Any incoming car whose attributes overlap those of the Porsche 911 gets talked up as a ‘911 killer’, but does it ever actually happen?
Invariably, no. In the modern era, and in my humble opinion, only two cars have come close: the original Audi R8 and the elegant old Aston Martin Vantage. Both still got smashed in terms of sales figures, mind, and Porsche’s mostly deserved class monopoly continues.
Fair play to Mercedes-AMG, then, not only for originally conceiving the GT but now giving it a second outing, albeit with underpinnings shared with the typically softer SL. And yet, perhaps it’s those very underpinnings that will allow the new car to better challenge its foe from Zuffenhausen.
The old GT didn’t exactly have much problem generating drama. What an engine; the fantastic cab-rear silhouette. The pillbox view forward felt fantastically special, too, almost like peering through a knight’s visor. Neither was there any shortage of throttle-on adjustability. In fact, it was at the precise moment the rear axle broke away from you for the very first time (of many) that you realised why the steering was geared to rapidly off-centre. All in all, the thunderous GT was, and remains, an immensely easy car to like.
But it’s not necessarily an easy one to live with. This is where the new architecture should help. If AMG can noticeably improve on NVH levels, at a stroke they’ll have given the 911 something to think about. Equally, if the new four-wheel drive system and rear-steering can give you handling that’s exciting when you want it but without the threatening, underlying edginess of the old car, that will further strengthen its case, though it’s a difficult balance to strike. The GT is that rarest of things in that it is a German car with a real sense of mischief and humour, and this needs to be evolved and harnessed without being quashed.
Also, the new GT should have a more hospitable cabin. One with better visibility and a greater sense of light and space – one you can slip into, knackered, at the end of a long week, and with a wet drive ahead of you, but that still feels thoroughbred when you do find yourself in the mood. This is perhaps the trick the 911 pulls off better than any other, and always has done.
A tall order? Yes, but an achievable one too. This is the might of AMG, after all. And on the subject of might: continue to go racing with the car in the GT3 category, and keep winning.