Does the ‘basic’ GT 4-Door deliver the same effortless thrills as its more expensive S sibling?
Can less really be more? We’ve already driven the flagship 470kW Mercedes-AMG GT63 S 4-Door, and it’s a fine thing, but take a look at the numbers and you’ll discover that its premium over the 430kW model doesn’t buy you a massive increase in performance. Want examples? Well, the standard GT 4-Door is only two-tenths slower to 100km/h, taking a hardly shabby 3.4sec, while top speed is lower by 5km/h, meaning you’ll run out of steam at ‘just’ 310km/h.
Okay, so there’s a bit more to it than that. For instance, the basic 63 lacks the S’s Dynamic Plus package, which brings active engine mounts, the Race driver mode and the hooliganish Drift mode. Oh, and not only is it down on power, it’s also 100Nm short on torque, but with 800Nm it’s hardly a knock-kneed weakling. These variations apart, there’s little to separate the two. Under the aggressive and imposing skin you get the same twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre, still driving Merc’s trick 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive transmission through a nine-speed gearbox. Also carried over are the four-wheel steering and the suspension.
You’d have to drive the pair back-to-back to feel the S’s extra mid-range muscle – in isolation the non-S feels extremely rapid, accelerating with relentless intensity. It pulls hard from 2000rpm and revs out with enthusiasm to nearly 7000rpm. Open the active exhaust and you’re chased all the way by a bellowing, crackling soundtrack.
Less impressive is the nine-speed auto. It’s quick and smooth enough when pushing along, and particularly impressive when left to its own devices, shifting down nicely for corners, but leave a manual upshift a fraction too late and it allows the engine to cough, splutter and crash into its limiter before refusing to respond instantly to the paddle as you try to rescue the situation. Meanwhile at lower speeds it can be found second-guessing the correct gear.
Back out on the open road you can largely forget about this quirk, and revel in the GT’s ability to swagger up to the laws of physics and give them a hard stare until they back off. For a car weighing 2025kg, the AMG feels incredibly alert and agile, largely down to that steered rear axle and clever all-wheel-drive system. Quick steering – meaty and yet curiously taciturn – helps with the sense of nimbleness, but it’s the way the GT pivots into a corner like a machine at least a foot shorter and a third lighter that really surprises. By mid-corner it is planted and poised, while at the exit you can use the throttle to steer you straight, the 4-Door acting like a rear-driver, shuffling torque forwards only if it senses you’re not on top of things.
Of course, it’s still a big car and on smaller roads you can’t escape its bulk, but most of the time it feels like a super-sized C63. It’s particularly impressive in Sport+ mode, where the throttle is sharpened nicely, the ESC gives you a touch more leeway and the adaptive dampers keep all that mass under unfading control.
But it’s important to remember that the GT is, erm, a GT, a role it plays to near perfection. The low-speed ride is a little firm, but go faster and there’s just the right amount of waft. You’ll even manage around 700km between refills on a long run. Only the unresponsive infotainment touchpad threatens to shatter your sybaritic sense of calm.
Of course, all of this is academic as only the top-spec S variant will be sold in Australia. It arrives mid-year, starting at $349,900. James Disdale
Engine V8, 3982cc, twin-turbo
Power 430kW @ 5500-6500rpm
Torque 800Nm @ 2500-5000rpm
Weight 2025kg (212kW/tonne)
Top speed 310km/h
Basic price n/a in Australia