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The perfect combo: Potent McLaren 570s Spider and monstrous Mercedes-AMG GT C - two incredibly unique sports cars driven in SA

2018-06-15 11:56

Charlen Raymond

Image: Warren Wilson - McLaren / Mercedes-AMG

'Two very different approaches to building a super sports car but with amazing results,' Charlen Raymond experiences both the McLaren 570s Spider and Mercedes-AMG GT C.

"Behold!" a man once said as he unveiled an object of beautiful proportions to an audience at an undisclosed event. 

The room fell quiet as onlookers gasped for breath, holding onto their chests as with beating hearts they marveled at the sight before them. Rotating in front of glistening eyes the object is shown from all angles as the audience remain stationary. 

One person, the biggest man in the room, sheds a loose tear while clutching his sweaty fists. His throat feels heavy. 

He wants to say something, but he’s afraid it will not do what he has just seen justice.

It might not be in everyone’s taste, but both McLaren and Mercedes-AMG have done the exact same thing to audiences the world over; Mercedes-AMG with its AMG GT C, and McLaren with the 570s Spider.

Both cars are convertibles, but Merc refers to theirs as a Roadster and McLaren to theirs as a Spider. And though the audiences they are targeted at are literally worlds apart, they share one very important aspect - they speak to the inner you!

GALLERY: 2018 McLaren 570s Spider

Images: Mercedes-AMG / Warren Wilson (McLaren 570s)

Going about 'beauty'

Mercedes-AMG and McLaren have very different approaches as to how they define beauty. Which is fair, because everyone is entitled to how they see and perceive it. 

Some manufacturers, though, manage to alienate onlookers with some very awful designs, but in these two vehicles, both McLaren and Merc-AMG managed to attract onlookers. It’s an emotional journey the observer embarks upon when confronted with them. Traffic comes to a standstill, cell phones are yanked out for that quick video or photo before the moment is over, and bystanders drop whatever they’re busy with just to marvel. Marvel at these cars.

Their respective designs are over-the-top, yet indulging. 

In the 570s Spider’s case, it’s a story of sensuality and sex appeal. The low-slung design, bulging wheel arches, the headlights with their distinctive McLaren signature… it's a recipe for success. 

It’s an engaging creation that edges you on, pushes you to daydream, right there where you’re standing. Not to mention that dramatic rear! Dang it, it’s got to be one of the automotive world’s sexiest derrieres

This car literally is poetry in motion. The AMG GT C, on the other hand, has a different approach to how it sees beauty. 

In typical AMG fashion, it’s in your face. It’s bold and downright loud; screaming its arrival even with the engine off. The big grille with its overwhelming presence drives the engagement, it leads a VERY long bonnet that houses a big, compact engine, followed by a tight (but spacious) cabin and a very short rear overhang. It’s typical roadster territory this design, but it looks good. 

It looks... fun.

Both McLaren and Mercedes-AMG drew inspiration from their years in motorsport to come up with their very own takes on how they perceive the sports car to look. There is nothing wrong with either design - in fact, it's utterly enticing! - but it highlights the unique approaches and the endless amount of possibilities of how we perceive sports cars to be.                      

From behind the wheel(s)

Just as much as these two cars are about the emotional, they’re also about the experience from behind the steering wheel. There is no direct line of comparison between how these cars go about their business, but there is one common thread that runs between them - driving either of them is an incredible smile-evoking experience.

The AMG GT C, like the McLaren, is very low to the ground and one has to almost slump into the seat. 

However, in neither car, the process of getting in and out is an uncomfortable one. But back to the Merc. Fire up the engine and it springs to life with that deep AMG V8 grumble. The bi-turbo 4.0-litre petrol engine burbling with a hoarse throat. And on cold mornings or late at night an unrefined bark fills the air, sending shivers up your spine.

It’s both intoxicating and addictive. Glorious! 

But typical Mercedes-Benz, the car purrs along nicely. At cruising speeds the engine does not sound under strain, nor does it have to be revved into the stratosphere in order to overtake someone. When needed, a slight dab of the accelerator is all it takes to almost instantly pass slower traffic.

But mesh the throttle and the car hurls forward with intent. The bellowing growl of the V8 engine escaping out of the exhaust, followed by pops and snaps as being conservative with fuel makes way for open-mouth smiles. All 410kW and 700Nm are unleashed and all that power, like the 570s Spider, is sent to the rear wheels only.

The car does feel balanced but because the engine is in front of the driver, there is not much weight on the rear axle. Which means that the rear can be a bit light, resulting in it being very easy getting the tale to step out. It’s an intense experience and the amount of power can, at times, sneak up on the driver. Unsuspecting pilots can be caught out by the vastness of the power range, but preparedness can be key to keeping this tyre burner in check.

Image: Mercedes-AMG

The McLaren 570s Spider, part of the British automaker’s Sports Series, is a beast of a whole different colour. The number of explicit words that can be used to describe the driving experience will 1) not be enough and 2) not do it justice. This McLaren is an outspoken car with the personality of a cage fighter on the catwalk. It’s incredibly intense! Just outside Cape Town, in the hills surrounding the many wine estates, the 570s Spider stretched its legs on the quiet back roads.

With the Spider’s roof down, the 419kW/600Nm turbocharged 3.8-litre V8 engine screams at full tilt behind the driver. Gear changes happen at a moment’s notice, the car feeling planted around bends: stable as the right foot slams on the throttle and precise as the steering wheel is turned in a direction. The liveliness of the suspension keeps one well aware of what is happening and it entices the senses to push the car to its limits. 

But sadly, though the car was by no means close to being driven to its limits, I could not bring myself to go beyond what I was capable of. Though the car had lots more to offer, I offered enough of myself.

And that right there is an aspect McLaren is quite proud of: the adaptability of their 570s. Though being a high-end sports car, it can adapt itself to the demands of any and whatever driving condition. 

That’s because one can adjust both the handling and power delivery of the vehicle. Both traits can be tuned to either Normal, Sport, or Track. The ideal combination, it turns out, is to have handling in Normal and power delivery in Sport.

In doing so the car offers kidney-friendly suspension, but with the punching power of Mike Tyson in his prime. 

What counts in the Spider’s favour is the fact that its engine sits behind the driver, on the rear axle. This means that the rear-wheel driven McLaren’s backside is planted most of the time, which builds confidence seeing that the chassis reacts in tandem with what the rear does. Whether in the city or doing a hill climb on a deserted road, the McLaren 570s Spider is one of the purest sports cars on our roads.

Both these cars feature carbon ceramic brakes as opposed to steel units for maximum stopping power, all the time. Each also has a seven-speed automatic gearbox to transfer the engine’s muscle to the road.

Image: Warren Wilson

Conclusion

It’s a mesh of emotions to put into writing just how amazing the drives in these two cars were. 

The 570s Spider, if only for a few hours, astounded with its insane levels of competency and ability to adapt to various roads and driving styles. 

Though a true sports car through and through, it can function as a daily. And thanks to the second-generation carbon-fibre tub that houses the interior, it is an easier-to-live-with car. The GT C, second only behind the behemoth GT R, is AMG’s flagship convertible. 

It encompasses user-friendly Mercedes-Benz traits, but with the punch of power AMG is known for. And the various driving modes does bring something unique to the table in terms of how the car reacts to driver inputs.

Both cars take you on an emotional journey; one that leaves you pondering their majestic nature. It’s a journey to fulfillment, to motoring nirvana, where, if only for a day, you can indulge in the very best of what the world of cars has to offer. Two very different approaches to building a super sports car, but with amazing results.

Good luck with clutching your fists and fighting back the tears.

Charlen Raymond is co-editor of #AfrikaansePaartjie.


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