Many challengers have attempted to topple the awesome Porsche 911 from its sports car perch, but very few have succeeded.
Audi made headway with the R8, Jaguar recently stirred things up with the F-Type and Aston Martin continues to tempt buyers from the wings. Now, Mercedes-Benz has decided to throw down the gauntlet with its AMG GT: a drop-dead gorgeous two-seater that takes styling cues from its SLS AMG big brother, features a ferocious new twin-turbocharged powerplant and boasts a price tag that just so happens to put it in the ring with Porsche's potent 911 Turbo model.
We've been putting it through its paces on road and track to see if it's got what it takes to be the very best.
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The AMG GT S is the first vehicle to be developed entirely in-house by Mercedes' revered tuning arm, so serious performance is pretty much guaranteed. Two versions are available for order right now: the 'standard' AMG GT, which develops 456bhp from the brand new twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine, and the ferocious GT S version that takes power up to 503bhp.
Like any sensible human being, we decided to slide behind the wheel of the more powerful iteration because when AMG offers you the keys to a new vehicle: there's no point doing things by half measure.
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8
Power: 456bhp for GT, 503bhp for GT S
Torque: 442lb ft for GT, 479lb ft for GT S
0-62mph: 4.0 seconds for GT, 3.8 seconds for GT S
Top speed: 189mph for GT, 193mph for GT S
Transmission: seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Fuel economy: 30mpg (approx.)
Emissions: 216g/km for GT, 219g/km for GT S
Heavy metal soundtrack
There's no point talking about an AMG vehicle without touching on the sonorous bark that typically emanates from the rear pipes. The AMG engineers from Affalterbach, Germany, were so concerned that their new, smaller capacity turbocharged engine wouldn't sound right, that they spent the first few months working on the engine note alone.
The result is impressive, because under heavy acceleration and with the sports exhaust button pressed, the noise is quite simply phenomenal. It begins with a deep bellow and rises to a howl as it reaches the top of its rev range. Squeeze the heavy gear selector paddles located behind the steering wheel, shift down and grin as the exhausts pop and bang - it's fantastic.
But a good soundtrack is not enough to topple Merc's Germanic rival; the car must also drive like a dream.
Life on the ragged edge
After just a few minutes behind the wheel of the AMG GT S, it becomes clear that this machine was born to race. Even with 'Comfort' mode dialled-in on the Dynamic Select control function, the suspension feels firm and blemishes in the road are soon transmitted to the buttock area.
Flick the switch to Sport, Sport+ or even the psychopathic Race Mode, and the car swings from mildly irritated to utterly infuriated, desperate to be pushed harder and faster through the bends.
The surprisingly large boot (easily big enough for a set of golf clubs), comfortable chairs and general luxurious ambience certainly marry up with the Gran Tourer element of the car's moniker but those expecting a soft weekend cruiser have got another thing coming.
The devil's daily drive
Although the AMG GT S features the general heated temperament of a track day tool, Mercedes also wanted to lavish customers with a genuinely stunning interior that packs the latest technology. The cocoon-like dash wraps around driver and front seat passenger, while all of the essential controls are laid out on a swooping centre console that's within easy reach at all times.
An 8.4-inch central screen with the German marque's Comand system takes care of the infotainment package and features all the niceties expected on a modern machine. Online functionality allows occupants to check Facebook, receive live traffic information and use Google Maps. It's not iPad-slick in the way the Tesla Model S is, but it's mighty fine compared to everything else.
The system also allows for Bluetooth phone tethering and there's a sweet optional Burmester stereo should the sound of the potent V8 begin to wear tiresome (it never does). A reversing camera, Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot Assist and a number of other safety features can also be added.
The cabin is very comfortable and, bar the firm ride, it's hard to disagree with Mercedes' claims that the AMG GT S could indeed be used everyday.
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Teutonic tyre slayer
Laguna Seca: the world-renowned race circuit just south of San Francisco that has been the source of many a Gran Turismo gamer's frustration for years, just happens to be the site Mercedes chose to parade the performance prowess of its latest machine.
The 0-60mph sprint is dispatched in just 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 193mph is easily achievable if the throttle is left pinned open - but it is not just straight line pace where the AMG GT S impresses.
Despite its menacing demeanour, the adjustable levels of traction and safety assistance make it easier to wrangle around the undulating American circuit than first expected. But don't be fooled, in Race Mode the rear end will step out, producing the odd heart in mouth moment. It's utterly entertaining, if slightly scary, and becomes even more addictive the more you tune into its wicked ways.
But better still, you can exit the circuit, slide it into 'Comfort' mode and cruise home in contentment.
Mercedes-AMG GT Verdict
The AMG GT S may not be as precise as its key Porsche 911 rival, nor is it quite as adept at hiding its track-slaying ways when mooching around town, but there's something very alluring about its animalistic personality.
It's certainly enough to have Jaguar F-Type, Audi R8 and the aforementioned 911 owners contemplating what's on their driveways.
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