Chevrolet's Corvette has been playing the sports car game for more than 50 years. Going head-to-head with it is a daunting proposition, but Mercedes-AMG’s new GT sports car might just have what it takes.
The AMG GT and GT S were built to take on the benchmark of the sports car segment: the Porsche 911, which the Corvette has been compared to many times. So how do these two front-engined rivals to the rear-engined 911 compare to each other? Surprisingly well, actually.
While the Chevy brand may not inspire as much lust in the heart of the average enthusiast as the AMG moniker, the Corvette holds a special place in the pantheon of bang-for-the-buck sports cars. That’s not to say the Corvette isn’t a serious machine—even in base Stingray form, it’s a massively capable, fun-to-drive sports car. In Z06 guise, the Corvette is nearly unstoppable.
Likewise, the AMG GT and GT S are remarkable for their ability to deliver both quick lap times and driver satisfaction, although the value proposition is somewhat less obvious: the first to reach the market, the 2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S, starts at $129,900. Compared to the 2015 Corvette Stingray’s starting price of $55,000, that’s a rather high point of entry. In fact, even the 650-horsepower Corvette Z06 starts at just $79,000, making it a truly remarkable value for the level of performance offered.
How do the Corvette and AMG GT lines stack up on paper? In base form, the Stingray puts out 455 hp, runs to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, and runs to something north of 180 mph—though Chevy hasn’t confirmed an official top speed. The GT, on the other hand, packs 456 hp, hits 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, and tops out at 189 mph. Very close, on paper, then. The Corvette makes its power and performance with a normally aspirated, pushrod 6.2-liter V-8 engine, while the AMG GT does the job with a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8.
Both are also front-engine coupes with fair, if not abundant, space for luggage and daily necessities. Both are surprisingly comfortable on the road, particularly when equipped with their optional adaptive damping suspensions. Both are impressive on the track. Neither is the top tier of their kind, however.
At the top of the AMG GT range lies the second variant, the GT S. With 503 hp on tap, the GT S is good for 3.7 seconds to 60 mph and a top speed of 193 mph. That’s no match for the $50,000-cheaper (base price) Corvette Z06, however. Its supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 churns out 650 hp, rips off 2.95-second 0-60 mph runs (with the 8-speed automatic transmission) and a top speed likely in the 200-mph range, depending on aero configuration (again, Chevy hasn’t supplied an official figure).
One other feature the Corvette offers that the AMG GT line doesn’t: a manual transmission. A 7-speed manual, in fact. With rev-matching ability. For the enthusiast who’s all about driver engagement and purity of purpose, the manual is a must-have option. For those more concerned with ultimate lap times and daily comfort, it’s a toss-up between the Corvette’s brilliant 8-speed automatic and the AMG GT’s 7-speed dual-clutch.
With sports cars like these, however, it’s not all about power and straight-line performance. Handling counts, too, and here, there are no losers—every example is fun to drive at the limit, rewarding for a skilled driver, and capable of helping the less-skilled develop new abilities.
Another key trait for high-end sports cars is curb appeal: the ability to turn heads and convey the image the driver wants to project. Here, the Corvette and AMG GT diverge wildly. The Corvette’s heritage brings with it some baggage—even the most high-performance of Corvettes just aren’t perceived as high-end, luxurious, or all that desirable by a considerable portion of the well-heeled buying public. The AMG GT, on the other hand, wears a stunning shape, the Mercedes-Benz tri-star badge, and the AMG logo, potentially earning it more country club cred, despite the lack of a true heritage.
Picking one of these luxury performance machine comes down to a single question: are you looking for a car that means business and delivers numbers, even though it might be seen as showy and a bit overdressed, or do you like a healthy dose of luxury and status with your 200-mph top end?
The AMG GT scores a higher rating largely because of that higher market position—it's more luxurious, nicer to sit in and be seen in, and nearly everything feels of a somewhat higher grade of quality and substance. The Chevy Corvette scores a somewhat lower rating—despite its higher performance potential in Z06 form—for its more ordinary trappings and less-exclusive nameplate.
Choosing between two sports cars like this is never purely about the numbers, especially when the numbers favor both cars, depending on the set of numbers you're considering. If you're after a sports car first—especially a world-challenger—and a luxury car second, the Corvette is your buy. If you're after a luxury car first—one that carries a strong, new image with it—and a sports car second, the AMG GT is the pick.