In the world of German luxury cars, there are no prisoners taken among Mercedes-Benz, BMW and the newly combined Porsche-Volkswagen conglomerate. Yet in the half-century since Porsche launched the 911, Mercedes has never brought out a sports car that matched the 911 head-on.
That changed today with this: the Mercedes-AMG GT — a two-seat, rear-wheel-drive, 463-hp tourer that takes dead aim at the 911 and others.
"We are venturing out into a challenging sports car segment with its top-class competitive field," said Thomas Weber, the head of Mercedes-Benz research and development. "This is an incentive and motivation for us at the same time to prove to sports car enthusiasts around the world the kind of performance that AMG is capable of."
After the SLS, the AMG GT is only the second car designed completely by AMG, once a separate firm but now a wholly owned unit. With a unique 4-liter V-8 twin-turbo engine, the AMG GT boasts 456 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. Engineers positioned the turbochargers and exhaust manifolds inside the cylinder banks rather than outside, a “hot inner V” layout that makes the engine more efficient and compact.
Mercedes-AMG has also eliminated the need for an oil pan, by using a dry sump system, allowing the engine and center of gravity to move closer to the road. Early tests put 0-60 mph times at 3.9 seconds, with a top speed of 189 miles per hour. The AMG GT S edition will sport 503 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque, with a top speed of 193 mph and a 0-60 mph time around 3.7 seconds.
The base Porsche 911 takes 4 seconds to make the same run.
The new AMG GT has the iconic proportions of a traditional rear-wheel drive car—a long hood paired with a short, wide tail, with the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission located in the rear for a 47/53 weight balance. Bulges on the hood give a subtle hint to the power underneath while two side air intakes give a historical nod to Mercedes sports car of yore. Based on the aluminium chassis of the SLS, the continuous glassed-in cockpit on the AMG GT gives the interior a spaciousness and comfort usually reserved for larger sedans and, despite its size, lines running along the sides give it an agile and light look.
Low and wide, the interior of the GT is designed to echo the cockpit of a fighter jet. Driving controls have been arranged in the shape of a V-8 engine on the center console. The AMG Drive Unit offers the driver control over both the ride and the sound of the car. Want to save gas and soften the ride? Hit the button labeled “C” for "controlled efficiency." How about bringing the car to redline? That’s what "manual" is for, and, where you can control the seven-speed automatic transmission by using the paddles attached to the flat-bottomed steering wheel. There's also a "sport plus" and a new feature called “I” or individual that allows the driver to personalize the ride and gearing to their liking.
The AMG GT S will have additional features. Amongst visual clues including red highlights on the speedometer, an AMG Affalterbach Crest on the center armrest and a blacked out front splitter, the GT S will have a special race mode that allows for faster, more aggressive shift speeds and an electronically controlled, rear-axle locking differential which helps improve the car’s performance at the limit.
For now, however, interested buyers will have to wait to own a piece of both Mercedes past and its future. The GT S won’t be released until the spring of 2015 and the GT won’t be available until 2016. Pricing for AMG GT and GT S versions has yet to be announced — but Porsche, and the rest of the Germans, will be paying close attention.