Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: August 26, 2019
Here is a case of a first world problem. You want a Porsche 911 but don’t have the space in your garage for a useless two-seater with doggy seats in the back that could barely fit a human child. The answer? The Porsche Panamera, a four-door sedan with a proper trunk, spacious rear accommodations, and the infusion of 911 DNA to make it faithfully drive like the iconic rear-engined sports car. Now picture yourself as a Mercedes enthusiast. You want the flagship Mercedes-AMG GT R Coupe but are stuck in the same predicament. No rear seats. And there isn’t anything in the Mercedes portfolio with an equivalent performance résumé but in a four-door suit either.
You could opt for the S 63 AMG but that’s a massive land yacht catered towards coddling occupants in luxury and comfort rather than carving a canyon corner. There’s the E 63 AMG as well available in both sedan and wagon guise but hilariously enough, consumers complained that it didn’t have the price tag or the prestige to match the Porsche. Without a clear alternative, Mercedes owners ended up jumping ship to the Panamera, whose diverse lineup meant you can walk out with a sedan or wagon, ranging from a $99,300 base model right up to the eye-watering $214,600 Turbo S E-Hybrid.
But the silver arrows have responded to fulfill this one-percenter problem. As such, the AMG GT 4-Door Coupe was born, an AMG-only model that has single handedly made the CLS 63 AMG obsolete. And while its confusing nomenclature doesn’t exactly spark Marie Kondo levels of joy, its mission is simple: to be a faster, sexier, and equally as expensive four-door alternative to the Porsche Panamera and Maserati Quattroporte. And from first sight, mission accomplished.
You won’t have a difficult time distinguishing the new GT 4-Door from its compatriots. The Panamericana vertical-slat front grill is standard fare and carries an incredible amount of road presence, enough for many C- and E-Class owners to embarrassingly retrofit aftermarket ones to their rides. The commanding bullet-like silhouette accentuated by the frameless windows and wraparound taillights are not overly shouty but sleek and distinguished when viewed from any distance. A brute in a suit would be the best way to describe it, like a bodybuilder trying to fly under the radar with a slim fit tee. The fake fender vents sitting next to the front wheels are a useless addition and do little to elevate its visual appeal, though the fixed rear spoiler that comes with the AMG Aerodynamics Package (exclusive on the GT 63 S model) does, and remedies my previous concern of the back end looking like a loaded diaper. And have you checked out the optional monoblock wheels? Now that’s bold.
The AMG GT 4-Door comes in three specs: GT 53 (3.0-litre inline-six with EQ Boost; 429+21 hp, 384+184 lb-ft; $115,000), GT 63 (4.0-litre twin-turbo V8; 577 hp, 590 lb-ft; $157,500), and the GT 63 S (4.0-litre twin-turbo V8; 630 hp, 664 lb-ft; $177,500). The 63-Series models all use the same V8 (not a dry sump like the GT R Coupe) but courtesy of software upgrades, the S model gets boosted up by 27 hp and 37 lb-ft. All three send power via a fully-variable 4MATIC+ all-wheel drive system and a 9-speed automatic - a torque converter in the GT 53, and a wet multi-clutch in the GT 63 and GT 63 S. The S model also receives active engine mounts, an electronic locking rear differential, and the ability to disconnect the front driveshafts for a lairy Drift Mode setting.
Now you may be thinking, what can the GT 4-Door do that the E 63 can’t? They use the same platform and engine, and produce more power than one would realistically ever need. Well, the differences run a little more than skin deep. The GT 4-Door utilizes its own reworked chassis and suspension tune with active radiator shutters, active rear spoiler, rear-axle anti-roll bar, and rear-wheel steering lifted straight off the GT R Coupe. It’s longer, wider, and despite its aluminum front hood, all the extra bracing, bodywork, and tech has made it 110 kg heavier than the E 63 S Sedan. So out in the real world, does all this mumbo jumbo make any difference to the overall driving experience? In short, yes.
We spent a week with the GT 63 S and boy, this handbuilt engine is relentless in its pursuit of acceleration. A picture may paint one thousand words but in this case, all you need is one number: 3.2. That is how many seconds it takes for the GT 63 S to sprint from 0-100 km/h. Not only is that faster than the top-spec Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid (3.4 sec) but it demolishes even the AMG GT R Coupe (3.6 sec) that it was based upon. You will need to hire a Porsche 911 GT3 RS (the same 3.2 sec) to even keep up with this matte blue behemoth.
With all four wheels digging into the ground, the GT 63 S explodes off the line. There’s a mild amount of turbo lag when the engine and gearbox are caught sleeping but once the lion has awoken, the inertial force is enough to rearrange your organs and give you a newfound appreciation of how far automotive engineering has come - you have to remember that this AMG clocks in at a substantial 2,158 kg, yet goes like stink. And it’s not just the straight line speed that impresses. The AMG GT corners like a proper sports car and packs a more extensive repertoire of parkour moves than the E 63. Equipped with rear-wheel steering and sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires (315-mm width in the rears!), purposefully breaking traction is difficult in dry conditions. You have to really push and unsettle the chassis to even see the GT 63 S sweat or lose its focused composure. Combined with a bundle of state-of-the-art driving aids, body control is unsurprisingly agile, taut, and it dances around with similar verve and vigour to the equally sharp Panamera Turbo.
The tradeoff with this athleticism is a firm and taxing ride, and a significant amount of tire rumble and surface noise seep into the cabin. Even with its adaptive air suspension, the ride is not nearly as supple as the Panamera’s. It seems like AMG took more inspiration from the equally bouncy Quattroporte. Even in the most comfortable damper settings, you feel everything that is going on underneath the floor bed, equating to a busy ride that the GT never tries to hide. Rather unbefitting of its ‘grand touring’ moniker. So if you prefer a softer sprung AMG that isn’t short on horsepower, stick with the E 63 or CLS 53, both of which are better grand touring companions that more adeptly blend comfort and performance into a slick four-door combo. But who in their right mind is buying a six-figure sports sedan to drive comfortably? Save that for the S-Class. Instead, AMG has cleverly tuned their GT models to satisfy the track nut and performance-minded driver who not only wants the bragging rights but also the engineering to back up those claims. And that’s where GT excels over the Panamera: driving quickly, spiritedly, and a bit naughty. Think of it as the rebellious and more muscular twin of the E 63. It’s rougher riding, milder on mannerisms, but so much more macho and fervent because of it.
The exhaust noise sets the AMG apart from the Porsche as well. On wide open throttle, the GT 63 S unleashes a maelstrom of artillery fire out back, and while it may not sound as loud from the driver’s seat as the GT C, that’s only because the exhaust is so much further away with glass, metal, and leather drowning out the bellows. If you’re standing outside, it’s an entirely different story with thunderclaps and sonic booms at the command of the driver’s right foot. Debuting with the GT is also a new start-up ignition sequence that AMG is calling Emotion Start. By holding the left paddle shifter simultaneously with the start button, the exhaust lets out a spicier roar on start-up, almost like a cold start, perfect for flexing in the parking lot. Have a listen to our Exhaust Notes video below to hear it for yourself.
While the ride quality may not justify its GT title, this four-door is still a practical, usable, and functional family fastback with a sizable trunk that’s ripe for spousal approval. The interior layout strays away from the two-door’s layout, and finds more in common with the CLS, boasting an expansive dashboard with dual widescreen displays underneath one sheet of bonded glass. Exclusively on the GT 63 S model, the muscular steering wheel comes equipped with two TFT-display toggles budding out each lower side that offer easy adjustment of the exhaust, suspension, start/stop system, and driving modes. The mini screens boast colourful graphics yet are prone to washing out under heavy sunlight and are burdened by fingerprint smears. While convenient, especially when Sport+ mode is quickly needed for those short overtaking bursts, the buttons themselves feel exceptionally low-rent, they aren’t fixated to the wheel with the same solidity as other panels in the interior, and they squeak under operation like those old Hasbro action figures. Being a high traffic area, I find that rather disappointing, and it being an afterthought belies the rest of the immaculately assembled interior - the same goes for the plastic airbag cover which is leather in the S 63.
The V-shaped center console is borrowed from the GT Coupe with an army of buttons running along each side and an awkward elbow-positioned gear shifter. The park button is also obscurely hidden beneath it, requiring a slim finger to press. Yet despite these ergonomic foibles, I still prefer it over the cheap column-mounted gear stalk that plagues every other Mercedes. The lauded rotary dial remains (other markets get the new trackpad from the GLS), and is flanked by a Macbook-like touch-sensitive shortcut bar above. There’s even a toggle on the steering wheel which brings up a menu of customizable options for fast and convenient access, remedying my previous concerns of it taking five clicks to access the massaging seats within the sub-menus. The rest of the interior is garnished with beautiful top-shelf machine-cut panels and dials worthy of its six-figure price tag. German attention to detail doesn’t get more stereotypical than this.
How does the interior design compare to the Panamera and Quattroporte? I’d say there’s more happening inside the AMG with a heavier emphasis on colour, shapes, and digital real estate. Yet, all are equal in terms of odd cup holder placements, limited storage options, and awkward access to them. Visibility is similar to the Panamera, and impressive for a fastback sedan with such a raked roofline. Forward and side views are fairly unobstructed, with a sizable rear windshield that is unfortunately marred by the fixed rear spoiler. Still, the plethora of cameras and the ability to manually view any of them at any time makes it a cinch to park.
Rear seat room is similar to the CLS, which is not a compliment in the slightest. Legroom is average, with my knees nudging the front seats when sitting behind my six-foot self. I can sit straight up with my head just about to caress the headliner but what really grinds my gears is that without the optional Premium Rear Seat Package, the two individual rear seats cannot be folded down for a flat loading space. There’s no fold-down armrest either and the sunroof only extends to the back of the driver’s headrest, adding to an even more cramped environment. Cargo volume in the trunk is deeper than you would expect, though nowhere near as cavernous as the E 63 Sedan.
The GT 4-Door was born from consumer demand and to stop silver arrow loyalists from jumping ship. Enthusiasts with disposable income looking for a prestigious Autobahn cruise missile now have more choices than ever, and the AMG GT 4-Door proves that the Panamera is not the only fish swimming in these deep waters. In this perpetual struggle for dominance, Affalterbach has ended up creating one of the most exhilarating, uncompromising, and spellbinding four-door sedans we’ve ever driven. The price of the GT 63 S may be difficult to justify with the equally potent E 63 looming in the same showroom but in isolation, the GT makes sense. The sheer force of acceleration and the accompanying exhaust soundtrack convinces us that a Panamera Turbo just isn’t enough, and its gorgeous interior, four-door practicality, and hatchback trunk should be enough for the family’s blessing. We have Porsche to thank for that. Turns out, competition is healthy for everyone, and as a wise man once said, “a rising tide raises all ships.”
Model: 2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4MATIC+ 4-Door Coupe
Paint Type: Designo Brilliant Blue MAGNO ($2,500)
Base Price: $177,500
Price as Tested: $189,500
Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,060 / 2,069 / 1,447
Curb weight (kg): 2,158
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8
Horsepower: 630 hp @ 5,500 - 6,000 rpm
Torque: 664 lb-ft @ 2,500 - 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed multi-clutch transmission
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 17.9
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 15.6 / 11.5 / 13.7
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 4S