Mer­cedes-AMG GT 4Door Panam­era meets M5

Don’t get dis­tracted by the semi-coupe body and the com­plex­i­ties of the Merc-AMG hi­er­ar­chy: this is a head-on ri­val for BMW’s big per­for­mance saloon. By Ge­org Kacher

CAR (UK) - - Contents -

EXIT THE CLS SHOOT­ING Brake, en­ter the new AMG GT 4-Door. Seems like a fair ex­change in the up­per reaches of the Mer­cedes model line-up. The sort-of es­tate ver­sion of the feisty coupe was al­ways an agree­able odd­ity, whereas the four-door ver­sion of the high-per­for­mance GT coupe has a very clear USP: tackle the BMW M5 at its own game.

The su­per-pow­er­ful, su­per-fast, su­per-ex­pen­sive four- or five-seater mar­ket is start­ing to look a lit­tle crowded, with the Porsche Panam­era Turbo S E-Hy­brid al­ready es­tab­lished, the BMW M8 Gran Coupe on its way to join the M5, and Audi set to keep turn­ing the dial up un­til the A7 be­comes the RS7.

If you’ve un­der­stand­ably suc­cumbed to the con­sid­er­able po­ten­tial for con­fu­sion as to what the awk­wardly named GT 4-Door ac­tu­ally is, here’s a quick re­fresher. You know the GT? The alu­minium-in­ten­sive two-seat coupe and con­vert­ible built from the ground up to be Merc’s per­for­mance flag­ship? Well, the 4-Door is not as closely re­lated to that as Mer­cedes might like you to think. Its un­der­pin­nings are ac­tu­ally closer to those of the CLS than to the other GTs, and it’s no light­weight like the other GTs.

But nor is it a mis-badged CLS, even though the new CLS line-up con­spic­u­ously lacks a 63 ver­sion, which must be to avoid di­rect com­par­isons with the top two ver­sions of the GT 4-Door.

Best just to think of the GT 4-Door as a thing unto it­self, de­vel­oped by AMG boss To­bias Mo­ers and his team as a new four-seater king of the fast lane.

Pity they didn’t bother to find a suit­able name for it. Soli­tude (Stuttgart’s his­toric for­mer race­track) was a can­di­date, as was Sportcruiser, and it could have been sim­ply GT-4, but that was nixed be­cause the punter would al­legedly con­fuse it with the GT4 race car. Give us a break, please. This four-seater coupe which turns heads even be­fore you start the en­gine de­serves a catchy badge on the tail­gate.

We get three ver­sions, all of them all-wheel drive. The GT53 AMG gets an en­ter­tain­ing 429bhp out of its straight six, plus 22bhp from its mild hy­brid elec­tron­ics. There are two ver­sions of the twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 to choose from. While the 577bhp 63 edi­tion has al­ready got what it takes to twist the drive­shafts dizzy, the 630bhp S vari­ant is the real tar­mac-peel­ing Mc­Coy. It dishes up 644lb ft of ex­plo­sive torque, can play an ex­tra bunch of chip-in­duced tricks and is kit­ted out even more flam­boy­antly.

Trou­ble is, the prices (at least in main­land Eu­rope; UK prices have not yet been an­nounced) are sig­nif­i­cantly

more than even the Com­pe­ti­tion ver­sion of the key ri­val, the M5. What do you get for your money? A proper four-seat coupe body, for a start, with enough room in the back for six­foot­ers. Hav­ing said that, en­try and exit are com­pro­mised by the bulging sill, the bulky front seats and the slop­ing roofline. The wide and flat boot holds 461 litres of lug­gage, eas­ily ex­panded by play­ing with the split bench.

The in­fo­tain­ment con­trols seem un­likely to please ei­ther dig­i­tal na­tives or ana­logue sil­ver-agers. The flimsy swipe but­tons on both spokes of the steer­ing wheel are an ob­ject les­son in hit and miss, while the touch­pad that re­placed the Co­mand con­troller be­tween the seats just isn’t suf­fi­ciently in­tu­itive. The new A-Class makes it eas­ier to ac­cess its tal­ents than this flag­ship coupe, and that’s even be­fore we turn our at­ten­tion to the com­plex sec­ond dis­play on top of the cen­tre stack. You can waste a lot of time in a car park with the en­gine run­ning, sin­glefin­gerdly scrolling, swip­ing, zoom­ing, push­ing, grin­ning, de­spair­ing and curs­ing through this hap­tic maze.

But this fades into ir­rel­e­vance when you get out on the road, ide­ally in the 63 S, which is the ver­sion that re­ally de­liv­ers the goods. Why the S? For a start be­cause of the ex­tra poke and grunt, but also be­cause of such high-per­for­mance en­hance­ments as the tauter air sus­pen­sion, quicker rear-wheel steer­ing and six re­mark­ably clever driv­ing modes com­plete with the mar­que’s trade­mark drift mode. All th­ese fea­tures are, in­ci­den­tally, avail­able for the lesser mod­els. While the two-door GT coupé comes (in R form) with a bright yel­low drift mode thumb­wheel, which takes eight steps to re­move the safety net, the four­door has a dif­fer­ent set up, com­ing with 4Matic+ all-wheel drive as stan­dard. Just like the M5, it de­ac­ti­vates fron­twheel drive when it’s sure that’s what the driver re­ally wants.

First, you must se­lect Race. Next, choose man­ual gear se­lec­tion. Now switch off ESP com­pletely. At this point, a screen pops up in­struct­ing you to si­mul­ta­ne­ously pull both shift pad­dles. The fi­nal move is to con­firm this set­ting. To do so, hit the right pad­dle one more time. At this point, blood pres­sure and pulse rate should match the un­hinged drifta­bil­ity, the adrenalin flow rate may have dou­bled, and the palms are bound to be moist.

On the race­track, hard cor­ner­ing is a to­tally dif­fer­ent ball game now, pri­mar­ily be­cause you look at most apexes through a side win­dow. Af­ter only two laps, the tyre pres­sure sen­sors be­gin to beep for mercy, but af­ter a brief pit­stop we’re back out again, burn­ing rub­ber with ab­so­lute ded­i­ca­tion. The main hand­i­cap is its weight.4

With a full tank of petrol and the driver on board, the S rolls off the scales at an al­most obese 2120kg – that’s nor­mally a big-SUV fig­ure. Shift­ing all that mass and bulk is, how­ever, amaz­ingly ef­fort­less. The two most im­por­tant pub-ammo num­bers – ac­cel­er­a­tion from 0-62mph and top speed – are 3.2sec and 196mph, so con­grat­u­la­tions for be­witch­ing the law of physics. You’ll pay the price at the pumps, though.

In ad­di­tion to fa­mil­iar ad­justable pa­ram­e­ters like ESP and damper con­trol, the S ver­sion comes with a fur­ther en­hance­ment called AMG Dy­nam­ics. This fea­ture bun­dles the ac­tions of sta­bil­ity con­trol, 4Matic torque dis­tri­bu­tion, rear-wheel steer­ing ac­tu­a­tion and lim­ited-slip diff cal­i­bra­tion in four fixed at­ti­tudes la­belled Ba­sic, Ad­vanced, Pro and Mas­ter. Sounds con­fus­ing, but works a treat. Ev­ery level be­comes more chal­leng­ing as you move up the lad­der. AMG Dy­nam­ics can be per­son­alised. While it is not pos­si­ble to ac­ti­vate ESP in Mas­ter, it is for in­stance worth try­ing ESP off in com­bi­na­tion with Ba­sic. It works re­ally well on road and track, where it makes it easy for the driver to adapt with­out com­pro­mis­ing con­fi­dence.

It’s not long since the days when the Com­fort set­ting in some AMG sa­loons was syn­ony­mous with an al­most to­tal lack of com­pli­ance. The new slant­back takes no pris­on­ers in Sport Plus and Race, but there is enough spring travel and shock ab­sorber mercy in Sport, even on some quite poor sur­faces. With Mas­ter ac­ti­vated, body move­ments are kept ex­tremely well in check, cor­ner­ing is en­cour­ag­ingly flat, and way­ward­ness is kept to an ab­so­lute min­i­mum. As al­ways, tyre tem­per­a­tures can spoil the fun, but even on hot rub­ber our test track’s most chal­leng­ing sec­tion, in­volv­ing three suc­ces­sive high-speed fourth-gear esses, is wide enough to let you play with the line, tweak the en­try speed and con­nect to the fol­low­ing right-han­der with­out los­ing too much mo­men­tum.

Add to this the Loc­tite road­hold­ing, the dober­mann cor­ner­ing grip and the ro­bust man­ners at the limit, and you get a good idea of how speed and con­trol join forces in this re­mark­able sports coupe. The op­tional car­bon-ce­ramic brakes gen­er­ate one punch of coun­terthrust af­ter the other, which is es­sen­tial on the cir­cuit and ex­tremely re­as­sur­ing else­where. De­spite all the sta­bil­i­tyen­hanc­ing trick­eries, the 295-sec­tion tyres don’t take a lot of per­suad­ing to leave a sou­venir on ev­ery sec­ond- and third-gear turn.

The en­gine asks a lot of the nine­speed twin-clutch trans­mis­sion. The ini­tial es­cape from first into sec­ond gear can be a tad jerky, even in Com­fort. But it’s a dif­fer­ent story when you’re push­ing hard. The way chas­sis and steer­ing in­ter­act with the torque flow builds up your con­fi­dence, and you get to choose how wild you want the ride to be, from mild slides to tyre-smok­ers. When the car turns in and the stubby rear end swings round, you can leave it ridicu­lously late be­fore feed­ing in the power along with a match­ing dose of op­po­site lock.

Mer­cedes will al­most cer­tainly do the lion’s share of GT 4-Door busi­ness with the 3.0-litre model. It’s a com­pelling car for sure, ad­vanced in con­cept and a great all-rounder. But it doesn’t come even close the out­landishly fast and wholly awe­some GT63 S.

MER­CEDES AMG GT63 S

4 DOOR

> Price £150,000 (est) > En­gine 3982cc 32v twin-turbo V8, 630bhp @ 5500rpm, 664lb ft @ 2500rpm > Trans­mis­sion 9-speed twin-clutch auto, all-wheel drive

> Per­for­mance 3.2sec 0”62mph, 196mph, 25.2mpg, 256g/km CO2

> Weight 2045kg > On sale Late 2018

There are many modes to help you do this, and many to help you not do this

Twin-turbo V8 comes as 577bhp GT63 and 630bhp GT63 S. Hmm, now let’s think…

Merc’s state-of-theart in­te­rior marred by stupid „id­dly touch­pads

This is the irst AMG with its own built-in fra­grance (AMG#63). Wind down the win­dows and you can re­place it with Burn­trub­ber#4

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.