetrack is correspondingly compromised for the road – right?
Well, yes, but you could conceivably use the GT R every day. In Comfort mode with the gearbox in Drive, it’s docile enough for stop-start traffic, the ride firm but not spine-shattering. And it’s well-appointed, too: the race-style seats are heated and well-padded, plus there’s sat nav, smartphone integration and an (optional) reversing camera.
I crawl conspicuously through south London, then point that oh-so-long bonnet towards the Sussex countryside. Shifting into Sport, then Sport Plus, the GT R comes alive, its sledgehammer-shove of turbocharged torque augmented by lightning-sharp throttle response and whipcrack manual gearshifts via the paddles.
The sheer ferocity of the thing is startling at first, but huge carbon-ceramic brakes and sticky, semi-slick tyres inspire confidence. This car doesn’t merely dispatch rural A- and B-roads, it demolishes them.
Then it starts to rain. Suddenly, those track tyres are scrabbling for traction and the tail twitches nervously as I exit a roundabout. The Mercedes feels transformed into an old-school muscle car, with far more grunt than grip. It’s a wild ride but, frankly, the four-wheel-drive AMG E 63 S saloon would be safer and more fun in these conditions.
So I stop at a cafe to let the clouds blow over, watching from the window as, once again, passers-by stop and gawp at the green-hued monster.
Perhaps it isn’t an everyday car after all. But this is the pure, distilled essence of AMG: ballistically quick, bombastically loud and – on the right road – brutally effective.
Purists will probably prefer the lighter, sharper 911 GT3, and the 522hp GT S is less manic and £30,000 cheaper.
Yet neither of those will assault your senses quite like the GT R, or cause a stampede of supercar spotters when you drive through London. Whether you’re at the wheel or simply a spectator, the ultimate AMG is pure four-wheeled theatre.