Mercedes-AMG GT S – evo 210
It’s no secret that the AMG GT was developed specifically to lock horns with the Porsche 911. But as Mercedes’ first purpose-built entry into the sports car segment for years, it seemed unlikely that it could ever match the car that had long defined the class - especially when it’s in 513bhp 911 Turbo-spec.
‘Is there anything this side of the price of an average London terraced house that accelerates with the brutality of a 911 Turbo?’ Prosser knows that even with the similarly accelerative Nissan GT-R for company, the four-wheel drive Porsche stands out with a clear advantage. How could the AMG GT S, which sends all of its 503bhp to the rear wheels, keep up?
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‘More than any other 991-generation model I’ve driven, the steering is numb,’ explains a surprised Prosser. ‘In one tight corner I trip the car into understeer just to see if the steering does awaken but, with the front tyres scrubbing wide, the helm remains completely lifeless.’
So, once again, despite an absolute pace advantage, the 991 isn’t sending our road testers the messages they want to receive. This downfall is only heightened when it becomes clear the newcomer GT S exceeds expectations.
Prosser explains: ‘Despite channelling more than 500bhp to the rear wheels, the GT has prodigious traction, and the throttle response and rate of acceleration away from the corner is astonishing.’ No noticeable disadvantages for rear-wheel drive here then.
But what about feel and communication? ‘The GT feels balanced and poised in corners, super direct and alert, but there’s also good pliancy over bumps, particularly in the softer damper settings. For the most part the GT is close to flawless in dynamic terms – it's just the slightly aloof steering that blots its copybook.’
So while the GT S doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head, it’s substantially more enjoyable to steer – and dance – around sun-baked Scottish country roads. ‘The grip and precision in the chassis is crazy,’ confirms fellow tester Catchpole. ‘It’s got massive lateral grip, but you can tell what’s going on at the limit of that grip.’
Once again, despite being in ballistic Turbo guise, the 911 falls short.
Aston Martin V8 Vantage N430 – evo 210
Perhaps an even bigger surprise on that day is the V8 Vantage N430. Compared to the Mercedes and Porsche (and GT-R and BMW i8 also on the test for that matter), it’s rather old-fashioned.
With a manual gearbox, naturally aspirated V8 – producing 430bhp and 361lb ft of torque to the Porsche’s 513bhp and 524lb ft – and ageing underpinnings, it’s fair to say the plucky Brit looks a little undergunned.
‘I struggle to squeeze any meaningful pace out of the N430 at first. It takes a conscious effort to wind the 4.7-litre V8 all the way to the red line,’ says Prosser. ‘But it makes all the difference.’
In fact, it’s the Aston’s old-school character that makes it so likeable on our test. Prosser continues: ‘The N430 schools the AMG GT [and 911] for steering feel, and it also has a sweet balance and a very keen, readable front axle. When it does meet the limit of its abilities it doesn’t bite, rather it lets go gradually.’
Admittedly, the 911 Turbo asserts dominance on the track at Anglesey, where it laps the 1.5-mile circuit in 1min 15.2sec, some 3.9sec faster than the Aston and 1.8sec faster than the AMG. But on the road, where the stopwatch is irrelevant, the Aston steals the hearts of our road test team. ‘The N430 is arguably the most rewarding and engaging car here,’ concludes Prosser.
Ferrari 458 Speciale – evo 198
Anything that goes up against a Ferrari 458 Speciale should be worried - even the 991 Porsche 911 GT3. ‘It. Is. UNBELIEVABLE’ proclaims contributing editor Jethro Bovingdon. ‘The response from engine, brakes, steering and the grip and balance is nothing short of astonishing.’
But then again, the 911 GT3 is supremely talented too. Bovingdon confirms: ‘The sensations come thick and fast – the spookily effective, almost surreal traction, the way the tyres squeeze into the surface through each corner, the short sharp split-seconds where the tyres slip then grip.’
It’s also incredibly fast. With 468bhp and 324lb ft of torque produced by its 3.8-litre flat-six, the 1430kg GT3 can accelerate from 0 to 62mph in just 3.5sec (claimed). It’s also good for a quoted 196mph too, ensuring that despite costing less than half the £208,000 Ferrari, it’s entirely comparable on the road.
If this was a battle for value for money, then, as Jethro confirms, the Porsche is ‘simply unbeatable’. But for pure driving dynamics, the Speciale is untouchable. ‘The car just seems to react in real-time, compressing the phase between input and output until your brain can’t register the gap.’ Little wonder that the Speciale won evo Car of the Year 2014.
But perhaps we’re being too hard on the GT3; after all, its price alone should shield it from the charge of the Speciale prancing horse. Though its aforementioned siblings have fallen short of similarly priced rivals, the GT3 hasn’t. And now that the 458 Speciale is gone and the 991 GT3 has evolved into its hardest GT3 RS-spec, it looks like the 991 911 might finally be top dog.