This is the most powerful AMG you can currently buy – and it has four doors. It’s a performance-car concept that shouldn’t work because of its weight, but it does. Exit the category-defining CLS, enter the new Mercedes-AMG GT63 S 4-Door. Affalterbach has a new four-door V8 ‘coupe’ to play with.
Let’s cover the basics. It’s a refreshingly different design, yet it’s still complete with all the signature AMG cues. There’s a stonking 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 up front that belts out a monstrous 470kW. It’s matched by a waterfall of torque and a hellish soundtrack. What’s more, the 4MATIC+ drivetrain can also deactivate the front axle (like the E63 S) for expressively lurid slides.
If you’re thinking this is a recipe for fun, then you’d be right. We drank the 66-litre tank dry and took the rear tyres almost down to the canvas, opposite-locking our way through 25 hot laps of the Circuit of the Americas track in Austin.
The GT63 S 4-Door is a heavy hitter in every sense of the expression. It beggars belief just how wide your smile can get in a two-tonne four-door coupe. The fact it will reach 100km/h from rest in just 3.2sec (besting the E63 S by two tenths) and top out at 315km/h just adds to the hilarity of it all. Who said AMG doesn’t have a sense of humour...
Strangely, for such a mentalist car, it doesn’t play in this berserk category alone. Audi will soon launch the new 450kW-plus RS7 and BMW is putting the finishing touches on the equally potent M8 Gran Coupe. Porsche is ahead of the game and has already introduced its Panamera Turbo, a true lesson in defying physics.
In the past, Mercedes-AMG has challenged these contenders with the CLS63 AMG, but not anymore. Instead, the team led by Tobias Moers has created a new four-seat king of the fast lane.
The model line-up complies with the marque’s usual levels of seduction. The GT43, powered by a 270kW 3.0-litre straight-six turbo, is clearly more about style over performance substance. The next rung, the GT53, squeezes a much more entertaining 320kW out of the same engine – and is supplemented by an extra 16kW and 250Nm via the EQ Boost Hybrid system.
Overseas markets get two versions of the force-fed V8 to choose from, we receive only the full-fat S. While the 430kW GT63 has already got what it takes to twist the driveshafts into a frenzy, the 470kW S variant is the real, tarmac-peeling, McCoy.
The GT43 is a cruiser and the GT53 ups the ante by a couple of notches, but only the GT63 S comes close to being as utterly addictive. Why does it have to be the S? Aside from the extra poke and mountain-hauling grunt, there’s other high-performance enhancements like the tauter air suspension, quicker rear-wheel steering and six remarkably clever driving programs complete with the trademark Drift mode.
While the two-door GT coupe comes with a bright yellow thumbwheel with varying stages of traction control, the four-door sister model is equipped with all-wheel drive as standard. Hence the GT63 S needed the drama of a Drift mode – just like its competitor, the BMW M5.
Switching off ESP opens the door to hell, but for maximum heat and full-throttle fire one must remove the electronic safety net completely. Interestingly, there are five steps. Select Race mode first, then go into Manual and switch off ESP completely. A screen then pops up instructing you to simultaneously pull both shift paddles.
The final move is to confirm the setting. To do so, hit the right paddle one more time. At this point, an unhinged level of drift can be achieved. On the racetrack, hard cornering is a totally different ball game now, primarily because you look at most apexes through the side window. After only two laps, the tyre pressure sensors begin to beep for mercy, but after a brief pit stop we’re back out again, burning rubber with absolute dedication.
The way this car behaves and performs can be categorised in two very different dynamic halves. In addition to the familiar adjustable parameters like ESP and damper/suspension control, the GT63 S comes with a further enhancement known as AMG Dynamics.
The feature bundles the actions of stability control, 4MATIC+ torque distribution, rear-wheel steering actuation and limited-slip diff calibration in four fixed attitudes. They are labelled Basic, Advanced, Pro and Master. It all sounds confusing, but in reality it’s a treat.
Every mode has its own DNA, which becomes more challenging as you move up the ladder to the no-holds-barred Master setup. Thankfully, everything can be fully personalised. While it isn’t possible to activate ESP in Master, it is, for instance, worth trying ESP off in combination with Basic mode. That way you have the attitude, but none of the exaggeration. It works really well on road and track. The staggered concept makes adapting easy without compromising confidence.
In certain AMG sedans (like the E63 S which finished second at PCOTY 2018), the Comfort setting for the dampers has been infamous for an overt lack of compliance. The new liftback takes no prisoners in Sport Plus and Race, either. However, there is enough travel and shock absorber mercy in Sport, which is impressive. Still, the ultimate verdict will come on truly unsettling Aussie back roads in the second half of 2019.
With the Master mindset logged in, body movements are kept handily in check. Cornering is encouragingly flat and any waywardness is kept to an absolute minimum. As always, tyre temperatures can spoil the fun, but even on hot rubber, the high-speed, fourth-gear esses – COTA’s biggest challenge – are wide enough to let you play with the line.
You can tweak the entry speed and connect to the following right-hander without losing too much momentum. Add to this the clamped-down roadholding, the cornering grip and the robust manners at the limit and you get a good idea of how speed and control join forces in this quite remarkable sports coupe.
Despite all the stability-enhancing trickeries, the 295-section tyres don’t take a lot of persuasion to paint the tarmac with vivid black lines through every second- and third-gear turn. Both aero kits, the standard one with the active rear wing and the ground-effects option with the eye catching fixed spoiler, produce negative lift all the way to V-max and help the GT63 S stayed glued to the ground.
The MCT is a gearbox with varying personalities. When in Race, it really kicks butt and hangs on tenaciously to every additional revolution it can coax out of the engine. Full-throttle upshifts keep stretching the friendship with the rev limiter and downshifts trigger an acoustic event like little else. However, the initial change from first to second can be a tad jerky.
Although the steering does adjust accordingly to the selected drive mode, the balance is a touch too light as you wind on more lock. When pushed, the AMG GT63 S handles beyond expectations. It’s the modularity of motion that builds confidence, the way the chassis and steering interact with the torque flow and the broad scope of attitudes that range from mild slides to smoke-filled drifts.
When the big Merc turns in and the stubby rear end swings around, you can leave it ridiculously late before feeding in large amounts of oomph and winding on opposite lock.
However, throughout our time behind the wheel a rather large elephant constantly remains in the room. A handicap this behemoth on steroids can’t quite ever escape – its weight. The GT63 S rolls onto the scales at a not so Lite ’n’ Easy 2045kg. Still, shifting that mass is effortless. Hence the hero, M5-beating 0-100km/h time is utterly believable. Congratulations must go to AMG for bewitching the laws of physics.
Interestingly, on the inside, this four-seat coupe offers enough rear head and legroom – even for tall adults. However, entry and exit are compromised by the bulging sill, bulky front seats and that sloping roof line. The 461-litre boot is both wide and flat, but can be extended to wagon-status with the rear seats folded.
There are some fiddly ergonomic cabin flaws, too, as the new touchpad and touch-sensitive controls on the new steering wheel are both hit and miss. The new A-Class does the former much better. With so many buttons and gadgets you can sit in the parking lot for an hour before even taking off. Although it does take style elements from the AMG GT and the S-Class, so it is an attractive design.
Ultimately the new straight-six turbos (one with a hint of electrification) will almost certainly do the lion’s share of GT 4-Door business. They’re compelling cars for sure with an advanced concept (thanks to the 48V electric system) and employ a great all-round nature that will garner mass appeal. But they don’t even come close to the outlandishly fast and wholly awesome GT63 S. It’s a beast we’d never tire of taming.
2018 Mercedes-AMG GT63 S 4-Door
BODY: 5-door, 5-seat liftback
ENGINE: 3982cc V8, DOHC, 32v, twin-turbo
BORE/STROKE: 83.0mm x 92.0mm
POWER: 470kW @ 5500-6500rpm
TORQUE: 900Nm @ 2500-4500rpm
TRANSMISSION: 9-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: multi-links, air springs, adaptive dampers (f/r)
STEERING: electrically assisted rack-and-pinion
BRAKES: 390mm carbon-ceramic discs, 6-piston calipers (f); 360mm carbon-ceramic discs, single-piston calipers (r)
WHEELS: 21.0 x 9.5-inch (f); 21.0 x 11.0-inch (r)
TYRES: Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S; 275/35 ZR21 (f); 315/30 ZR21 (r)
PRICE: $300,000-plus (estimated)
PROS: Epic performance; rear-drive bias; handles weight well
CONS: Harsh gearchanges; light steering; weight; price
RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars
The beast is yet to come
Not content with 470kW from the conventional twin-turbo V8, AMG is readying a hybrid version of the GT63 S 4-Door that promises big advances in performance.
Rumoured to have around 600kW and reach 100km/h in less than 3.0 seconds, the hybridised 4-Door will be primed to take on the likes of the Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid. The car will be based on the GT Concept shown at the Geneva motor show in 2017, as well as the production GT63 S featured here. Hybrid power is believed to play a key role in future AMGs.
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