As I said in my review, it’s rare that I walk away from one of the dozens of cars I drive each year with a sinking feeling, as if I know I’ll miss it. I felt that way with the $157,000 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT R. The GT R sits at the top of the Mercedes AMG GT line, with a 4.0-liter V8 bi-turbo engine that gets 577 horsepower and can hit 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds. Those specifications beat the next-fastest GT C by 27hp and 0.1 seconds; they beat the GT S by 62hp and 0.2 seconds. The difference in speed and sound from behind the wheel is palpable; the GT R possesses by far the most character of the bunch. It has more personality and animal instinct behind the wheel, whether crossing corners or racing to 100mph, than most anything else I drove this year.
Inside, it feels roomy but remains intimate: The power-heated AMG performance seats and AMG alcantara-covered, racing-style sport steering wheel are handsome and ergonomic; the round dials on the control system on the center console are beautiful and intuitive to use. Outside, the AMG GT R has a less natural look than something like a Porsche 911, which embodies the handsome German racing design that has withstood the test of decades of fads and trends since it debuted in 1964. You may or may not like the Mercedes: It almost looks enhanced. The AMG GT R has quite a long nose, with a wide, grinning grill and headlights slightly upturned, into a kind of beguiling smirk—the look a person gives you across the bar to make you do a double take. Is there a hint of entitlement behind that grin? Maybe. Is the person giving it to you alluring enough to get away with it? Usually.
Honorable Mention: Porsche 911 GTS
Honestly, it’s a toss-up between these two. With understated good looks, track-ready performance, and a starting price of $120,000, the Porsche 911 GTS has an edge, largely because of its more-affordable price point and classic good looks. In fact, it is the obtainable alternative to the ultra-exclusive 911 R and the thinking man’s version of the flashy GT3. It comes with a boxer-six engine tuned for 450 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque. What’s more, the twin-turbo 911 GTS hits 60 mph in 3.9 seconds in manual (more on that in a second) form, just 0.1 second slower than that hyper-fast GT3. And the top speeds are basically the same: just shy of 200 mph. Of all the 911 range, this is the value-added one you will want to take out—consider it the sweet spot in the 911 lineup you may have overlooked.