STEALTH FIGHTER SEDAN

AMG GT 4-Door cloaks an E-Class plat­form. That’s where mod­er­a­tion stops

Mercury (Hobart) - Motoring - - PRESTIGE - DAMIEN REID

M ercedes-AMG has re­turned to where it all be­gan with a mon­ster four-door sports sedan it hopes will steal sales from the BMW M6 Gran Coupe, Porsche Panam­era and Audi RS7.

The AMG GT 4-Door Coupe, though, is a far cry from the first mod­i­fied Mer­cedes, a 300SEL 6.8-litre V8 that won its class in the 1971 Spa 24-Hours.

This is the first four-door de­vel­oped in­house rather than a re­badged and tweaked Mer­cedes-Benz pro­duc­tion car.

Two ver­sions will make it to Aus­tralia mid­next year: the GT 63S with 4.0-litre V8 twin­turbo and GT 53 with a new 3.0-litre six­cylin­der twin-turbo. The lat­ter pro­duces 320kW and 520Nm with the help of a 48V boost starter set-up that kicks in an ex­tra 16kW.

The 4-Door 63S re­places the CLS 63S, which is no longer be­ing of­fered. It is in­tended to be a sedan ver­sion of the brawny GT Coupe but it has more in com­mon with the Mer­cedes EClass than the race-bred sports coupe.

Re­move the slick body and you will find the rear-wheel drive plat­form of the E-Class with the con­ven­tional front-mounted en­gine and trans­mis­sion.

The GT Coupe’s transaxle lay­out, in­cor­po­rat­ing the gear­box in the rear dif­fer­en­tial for bet­ter weight dis­tri­bu­tion, was deemed too com­plex to trans­late to the four­door — and was too wide (by 136mm at the rear) to squeeze un­der the nar­rower sedan body­work.

There are ben­e­fits, how­ever — the 4-Door gains the lat­est Mer­cedes-AMG rear sus­pen­sion mods in­clud­ing rear-axle steer­ing.

In this set-up, the rear wheels steer op­po­site to the front at up to 100km/h to re­duce the turn­ing cir­cle of the five-me­tre long car and then turn in the same di­rec­tion as the fronts for eas­ier high-speed lane chang­ing.

We tried the 4-Door on the Cir­cuit Of the Amer­i­cas in Austin, Texas — one of the best mo­tor rac­ing tracks you will find, it’s fast, flow­ing and dan­ger­ous if any­thing goes wrong.

Turns One to Five flow in a series of down­hill esses like the roller­coaster com­ing down Mt Panorama — get it wrong at the top and it only gets worse as you try to re­gain con­trol.

Mo­ments after yet an­other 255km/h run down the straight and pun­ish­ing the six-pis­ton, 360mm com­pos­ite brakes of the 63 S to en­ter Turn One, I fol­low a driver who gets it crossed up as he ex­its.

From my po­si­tion, I can see AMG’s elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol sav­ing him po­ten­tially from five high-speed losses in suc­ces­sion.

The ev­i­dence — graphic and re-as­sur­ing at the same time — is the small puff of brake dust from each wheel as the on-board com­put­ers wres­tle the car back un­der con­trol in mi­crosec­onds with­out the driver even re­al­is­ing what’s hap­pen­ing.

It would be rea­son­able to ex­pect the rear end to get light through the con­stantly chang­ing fourth-gear sweep­ers but it stays pinned.

The V8 (470kW/900 Nm) is eas­ily up to the cir­cuit task but the nine-speed auto trans­mis­sion re­minds me that this is still more of a road car than a track day spe­cial. Smooth and quick on the up changes, the trans­mis­sion is hes­i­tant to ac­cept quick, mul­ti­ple down shifts when flick­ing the pad­dle-shifters back from fifth to se­cond for tight cor­ners.

On road, it per­forms seam­lessly but it’s an ex­am­ple of the com­pro­mise fac­ing the en­gi­neers when try­ing to graft AMG’s track-fo­cused per­for­mance on to a fam­ily-friendly sedan.

The in­te­rior is fa­mil­iar, with the dash dom­i­nated by a dig­i­tal wide-screen that’s stan­dard on the 63 and op­tional on the 53. The 53 gets a 17.8cm mul­ti­func­tion dis­play but can be op­tioned with the 31.2cm dis­play from the V8. Black Nappa leather dom­i­nates the in­te­rior and there is an Al­can­tara-wrapped steer­ing wheel. Rear seat­ing op­tions in­clude a bench for three, two seats with at­tached leather con­sole and two in­di­vid­ual seats with LCD con­trol panel be­tween them.

Eight switches in the cen­tre con­sole around the gear se­lec­tor op­er­ate the drive modes, trac­tion con­trol and ex­haust modes.

Mer­cedes-Benz Aus­tralia hasn’t con­firmed pric­ing for the 53 or 63 S — there will be a pre­mium over the equiv­a­lent E-Class.

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