Mercedes-AMG GT 2019 63 s 4matic+

2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door review: GT 63 S

International first drive

Rating: 8.4
$303,960 $361,460 Dealer
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The Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S may just be the perfect balance between next-level performance and the daily drive. It's certainly a worthy recipient of its full-strength AMG status.
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We got an up-close-and-personal look at the all-new Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door 63 S at the New York motor show earlier this year, and while it looked like a seriously quick bit of kit even on its static stand, nothing prepares you for just how potent this luxury express really is.

This is something far more menacing than the regular premium-billed muscle cars from ’Benz’s go-fast division AMG. This latest ground-hugging missile will hit the Australian market in Q2 2019 as only the third full-strength model designed and built by AMG, following the iconic SLS and GT sports cars.

And, it’s got even more firepower. In fact, it’s got more of everything, because under the bonnet lies AMG’s herculean-powered 4.0-litre twin-turbo monster V8 spooling up a colossal 470kW and a seriously mad 900Nm of torque from just 2500rpm.

Australian buyers will get to choose between two variants: the top-shelf V8-powered GT 63 S and the AMG GT 53, which features a new 3.0-litre twin-turbo inline-six with a 48V hybrid system. Combined outputs of 320kW and 520Nm ensure good solid performance with a claimed 0–100km/h sprint time of 4.5 seconds and a max speed of 285km/h.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to sample this variant at the launch – only in the new E-Class cabriolet. More on that engine in a separate review later in the week.

Pricing is yet to be confirmed, but expect the GT 53 to come in under $200K, while the GT 63 S hero model (there’s an Edition 1 at launch that will command a higher price) might just dip under 300-grand plus on-roads if the numbers work for the bean-counters.

To give those performance numbers some perspective, its torque figure alone is enough to obliterate the Ferrari 812 Superfast (718Nm) and BMW M5 Competition (750Nm), though the AMG’s natural predators are five-door weapons-grade lift-backs like the Porsche Panamera Turbo (770Nm), Audi RS7 Performance (750Nm) and BMW M6 Gran Coupe (680Nm).

Truth is, both the Audi and BMW are getting on in years, and both these fast and furious variants are likely to be replaced by newer and faster versions within a year or so. But for now, it’s the AMG GT 4-Door that will reign supreme in the power-stakes game.

But, is it right to think of it as a four-door version of its hard-hitting two-door GT siblings? Well, yes and no.

On the plus side, the big (it’s over five metres long) GT 4-Door shares front and rear design cues, especially the hardcore racer-style grille and slippery rear with ultra-thin LED tail-lights. There’s simply no mistaking its proper AMG GT lineage, or indeed its high-speed intent. Some buyers will be hooked on its looks alone.

And when it comes to the mechanicals, it gets the same rowdy twin-turbo V8 engine but with its wick turned up considerably, even over the top-shelf GT R. But, whereas that car comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission driving the rear wheels, the all-new family-size GT gets the company’s all-new and wonderfully versatile nine-speed MCT gearbox providing drive to all four paws.

However, that’s about where the parts-sharing ends, because the GT sports cars are constructed with far more lightweight materials than their four-door brother.

And, to compensate for the extra length and significant weight (it tips the scales at 2045kg DIN, and is 65mm longer than its E63 S cousin), AMG has employed some super-serious bracing measures to deal with the increased loads all round.

We know this because on display at the track component was a naked body shell showing off all this structural reinforcement via colour coding. Most noticeable was the full-length carbon-fibre ‘rear wall’ behind the rear seats, but further supported by heavy-duty struts in the boot space and more underfloor.

And that’s not the half of it. Up front, there’s a solid aluminium plate that stretches across the bottom of the entire engine compartment for rock-solid front-end rigidity. There are also cross-bracing struts running from the middle to rear of the car and more on the transmission tunnel. These anti-flex measures are seemingly everywhere you care to look.

It’s enough to make any bona-fide car enthusiast drool with anticipation of what this monster can do on-track, let alone on a twisty back road in Texas, as we would find out soon enough on our way from Austin, Texas to the world-class facility that is Circuit of the Americas (COTA) – a grade 1 FIA track that hosts the US Grand Prix.

It’s wickedly quick too. Launch it from standstill and you’ll hit 100km/h in a claimed 3.2 seconds flat. In reality, though, it felt quicker than that – more like 3.1 seconds or less if I were to guess. Certainly enough to cause this reviewer to feel unashamedly nauseous, at least, from the passenger seat.

Torque swells almost instantly and never lets up. But on-road (at least, in markets like the United States and Australia) you’ll never get anywhere near its true potential because this engine just keeps piling it on and on.

We fiddled incessantly with the various drive modes (there are six including ‘Slippery’) via the Porsche-style rotary dial on the steering wheel. While there’s good space with throttle response between Comfort and Race modes, whenever you call on full power (even in Comfort) the GT 4-Door Coupe doesn’t mess about – it just seems to get down to business in a most satisfying manner.

And, of course, there’s that unmistakable thunderous noise from the blown AMG V8 that for some is all that matters. It’s sharper and racier in this car, just like the two-door GTs, and just as intoxicating. And it’s something we never seem to tire of.

Lag has successfully been engineered out of this powertrain, thanks not only to the effective spread of nine forward gear ratios, but also with the first-time combination of twin-scroll turbo tech with turbine wheels mounted in anti-friction bearings.

And, while it's all good fun using the paddle-shifters, left to its own devices in Sport+ you’re probably going to be quicker, such is the effectiveness of this transmission to sync with your driving style.

That’s all well and good, but this is a heavy car and there’s no stopping physics when it comes to tucking this thing into the fast, flowing bends we encountered on the road loop. Although, AMG has a thoroughly good go at it by employing an arsenal of corner-carving technology to the cause.

Working in concert with its fully variable all-wheel drive, the GT 4-Door also gets active rear-axle steering, which has the effect of feeling more alive and responsive, especially on turn-in. It’s not always noticeable, though, like other systems we’ve tried that seem far more intrusive. The AMG system seems to work its magic in the background and it's very effective.

From behind the wheel, this is a car that feels far more responsive than its AMG E63 S relative. It’s like you’re piloting a cab-forward supercar, and it inspires a good deal of confidence to crack on.

There’s a real precision in the steering, and it feels lighter than it really is on the road. It’s one of those rare monster-powered machines that invites you to push on, but without any nasty side-effects.

But, what’s even more surprising is the level of ride comfort achieved here. For this reviewer it’s a huge relief, because AMG suspension has almost always erred on the side of harshness – to the point of being downright uncomfortable, even in ‘Comfort’.

Perhaps it’s the result of listening to feedback from current AMG owners and the motoring press, but either way, AMG has nailed it with the GT 4-Door Coupe when it comes to ride/handling balance. And that’s on massive 21-inch wheels shod with super-wide, low-profile tyres. It’s quite an achievement.

Underneath is a fully load-bearing multi-chamber air suspension system that works a treat in each and every drive mode. But even in the more aggressive settings, there’s decent protection from sharp-edged bumps. It’s a system that clearly works, because this is a hugely capable five-seater rocket ship that also offers a quality ride, even over course-chip surfaces.

And it does so without noticeable compromise to body control when you want to have a real go on-track, as we were to experience soon enough.

But, first things first. Flat-to-the-boards down the straightaway as the nine-speed auto rifles through the ratios, and you’re nudging 250km/h down the straightaway – and that’s with all the free-wheeling speed restrictions that come with a convoy system at the track.

You can definitely feel the car’s active front and rear aero at work with noticeably good high-speed stability. It’s rock solid at these speeds thanks to the row of electrically controlled vertical louvres buried down low in the front apron, which effectively steer the airflow and enhance engine cooling.

The multi-stage rear spoiler works in much the same way by ensuring optimum airflow depending on the driving mode selected. Its effect is most noticeable under heavy braking into the various hairpins on this circuit with strong lateral stability.

Pedal feel and progression are naturally calibrated in this model, particularly so with the brake pedal, which provided solid stopping power on-road with the steel rotors. On-track, the cars were fitted with the optional carbon-ceramics that proved faultless in these conditions.

Exit speed can be dialled up early thanks to the combination of an electronically controlled rear differential, all-wheel drive, and the car’s rear-wheel steer systems. There’s little if any sideways shenanigans if driven properly – even at high speed on the track.

However, it’s not perfect. Come in too hot and there’s no avoiding understeer – and that’s in ‘Race’ and with the ESC set to Sport, but it's easily contained with braking and throttle control.

More annoying was the transmission, which on more than one occasion refused to downshift into a corner when operating the paddle-shifters. In some respects, the car performed better when left to its own devices in the auto-shift setting.

That said, launching a large heavy passenger car at a dauntingly fast circuit like COTA is a brave move by AMG, and one that clearly demonstrates its versatility and strengths that easily outweigh any criticisms we might have otherwise.

Inside, the all-new AMG GT is just as spectacular, with a striking mix of high-end materials and unique design elements that make it a special place to be.

Top billing goes to the twin 12.3-inch super-high-resolution screens that we’ve already seen on other ’Benz models, which give the car a futuristic feel and look brilliant at the same time. Acting as both the driver’s instrument display and infotainment display, they provide substantial levels of information and customisation via haptic control buttons on the steering wheel and centre console.

But, it’s not the most up-to-date system from Mercedes-Benz, as you’ll find in the latest A-Class (hatch and sedan) that picks up the next-level MBUX system, which boasts augmented-reality displays and benchmark connectivity well above its rivals. It seems a pity that a high level and newer model should be deprived of such advanced electronic wizardry.

Along with the compliant ride control come comfortable yet highly bolstered sports seats (even in the rear), and beautifully crafted, lacquered carbon-fibre trim that marries up with those turbine-style air vents and aluminium accents spread so liberally around the cabin.

There’s an awful lot to this new AMG model, and I feel we’ve only touched on it in the few hours we had in the car. But either way, this is a proper five-door super express worthy of its full-strength AMG status.

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