THE Mercedes-AMG GT is arguably the best car the company has ever built.
It steers better than a Porsche 911, it's far more planted than a Jaguar F-Type, and it's more fun than an Audi R8 carving up a racetrack.
It's also the quickest AMG road car to date and makes a bellow from its new twin-turbo V8 that sticks two fingers up at the political correctness of rival car makers and their six-cylinder turbos.
The two-seat pillarless GT coupe is the second AMG-developed model, after the gullwing SLS on which it’s based, but it is not simply a shrunken SLS.
Sure, its wheelbase is 50mm shorter, and the nose is also 50mm shorter, but everything ahead of the A-pillar is unique and shows how AMG has developed since it launched the SLS back in 2010.
On the outside, this beast is unmistakably Mercedes, yet its skin – designed by Mark Fetherston, the Brit who also penned the SLS – reeks of classic sports car proportions.
While Fetherson admits that it's been toned down in terms of muscular edges for a softer, more cohesive look, the long nose and short rear deck are still cloaked in a solid, visually substantial body.
Testament to its looks are that all the various colours at its launch complement its lines; there's not a bad colour in the palette. Yet it can look awkward from some angles, and those "faster curves" of the swooping rear pillar are at odds with the gaping front.
Inside, there's Space Shuttle-tight build quality, with a Ferrari-like centre stack loaded with beautifully textured silver dials for things such as the engine start, the four drive modes and the exhaust settings, and in the middle is the beautifully sculptured COMAND controller that arrived with the new C-Class.
There is plenty of supple leather, decent seats with adjustable bolstering for the backrest and base, and a three-spoke Alcantara steering wheel that is your window to both the clean and simple digital instruments and the abilities of the GT's driveline and chassis.
The 3982cc V8 is AMG's idea of downsizing after its now discontinued 6208cc atmo V8, but at Affalterbach, this downsizing doesn't mean downgrading.
In the GT S we drove in Los Angeles, it makes 375kW (35kW more than the base GT, which goes on sale some months after the S), courtesy of 1.2bar of boost against the base car's 1.1bar.
The pair of turbos – nestled in the vee for better packaging, thermal management and throttle response – are identical, and are simple mono-scroll units, not variable vane as in the Porsche 911, against which this car is benchmarked.
The GT is a monster, but only if you want it to be.
On the open road, the rumbling, old-school V8 idle goes from respectable, sophisticated mechanical rhythm to an angry, intimidating bark when you flick the exhaust switch or change from Comfort to Sports Plus settings.
Here, the GT shows that it can walk the walk, with brilliant throttle response, even at high revs, where its 650Nm feeds the power seemingly endlessly.
It also has the backing track to match, though it's not as violent or raucous in either sound or execution as the SLS; this is a more precise, honed sports car in everything it does, from its cabin finish to its dynamics.
The ride is comfortable yet firm, even in Sports Plus, which despite the step up in throttle response and steering feel, is fine even around town. The polished performance makes the GT S entirely liveable for everyday driving (a la Porsche 911).
The steering is so responsive you can place that wide nose easily in traffic, or crush corner apexes on a winding road.
Traction is brilliant; even a ham-fisted stab of the throttle in miserably wet conditions didn't set the tail on a collision course, the remarkable bite of the rear rubber and power transfer making this a supreme point-to-point machine.
And when you back off, it will reward you – not bombard you – with a well-earned pop when you lift off the throttle.
It's much sharper than the SLS in every sense, with the crisp steering one of the best on a modern road car, and the balance and roadholding bringing it all together for a car that delivers a personality, with adjustability, controllable slides and competent road manners.
It works with you to offer a rewarding drive without forcing you onto a knife-edge to get there; it feels just as easy to drive as an Audi R8, yet it's much more involving and satisfying when you push it hard to link corners.
Then, back in town, it's as well-mannered as a 911, but won't melt into the crowd, as its visual theatre and that delicious timbre ramble on.
You can, of course, select Comfort and soften the exhaust note, where the refinement is good apart from some wind noise between the window panes at freeway speeds, but you've just spent almost $300K on a sports car, so flaunt it.
The AMG GT S is a class act. It has to be one of the best front-engined V8s ever built, with a grand sense of occasion whether you're at the wheel or in the passenger seat.
It's not faultless, or peerless, yet it's proof that the performance car can meet a plethora of ever-tightening laws and regulations, and still have a devilish soul.
Model: Mercedes-AMG GT S
Engine: 3982cc V8 (90°), dohc, 32v, twin-turbo
Max power: 375kW @ 6250rpm
Max torque: 650Nm @ 1750-4750rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
Kerb weight: 1570kg
0-100km/h: 3.8sec (claimed)
Fuel economy: 9.4L/100km (EU)
Price: $270K (estimated)
On sale: June 2015
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