2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 63 4-Door First Drive: The E63 That Sees Itself As a GT C
Merc's newest speed machine blends the line between sports car and sedan even further.
While it's all too easy to pile on the Twenty-Teens as the beginnings of a new Dark Age, the last decade has seen its fair share of cultural advancement well worth celebrating. Take gender, for one: once little more than a G-rated pseudonym for "sex," it has broadened into a spectrum of choices. People are no longer forced to go by the identifier assigned to them based on whether the craps game of conception resulted in a Y chromosome; now, individuals are free to describe themselves as any gender they find fits best. Sure, all that can be confusing for people whose concepts of gender and genetics are fused together due to age or inflexibility—but the freedom, the confidence it provides for those long unable to find their truth in a rigid world make up for any discomfort caused by such a lack of understanding a thousand times over.
Likewise, automobiles have also seen their categories diversify in recent years. 20 years back, passenger vehicles were broken up into distinct categories: sedan, station wagon, minivan, sport-utility vehicle, pickup truck, etc. Since then, though, all sorts of new vehicles have cropped up. Coupes have grown extra doors. SUVs have become coupes—and, regrettably, convertibles. Pickup trucks are built from minivan bones.
Which brings us to the 2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door. Under the old ways of thinking, it'd be shoehorned into the "sedan" category—but that would be an awkward fit. Its two-box silhouette and rising rear window say "hatchback;" its sharp handling, brutal acceleration, and near-200-mile-per-hour top speed say "sports car." Calling it a "sport sedan" wouldn't be too much of a stretch—but the AMG E63 S already occupies that role in this size and power output in the Mercedes-Benz household.
So what exactly is the Mercedes-AMG GT 63 4-Door supposed to be? Your humble author headed across the Pond to Scotland for a 24-hour sojourn to find out firsthand. (In case you're wondering why an American would fly to Great Britain to drive a German car: Mercedes-Benz UK had extra room on its domestic media drive junket, so they kindly let Mercedes-Benz USA send a few US journalists over to join the fun.)
Two doors or four, any sports car worth its salt is judged first on its looks. On that front, the AMG GT 4-Door presents a very different first impression based upon whether you approach from the back or, well, the front. The bow and stern almost look as though they hail from different cars; the rear is elegant and sweeping, while the face is a mask of furrowed-brow brutalism befitting a car packing enough horsepower to blitz from 0 to 60 mph in a claimed 3.3 seconds or less. Still, from either angle, it certainly looks more extraordinary than the Mercedes-AMG E63, which could pass for a Frankfurt taxi aspiring to a Men's Health cover. Mercedes claims the target customers are the sort of people who own their own companies, and the AMG GT 4-Door certainly looks boss.
Indeed, its most direct rival is also its closest analog, both in position and point of origin: the Porsche Panamera. Like its crosstown competitor, the AMG GT 4-Door bears a sloped hatchback tail and a front end design inspired by the company's halo sports car; both cars come with standard all-wheel-drive and a choice of turbocharged six- and eight-cylinder engines; both offer room for four adults to ride in comfort, if not capacious space; and both place a higher priority on performance than most cars with a quartet of portals on their flanks. Hell, here in the US, the V8-powered Panamera and GT 4-Door sell for fairly comparable money; the 453-hp Panamera GTS starts at $129,550 to the 577-hp GT 63's $137,495, while the 550-hp Panamera Turbo's $152,750 base price is a just few grand less than the 630-hp GT 63 S's $159,995.
Step in through that forward-left portal (or, if you're in the Scottish Highlands, the forward-right one) and you'll come across a driver-focused interior that should seem familiar to anyone who's been in a top-trim Mercedes in the last year or two. The art deco turbofan air vents, the dual 12.3-inch instrument panel and infotainment screens under a broad leather unibrow, the meaty steering wheel with its extensive metal controls and touch-sensitive nipples for controlling the screens—it's all recognizable, every bit as nice to see here as it is in an S65 or CLS450.
The AMG GT 4-Door does bring one or two unique touches to the interior to help justify its six-figure price, however. The biggest exception sits between the driver and shotgun rider: in place of the usual elegant, convex-curved center console sits a bulky, gleaming saddle inspired by the one found in the AMG GT sports cars. It looks impressive in pictures, but in person, it feels like it's trying too hard; it desperately wants to be a new-and-improved version of that GT console, but winds up coming across as, well, a little cheap. The center console found in the GT C, GT R, and the other AMG two-doors is a work packed with subtle design touches, like the eight round knobs and buttons arranged in a pattern that calls to mind the V8 beneath the giant hood; the GT 4-Door's version replaces those evocative switches with quadrilinear plastic buttons. The thumbnail-sized TFT screens make them more eye-catching, but they feel a bit cheap, and they're less effective; the toggle switches for the volume and drive mode functions seem far less ergonomic a solution than the old dials.
Luckily, the redundant performance controls on the steering wheel both look better and are far more convenient to use, with tabs for the ESP and performance exhaust settings on the left, and a Porsche Sport Chrono-like click wheel with a tiny enclosed screen on the right to flip between the drive modes. Between that and the many other steering wheel controls, you might almost never need to reach for the switches on that bulky console at all. (Good thing, too, because it's a bit of an awkward reach.)
Like any sports car, the Mercedes-AMG GT 63 4-Door sacrifices some functionality on the altar of style. The front footwells are a touch cramped, and the thick door sills make it all but impossible to keep from climbing inside without transferring whatever combination of mud, snow, or road grime coats the outside of the car to your legs. Same goes for the tall lid at the rear hatch; in spite of our best efforts to avoid messing up our pants, all three people in my car wound up with dirty thighs after grabbing our luggage from the trunk. (That trunk, for what it's worth, is more than capable of taking the luggage three men would bring on a cross-continental business trip.)
Still, accept those compromises, and the interior proves as delightful a place to kick back and enjoy the drive as any modern Mercedes. The upholstery and other materials look every bit worth the lofty price; the seats are comfortable as any found in the average living room. (Don't bother with the half-shelled AMG Performance seats; the regular units are plenty supportive, and come with the added boon of ventilation and voice-activated massage.) And unlike the two-door members of the AMG GT clan, the GT 63 has more than enough room not only for the front-seat occupants to relax on a long road trip, but throws in enough rear seat space for a six-foot-tall man to sit behind a second six-footer for a couple hours at a go.
Any true AMG is defined above all else by the drive, of course. As anyone who's piloted one of the sub-brand's models in the last decade can testify, gone are the days when Merc's in-house tuning division made Bavarian muscle cars that were merely fast in a straight line; any vehicle wearing that tri-letter badge today can grip as well as it can go, and usually proves itself one of the most entertaining vehicles in its class in the process. Unfortunately, testing a new AMG sports sedan on unfamiliar Scottish roads is hardly the best way to experience it for the first time. Indeed, driving a 577-hp four-door sports car with the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car and the car on the wrong side of the road in the middle of winter is like...well, stopping at the Glenfiddich distillery while driving a 577-hp four-door sports car. You can take it all in, sample the flavor a bit, but you can’t get enough of a taste to achieve the full effect.
Driving "goofy," as Shawn White might put it, forces the brain to shift attention to the basics of driving in a way you haven't done since the laminate was fresh on your license; your gaze chokes up on the course ahead, looking directly ahead instead of down the road to the next curve to make sure your port side wheels don't stray into the curb and your right-front fender doesn't meander into oncoming traffic. Not helping matters: the shocking tightness available on the small country lanes criss-crossing Scotland. If only William Wallace had shouted "ROAD SHOULDERS!" with his dying breath; perhaps then there'd be space to hustle this 65.9-inch-wide, 199.2-inch long car over hill and dale. (Highways are little better; while the speed limit sits at a generous 70 mph, frequent speed cameras serve to clamp down on hopes of triple-digit blasts.) Add in a slick winter film that might as well be haggis grease, and even the confidence that comes with teaming the AMG-tuned 4Matic+ also seen on the E63 S with winter tires isn't enough to overcome all the mental obstacles between you and hauling ass.
One feature you can't score on the E63 at any price: four-wheel steering, which comes gratis on all V8-powered GT 4-Doors. As with most such systems, it cants the aft wheels in the same direction as the front at high speeds (above 62 mph, in this case) for added stability, while pointing them slightly the opposite way at lower speeds. Same goes for the active spoiler, which can pop between five different positions between flat and 7.2 inches of height.
Still, sporadic opportunities to prod the GT 63 sprang up during the day's drive—enough, at least, to tell that it drives a an awful lot like an E63, at least under the real-world conditions we tested it under. While any of those Masters of the Universe seeking to track their four-doors would be best-suited to picking up the GT 63 S and its cornucopia of standard performance-enhancing features, like active engine mounts, Race Mode and Drift Mode (the latter, as in the E63 S, cutting power to the AWD car's front axle to enable lurid spins and slides), the 577 horses and 590 pound-feet of torque proved more than plenty to rip past long lines of cars and the slow-moving farm equipment holding them up. Likewise, the all-wheel-drive system shunted the power around seamlessly and invisibly; between it and the sharply-tuned AMG Ride Control Sport Suspension, the GT 63 never felt anywhere near its limits while whipping through tight Scottish turns at speed, even if the road seemed narrow enough to make such speeds feel butt-puckeringly scary.
The Mercedes-AMG GT 63 4-Door, in either "S" or non-S trim, is everything you'd expect from an AMG sedan of its size and power: stylish, comfortable, and fast as hell in lines and curves alike. Granted, it may be a bit of a stretch to consider it a four-door sports car, as Mercedes-AMG might like. (Though admittedly, it's closer to that description than anything Nissan's ever made.) Still, it does feel a baby step closer to being a supercar than the CLS63 it's replacing in the lineup; while that car was merely a rebodied E-Class, the GT 4-Door's added power (at least in "S" form) and performance features give it enough cred to stake a claim nearer sports car territory than the magnum AMG E.
Perhaps, then, it's worth giving the GT 63 4-Door the benefit of choosing its own identity. If it wants to see itself as closer to the AMG GT R than the E63, who are we to judge? It's fast, flashy, and fun, no matter what you call it.
The 2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 63 4Matic+, By the Numbers:
Base Price: $137,495
Powertrain: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, 577 horsepower, 590 pound-feet of torque; nine-speed automatic with wet clutch; all-wheel-drive
EPA Fuel Economy: TBD, but let's face it, probably not great
0-60 MPH: 3.3 seconds (manufacturer estimate)
Top Speed: 191 mph (manufacturer estimate)