Selling a sports car is easier than building one. Finding the perfect balance of sophisticated looks and top-notch functionality is tricky—just ask any automobile designer. Car companies often sell a slick package with a glitzy marketing campaign, only for buyers to realize, after taking the wheel, that the auto falls short of the promises.

The 2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S, on the other hand, completely redefines the sports-car concept.

Inspired by more than 120 years of racing heritage, the hand-built two-seater is a no–compromise study in how to produce a luxury vehicle that is as breathtaking to behold as it is to drive.

If we seem overly impressed with the GT S, that’s only because it delivers. The long-nosed coupe, which picks up design cues from the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG supercar, is a mind-bogglingly luxe vehicle with just the right touch of practicality to sell you on the idea that at $146,330 (as tested) it’s actually a steal, at least when compared with the rival Porsche 911.

The profound beauty of the GT S doesn’t hit you until you’ve settled inside. Touted as the latest expression of -Mercedes-Benz’s “aviation design,” the leather interior and 8.4-inch screen have been crafted to make simply sitting in the car exciting enough to briefly overshadow the experience of actually driving it.

But the most impressive characteristic of the 503–horsepower GT S is that it comes to life on the road. Features include five selectable driving modes that can quickly take a ride from mild–mannered splendor to growling beast, hitting a top speed of 193 miles an hour.

Our thrills were mainly limited to driving on deserted Wisconsin roads, where we learned the most powerful moments in the GT S are better reserved for the track. Still, the GT S is just as impressive idling in the valet lot as it is roaring on the wide-open highway.

Engine: AMG 4-liter V8 bi-turbo | Horsepower: 503
Torque: 479 lb.-ft. | Zero to 60: 3.7 sec.
MPG: 16 city/22 hwy. | Price: $129,900 base