AUSTIN, Texas – Right now is not the time to savor the 1450-watt Burmester surround-sound audio system or the 64-color ambient interior lighting or the 12.3-inch high-res color navigation display because, at the moment, the speedo is flashing 159 mph and if I don’t brake immediately and very hard indeed I will fly right through Turn 12 at Circuit of the Americas and into the kitchen of the nearby Green Mesquite BBQ. Fortunately, I do not currently have two passengers riding along in the back seats, because going airborne would undoubtedly spill their Moët & Chandon Rosé.
Last year, the 2018 Mercedes-AMG GT R won one of eight coveted spots on our 2018 Automobile All-Stars list. Our resident hot shoe Andy Pilgrim dubbed it “the best example of brute force with no ignorance I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving.” The only problem? The two-door GT R allowed its driver to share its staggering muscle and handling brilliance with only one lucky passenger.
Well, AMG devotees can now invite three friends to the power party, thanks to the arrival of the all-new 2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door Coupe. Unlike its two-door sibling, the new four-door is not an AMG-modified version of an existing Benz. It’s an entirely AMG-bred machine, an all-wheel-drive, performance-biased rival to the Porsche Panamera. The U.S. market will get three versions. The entry-level model is the GT 53, featuring Benz’s all-new, turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six with an electric supercharger and a mild hybrid system dubbed “EQ Boost” that adds 21 horsepower and as much as 184 pound-feet of torque. Total output is 429 hp at 6,000 rpm and 384 pound-feet at 5,800. Next up is the GT 63, which boasts the same AMG 32-valve, twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 found in the two-door GT R. It delivers 577 hp at 5,500 rpm and 74 more pound-feet of torque than in the two-seater, 590 lb-ft at 2,500 rpm. Finally, at the top of the pyramid, just itching to meet a Panamera Turbo at a stoplight, is the version I drove around COTA, the GT 63 S, with its version of the twin-turbo V-8 boosted to a thundering 630 hp at 6,500 rpm and 664 lb-ft at 2,500. Both V-8 models are mated to a wet-clutch nine-speed automatic transmission; the GT 53 gets a nine-speed with a conventional torque converter. The V-8 GTs will arrive early in 2019, with the GT 53 following shortly thereafter.
As you’d expect from AMG’s star GT 4-Door, the 63 S is one seriously quick automobile. The maker claims a 0-to-60-mph time of just 3.1 seconds and a top speed electronically limited to 195 mph. There’s also the all-weather versatility of AMG Performance 4Matic+ variable all-wheel drive, which uses an electro-mechanical clutch to bias more torque to the front axle as necessary. Standard on the 63 S (and optional on the GT 63) is a Drift Mode feature, which deactivates the transfer case when the car is in Race mode, allowing the 63 S to operate entirely in rear-wheel drive—the better to burn the back tires into smoking husks while you pirouette sideways through turns. Also standard on the V-8 models are an electronically locking rear diff and rear-wheel steering. Up to 62 mph, the rear tires steer opposite to the fronts, effectively shortening the wheelbase and improving responsiveness. Above 62 mph, the rears steer in phase with the fronts—elongating the wheelbase for added stability at speed.
No fewer than six driving modes are available to tailor the 63 S to your motoring needs: Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Race, and Individual, which allows the driver to create a customized profile of powertrain response, steering feel, suspension damping, and even the exhaust valves. Within the various modes is a new AMG Dynamics feature that—using on-board sensors to monitor such inputs as speed, lateral-g force, and steering angle—constantly adjusts the stability control, all-wheel drive, rear-axle steering, and the limited slip. The Slippery and Comfort driving modes get a “basic” setting, optimized for stability. In Sport mode the AMG Dynamics shift to “advanced,” which lowers yaw damping and quickens steering response for improved responsiveness. Sport+ gets a “pro” setting, which adds even more liveliness and driving assistance. Finally, for track driving, the Race mode uses a “master” setting that allows a bit of oversteer and the quickest steering response of all. Whenever a particular driving mode is selected, the corresponding AMG Dynamics setting is displayed on the multimedia screen.
While the GT 53 rides on an AMG Ride Control sport suspension with steel springs and adaptive damping, the V-8 models feature an air suspension, also with adaptive damping. Three different spring-tuning settings are available, depending on the selected driving mode. To reduce roll and pitch, the spring rate is also automatically adjusted in such conditions as hard acceleration, heavy braking, or sudden turning maneuvers.
Active aerodynamics are employed on every AMG GT, the rear spoiler flattening-out for reduced drag on straightaways and moving to a steep, high-downforce setting in turns. Choose the available Aerodynamics package (available only on V-8 GTs), and the size of the front splitter is increased while the active rear wing is replaced with a fixed, manually adjustable rear spoiler. At 186 mph, the fixed rear wing provides an additional 66 pounds of downforce compared with the active version. In front, 20 vertical fins in the lower front bumper are opened and closed by an electric motor to steer the airflow as necessary (and to ensure optimum engine cooling).
While nowhere near as dramatic as its long-hooded, two-door GT R cousin, the GT 4-Door is a clean, flowing shape with a profile a bit more rakish than its Panamera rival’s—though not as distinctive as the Maserati Quattroporte’s. The V-8 models get a sportier front end than the GT 53, with larger air intakes wrapped in silver trim. Optional cosmetic packages include Night (with high-gloss black trim), Chrome, and Carbon Fiber. Wheel sizes from 19 inches to 21 inches are available, all of them in lightweight alloy to minimize unsprung weight.
The GT 63 S is nothing short of gorgeous inside, leather-lined and radiating quality like a Louis Vuitton steamer trunk. Most important, of course, are those two rear seats—and I’m happy to report they’re plenty roomy. An available Executive Rear Seat Package includes a center console with touchscreen infotainment and climate controls, wireless mobile-phone charging, and even a temperature-controlled cupholder. The package also allows the rear seats to fold forward, increasing trunk space.
Up front, the GT 63 S features two huge 12.3-inch color displays with a choice of three modes: Classic, Sport, and Supersport—which adds additional performance info and, most helpfully when shifting manually via the aluminum wheel paddles, a large shift light that blinks red when you’re approaching the rev limit. The steering wheel is a superb, flat-bottom three-spoke design. It also sports “display buttons” that are actually tiny touchscreens capable of displaying various icons depending on the function being used. Without removing either hand from the steering wheel, the driver can control everything from the infotainment system to the preferred driving mode. And if you feel like channeling your inner Lewis Hamilton, every GT 4-Door comes standard with an AMG Track Pace package that, when driving on a race circuit, displays more than 80 pieces of data, from g loads to 0-to-60-mph times. In addition, the system can record lap and sector times, allow drivers to analyze their driving performance back in the pits.
On the road, the GT 63 S is refined and impressively quiet, with almost no discernable wind noise. Even in Sport mode, the ride remains fluid and comfortable, never turning harsh when the pavement is broken. As you’d expect given the 664 pound-feet on tap, the car surges away from stoplights and up steep hills effortlessly, the nine-speed transmission slicing-up the torque into seamlessly distributed chunks. Information is well-displayed and easy to read, though the interface can still be awkward to use (the central touchpad is overly touchy and difficult to navigate, especially on the move). If you like hanging out in nightclubs, you’ll love the glowing band of colored lighting that winds its way across the doors and dash.
It’s on the track, though, that the GT 63 S really shows its mettle. Lapping the 3.4-mile, 20-turn COTA circuit—home to the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix—I started out in Sport+ mode, following in line behind German racer (and winner of the 2018 24 Hours of Nürburgring) Jan Seyffarth, who wasted no time getting up to speed. For a leather-lined, luxuriously appointed Gran Turismo, the 63 S runs damn well. Acceleration is fierce albeit completely composed, the 4Matic+ system putting the power down seamlessly. At the end of the 0.62-mile back straight, the 63 S was closing-in on 160 mph; fortunately, the brakes are huge, ventilated and perforated composite discs with 6-piston fixed calipers in front. At no point during our lapping session did they even hint of fade.
AMG had not yet finalized curb-weight figures at the press preview, but it’s safe to say the GT 63 S is no featherweight—despite extensive use of aluminum and carbon fiber in the mostly steel structure. Yet it bites hard into turns, with little understeer, and displays impressive composure during transient maneuvers (especially welcome when you’re flying through COTA’s high-speed esses). Steering feel is excellent, nicely weighted and delivering useful cornering-load feedback. For one lap I switched into Race mode and, appropriately, the 63 S seemed to loosen-up, the tail definitely becoming more lively and steering feel seeming to quicken. I could still feel the stability system stepping in, though, if I was too heavy on the throttle exiting a turn.
Pricing is still to come, but figure a base sticker of around $150,000 for the well-outfitted GT 63 S. That puts it roughly on par with the Panamera Turbo and slightly above the rear-drive Maserati Quattroporte GTS. So it’s pricey, yes, but this new AMG does everything well: it’s comfortable, beautifully attired, loaded with every imaginable amenity, built like a bank safe, and fast enough to nip at the heels of just about any sports car you can name. Now, go choose three lucky friends.
2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4-Door Coupe Specifications
|ON SALE||January 2019|
|ENGINE||4.0L twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8/630 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 664 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan|
|EPA MILEAGE||16/22 mpg (city/hwy) (est)|
|L x W x H||199.2 x 81.5 x 57.0 in|
|WEIGHT||3,900 lb (est)|
|0-60 MPH||3.1 sec|
|TOP SPEED||195 mph|