Video: Mercedes GT R Vs. Nissan GT-R At Laguna Seca

In the world of streetable track toys, the 991 GT3 rules the roost—but there might be a new rooster in the hen house. Or there might be another pretender to the throne. Or something. In fact, there are two. Neither are too light, but they have bags of grip and more power than most drivers know what to do with. Both of them share a name, both have big wings, plenty of carbon, and two turbochargers apiece. Yet, they’re very different animals—and “animal” is the operative word here.

Nissan’s GT-R is a canyon carver that offers unrivaled traction and an assurance that, regardless of the surface or the shape of the corner, it’ll find a way around. For those who can manage the weight, it’s an all-weather weapon that’s near-indomitable in the real world. The Nismo version makes a healthy 600 horsepower, but peak torque is accessible in a narrow window from 3,600-5,600 rpm. It takes a regular pull of the paddle to keep the VR38DETT howling.

That’s not the only setback the big Japanese mecha suffers from. Predictably, the middle pedal gets soft over time. Even the $180,000 Nismo GT-R wears steel brakes, and at 3,911 pounds, something’s gotta give. Heft holds the GT-R back, as the track comparison illustrates.

The AMG has the classic curves, and the Nissan, the angular techno titan, has a way of leaving teenage boys smitten.

Younger, leaner, and much more shapely, the Mercedes AMG GT R has jumped onto the scene and shocked skeptical journalists with its poise and response. The upgrades to the GT R over the standard GT S are numerous: 585 horsepower, increased boost, more wing, active front aerodynamics, new springs and dampers make this green demon a real weapon on the track.

The 4.0-liter V8 pulls like a train from 1,900 rpm, and the linear power delivery means the rear wheels (aided by a transaxle) can almost harness the full 516 lb-ft. Over real world surface changes, bumps, and crowns, the stiffly-sprung AMG is not as capable; it slides more than most people would be comfortable with. That remains the chink in the AMG’s armor, as its full potential wouldn’t be accessible to most mortals on a dimpled backroad.

Then again, if you can afford an AMG GT R, you can probably purchase a few lessons from a local drift meister. ?t=30s”>As Chris Harris demonstrates, the big green Benz is a car that rewards a skilled set of hands. With a quick rack and more detail than the Nissan can dream of offering, the AMG is the malleable car that can be balanced on the knife edge. As he puts it, “It’s quite slideable, but it’s quite sharp and accurate when you want it to be.”

Posing on the picturesque Corkscrew.

On a quick track like Laguna Seca the win was fairly predictable. With more aero and less weight, the AMG brakes later into the Andretti Hairpin, and the traction is impressive for an FR machine; pulling out of the hairpin with the same ferocity. The Benz showcases its phenomenal front end when it rolls more speed into the challenging Turn Four, and with a flick of opposite lock the car is out on the rumble strips. It’s not a nervous or unsettling sort of oversteer, but the AMG, with its torque and lack of roll, gives the driver the ability to turn the car with throttle without roasting the rear. Plus, with the quicker rack, the corrections are much more easily applied. Contrast that to the steering movement required with the Nissan; one is definitely the scalpel and the other the cleaver.

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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