THIS is the car that Mercedes thinks will convince you not to buy a Porsche 911.
The 310km/h AMG GT is a lighter, faster, more obtainable Mercedes sports car than those before it, and packs a newly developed 375kW V8 designed to unashamedly knock the iconic Porsche off its pedestal.
This purpose-built rear-drive coupe, the second vehicle developed from the ground up by AMG, signals the start of a ferocious Teutonic stoush.
The GT is armed with the fire-breathing SLS 'Gullwing' aluminium spaceframe as its starting point, but this is more than a cut-down, cheaper version of Affalterbach's hot rod.
“We wanted to do something different,” Mercedes design boss Gorden Wagener told us. “This isn’t an SLS replacement, it’s a new car at a different price point and we wanted to separate the two.”
The GT sits on a 50mm-shorter wheelbase, and is narrower than the lane-swallowing SLS.
Its body, apart from the bootlid, is also made from weight-saving aluminium for a kerb weight of just 1540kg in base trim, lighter than the chest-beating SLS Black Series and enough for the all-new 4.0-litre V8 to punch a 100km/h hole in the air after a mere 4.0sec.
Option the S model, which sees power jump from 340kW to 375kW, and this front-engined rear-wheel-drive monster will reel off 0-100km/h in a claimed 3.8sec.
The new engine is just the beginning.
Outside, the GT exhibits Gorden Wagener’s latest Mercedes design language, seen on everything from the A-Class to the latest S- and C-Class models.
In evolving the sharp lines of its hatches and sedans into coupe form, Wagoner has given the GT aggressive rear haunches, with larger rear wheels to help give the GT a bold set of hips below that domed roof.
Up front, it’s led by the latest Benz grille and smooth, solid surfaces, with the classic proportions of a long nose and short rear deck.
That tail, with its rounded, softened edges, looks similar to the S-Class coupe’s, but also echoes the Porsche 928’s rounded rump and even (if you squint) the 911’s tail. There’s a black diffuser to offset it, while attention to detail is amazing, including the removal off all external antennas and protrusions to give the GT a melted, fluid look.
AMG revealed the interior of the GT back in April, including its ‘aviation’ design theme, with a dash design that emphasises width, as well as crisp round dials and the same three-spoke steering wheel as in the new C-Class.
But it’s the V8 that will provide the theatre for driver, passenger and onlookers alike.
Codenamed M178, it replaces the 6208cc V8 that’s in the C63 and SLS, and comes with two turbochargers and a 3982cc capacity – ladies and gentlemen, this is what AMG calls downsizing…
With 650Nm, it matches the SLS V8’s torque figure, but the 4.0-litre serves it up from 1750rpm through to 4750rpm, the very point where the old engine peaks.
The new dry-sump V8 is hand-built, as per AMG tradition, but is packed with technology: aluminium block, zirconium-alloy heads and direct fuel injection. It’s closely related to the 2.0-litre turbo in the A45 AMG, with the same bore/stroke and ability to rev its heart out.
The two turbos are positioned inside the 90-degree vee, saving space and improving thermal efficiency for sharper throttle response when feeding power through the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
The new engine should have the bark to back up the bite, too, with a bi-model exhaust system as standard – though the snarl of the old atmo V8 will be difficult to match…
Cornering is taken care of by adaptive dampers, with double wishbones up front and a multi-link rear.
Mercedes claims weight distribution of 47/53 front to rear, and the GT sticks with hydraulic steering, unlike the 911, which switched to electric steering when the current 991 model was introduced in 2011.
The GT gets a mechanical locking diff as standard, while the S model scores an electronically controlled diff to go with its power hike and 320km/h speedo.
On the options list are ceramic brakes, lighter forged alloy wheels and an AMG Dynamic Plus drivetrain damping system, which uses active engine and transmission mounts.
Prices are expected to kick off at about $270K when the AMG GT hits Australian shores in late 2015, with the S model arriving ahead of the entry-level model.