WHAT IS IT
A four-door, four- or five-seater super sedan, and the third dedicated model line produced by AMG, rather than a reworking of an existing Mercedes-Benz vehicle. Despite the name, it shares little with AMG’s GT line; instead, it’s closer to an E63 S in a sharper suit, and, thanks to the swooping roofline, is positioned as a replacement for the CLS AMG 63.
WHY ARE WE TESTING IT
The international launch in Austin provided the F1-spec Circuit of the Americas for track testing, and some good roads in the hills above. Besides, it’s hard to resist some down-home Texan hospitality.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
AMG seems to have finally realised customers want a comfort mode that actually provides a degree of comfort, and the new GT 4-Door Coupe delivers that, as well as real usefulness as a four-seater grand tourer. But it’s the duality of character, the ability to take you deep into a thrilling dark side, that really defines this car. Monstrous torque, huge traction and lateral grip, plus a fiery top end make it wickedly satisfying to drive fast. The cabin feels expensive and special, while the liftback hatch and folding seats give it proper load-carrying versatility. It’s AMG’s most complete car to date.
PLUS: Twin-turbo V8 hits new highs; chassis switches between compliance and performance; interior comfort and presentation; load-carrying ability.
MINUS: No touch screens or voice-controlled MBUX user interface; rear seats have limited under-thigh support for taller occupants
THE WHEELS REVIEW
THE rotary controller used to select the drive modes of the new AMG GT 4-Door doesn’t move with quite the crisp precision you may expect from a circa-$290,000 super sedan (or should that be super-liftback?), but that doesn’t seem especially important right now. What really has my attention is the word glowing in the dash, arrived at via the selection of Race mode, combined with a button-push for ESC Sport. The displays shows ‘Master’, part of the system intended to outline the recommended driving skill for each combination. It opens with Basic, moves to Advanced, steps up to Pro, and tops out with that term making me just a little uncomfortable.
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This is the setting that ramps the powertrain to its most aggressive, the damping to its firmest setting, and allows the stability control its longest leash. But Master? I’m a master of precisely nothing; that accolade should be reserved for men like the bloke climbing into the AMG GT R in front of me, German tin-top champion Bernd Schneider, who will lead our trio of cars for hot laps around Texas’s Circuit of the Americas.
Minutes earlier, Schneider had assured me that the Master setting is entirely suitable: “For sure, you’ll slide, but the intervention from the car is very subtle; hardly anything at all if your corrections are okay...”
Right then; I’ll take his word for it. After all, this all-new offering from AMG only has 470kW, 900Nm, and the circuit is fearsomely fast in most places, and technical in others. What could go wrong?
As we idle in pit lane waiting for our session, I reflect on truth-in-naming policies, and can’t help but think there’s a little sleight of hand here. The Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door Coupe 63 S, to give it its full moniker, is unrelated to AMG’s GT line in anything other than styling cues and some interior inspiration. That car, in its five-variant line-up, is a rear-drive, rear-transaxle layout. This new model is neither of those things. It’s an all-wheel driver built on the MRA architecture that underpins E Class and CLS. It’s simplest to see it as a lower, swoopier version of the E63 S with the wick turned up. Effectively it’s a replacement for the AMG CLS 63, which now tops out as a six-cylinder model with a 55 badge. But that’s not to downplay the new car’s significance as only the third dedicated model the AMG division has produced, and the first with four doors and room for the kids.
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In terms of the segment into which it lands, the AMG honchos must be cackling with delight. The rivals from BMW and Audi – the M6 Gran Coupe and RS7 Performance – are both in their twilight days, with replacements still some time away. Which really only leaves Porsche’s Panamera, which, in Turbo guise, is well down on outputs, and about $90,000 more expensive. The Turbo S E-Hybrid has AMG-rivalling outputs, but costs a whopping $460,000. “Open goal” is the term that springs to mind.
And that bit about wicking up the 63 S? The twin-turbo 4.0-litre in this installation matches its previous torque record of 900Nm (in the AMG S63 super limo) but takes power to a new all-time high, with 470kW. So yes, comfortably more than even the most hardcore of the two-door line-up, the GT R (430kW/700Nm) that Schneider is strapping into.
Curiously, as we accelerate hard onto the main straight and fire toward the uphill braking area for the turn one hairpin, 900Nm doesn’t feel ludicrous, it feels about perfect. The strength of this engine through the midrange feels monumental, the upper reaches found via a torrent of grunt that’s delivered with utter linearity. Race mode opens the switchable exhaust, and allows the V8 to properly open its lungs. There’s both ferocity and culture intertwined in the note, even if it doesn’t have the aural crispness of an atmo or supercharged engine. And if you wanted to be picky, I guess you could point out that there’s not a great deal of tonal change as the tacho makes it sweep to 6700rpm, just greater volume and intensity. Still, it seems churlish to single that out, and to focus on that leaves less brain processing power to deal with the rest of the package, which is just over two tonnes moving at indecent speed. AMG claims 0-100km/h in 3.2sec, which sounds credible, thanks to the traction advantage of all-wheel drive, and the fact we’ve recorded 3.3sec and 0-400m in 11.3sec from an E63 S. Down the front straight, the digital speedo flicks past 270km/h before a big stomp of the optional carbon ceramic brakes hauls it down with rock-solid stability. Autobahn Vmax is 315km/h.
So far, so awesome, but also in line with expectation. What I wasn’t counting on was the level of steering connection and confidence levels this car provides. I’ve always found the GT coupes and convertibles a little aloof and detached in this area, despite the fact it runs a hydraulic steering rack aimed to optimise these very attributes. The GT 4-Door runs an electro assist system, yet it instantly feels ultra-connected to the pointy end, with a chunky weighting and crisp response. Maybe the less cab-rearward design also contributes to the four-door’s sense of cohesion and control; whatever it is, it makes it instinctive in terms finding the limit of front-end grip and managing the onset of understeer in the tight turns.
That initial front-end push is unavoidable on a track in a car of this size and weight, but the sense of agility and keenness of turn-in is helped by the fact there’s four-wheel steering (as fitted to the GT C and GT R) helping those vast rears pivot the back end. As for actually deploying all that grunt in the exit phase, the GT 4 is a beast. The constantly variable all-wheel-drive system only gives the fronts what they can use, so the overall balance of the car feels properly rear-driven, the way it should in an AMG. As I start getting harder and earlier on the power in an effort to stay on Schneider’s tail, the rear starts lighting up and progressively stepping out, just as he promised, with no apparent retardation of spark. It’s all telegraphed with utter transparency.
The Senna Esses complex at CotA, into which the F1 boys pile at a scarcely believable 280km/h, is a great test of the GT 4’s body control and agility. In terms of the former, it’s not absolute; there is a small lateral shrug of suspension compression as the Michelins bite, in line with what you’d expect of a super sedan expected to operate in the real world. But it’s this bit of compliance, even in the stiffest chassis setting, that also allows the car to absorb the saw-tooth kerbs, as opposed to crashing over them.
Later, away from the circuit, up in the hills above Austin where Texan super-juicer Lance Armstrong still cycles, the full magnitude of AMG’s achievement becomes clear. In its most benign setting, the suspension has just enough travel to breathe with the road, and even sharp edges don’t clang through the body the way they have in previous AMG cars. The nine-speed transmission is expertly calibrated for road driving, slipping quickly through the ratios to make full use of the huge torque reserve and restrain engine sound and fuel consumption, if that’s what your mood demands. Equally, each adjustable parameter is ever-ready to unleash hell when the opportunity presents itself. I found myself unable to extract everything the car can give in these conditions, purely out of deference for the blind corners and occasional Armstrong impersonator. But even at seven-tenths, there’s real satisfaction to be had, because everything about this car feels to be meshing so cohesively – steering feel, power delivery, braking strength and pedal feedback, body control, bump absorption, engine note; I could go on.
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On reflection, maybe Bernd Schneider wasn’t the only master out on the circuit earlier. You could easily argue there was a group of them, all with those AMG letters on their rumps.
MODEL: Mercedes-AMG GT 4 Door Coupe 63 S
ENGINE: 3982cc, V8 (90 degree), dohc, 32v, twin turbo
MAX POWER: 470kW @ 5500-6500rpm
MAX TORQUE: 900Nm @ 2500-4500rpm
TRANSMISSION: 9-speed automatic
KERB WEIGHT: 2045kg
PRICE: $290,000 (estimated)
ON SALE: Q2 2019