--
 
WATCH: Bentley's new 467kW Continental GT

The new third-gen Bentley Continental GT boasts 467kW, 900Nm and a top speed of 333km/h.

Meet VW's SA-bound baby SUV, the T-Cross

A disguised prototype of the T-Cross, VW's new baby crossover SUV, is being tested on public roads.

FIRST DRIVE: Mercedes-AMG GT63 S is an injection of performance capable of 'delivering the hammer blow to rivals'

2018-09-26 13:00

Sudhir Matai

Mercedes-AMG GT63 S

Image: Mercedes-Benz

The letters A, M and G are synonymous with fast and powerful Mercedes-Benz models. However, not many know that the speed factory in Affalterbach was not a Mercedes-owned entity until quite recently. The company enjoyed Mercedes backing but the two were separate entities.

Standalone AMGs

When Mercedes-Benz finally bought AMG in its entirety in 2005, it opened up the option for the high-performance arm to produce bespoke models, rather than just injecting its performance upgrades into already-existing production models.

The very first of these sportscars was the fire-breathing SLS AMG; the modern Gullwing, if you will. A few years later followed the AMG GT. The newer model drew heavily on lessons learned from the SLS.

READ: Geneva show: New Mercedes-AMG GT coupe... with four-doors

It wasn’t as powerful or dramatic but it proved to be an excellent sports car. Mercedes-AMG was clearly gunning for a slice of the Porsche 911’s market share and the GT is an able challenger. Now, we have the third AMG-only model.

What is it?

The Mercedes-AMG GT 4 door coupé is the sub-brand’s first four-door model. Having already tackled the likes of the Porsche 911 and Aston Martin Vantage with the two-door GT models, this newcomer takes aim at those cars’ siblings, namely the Panamera and Rapide.

Mercedes-AMG GT63 S on track

                                                                    Image: Mercedes-Benz

Unlike its predecessors that were designed specifically to be sports cars, from the ground up, the GT 4 door Coupé is based on Mercedes Rear Architecture (MRA), i.e the same platform employed for the S- and E-Class.

Starting from that base the chaps at AMG have applied several bespoke touches for sporting duty. A number of braces have been added to the body to stiffen up the superstructure. Among these are underbody items along with a carbon-fibre panel behind the rear seat with the same lightweight material used for the spare wheel well.

A striking proposition

Of course, the body styling is completely unique. The front-end draws inspiration from the two-door GT, but with a slimmer headlight graphic. The grille upright slats are in signature chrome. Active aerodynamic panels are at play in the lower part of the bumper, which features larger intake for better cooling.

Mercedes-AMG GT63 S blue

                                                                          Image: Mercedes-Benz

These panels move in accordance with prevailing conditions and engine temps. For many, the rear-end styling may be this car’s most contentious aspect. The curved rump creates a visual mass over the rear wheels and leaves it with a large derriere.

Flared arches, large alloys and a hunkered stance all added to the machismo. Regardless of how you feel about the rear-end, the overall appearance is striking. It leaves onlookers with no doubt that this is a high-performance Mercedes model.

The four-door family

Mercedes-AMG has created three different GT 4 door Coupé variants. The GT43 and GT53 are both powered by in-line six-cylinder engines that feature turbocharging. Power is rated at 270kW/500Nm for the former and 320kW/520Nm for the latter.

Both derivatives also boast an EQ Boost starter-alternator, which dishes up additional short-term power and torque to the tune of 16kW and 250Nm. A heavy-hitting GT63 spearheads the range.

Mercedes-AMG GT63 S black

                                                                            Image: Mercedes-Benz

The range-topper features the company’s familiar 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8. Two power output options have been created for the 63 derivatives. In "base" spec it delivers 430kW and 800Nm of torque. In apex S guise, it pumps out 470kW and 900Nm. That power makes the GT63 S the most powerful AMG road car ever produced.

A nine-speed automatic transmission, with multipack clutch, is standard fare across the range. In all derivatives, power is delivered to all four wheels. Torque split front to rear is continuously variable, with a max of 100% delivered to the rear axle with no more than 50% ever sent to the front wheels. Incidentally, power is split between the rear wheels via a limited slip differential.

But how does it go?

At the world ride and drive event held in the vibey city of Austin Texas, I got to sample the GT63 briefly on the road. For fear of encountering local law enforcement, I stayed well below the speed limit. I figured brown-skin man breaking the law in Texas does not go down well.

I can’t comment too much on the power output and delivery as the car seemed to need just a few revs over idle to deliver the kinds of speeds we were confined to.

Mercedes-AMG GT63 S interior

                                                                         Image: Mercedes-Benz

On the open road, I noted that the slippery shape made for very quiet motoring. Most of the noise we experienced came through the wide low-profile tyres.

Thankfully, our experiences were not confined to the public road network. The bulk of our driving took place at the Circuit of the Americas. This spectacular and technical track is the home of the USGP and one of the very few counter-clockwise tracks on the Formula 1 calendar.

Hitting the track

We weren’t afforded any sighting laps in a bus or sedan of any sorts. Instead, we were dumped in the hot seat and told to "follow that car". "That car" was a Mercedes-AMG GT R driven by none other than 5-time German Touring Car (DTM) champion and Mercedes brand ambassador, Bernd Schneider.

Mercedes-AMG GT63 S engine

                                                                       Image: Mercedes-Benz

Herr Schneider talked us through a lap of the 5.5km course over the two-way radios. With 20 corners, many which draw inspiration from famous shapes on other tracks, there is plenty to remember. With several blind corners, this circuit is a real draw on driver talent and an extremely tough test for any road car.

After our initial run, the man in the lead turned up the pace. From the start/finish line, the circuit rises 41m (13 storeys) to the very tight and narrow T1. In a straight line, the GT63 S is brutal. 900Nm simply flattens the 11% gradient as the car hardly notices the uphill.

Mercedes-AMG GT63 S

                                                                              Image: Mercedes-Benz

The downside of the uphill not scrubbing off any speed means by the time I arrive in the braking zone for T1 the speed is pretty high. The optional carbon compound brakes are highly appreciated at this point as they scrub off speed in a hurry without the need to sheepishly use the run-off area.

Thanks to the variable split all-wheel drive and a virtual shortening of the wheelbase by active rear steering a tight turn-in can be affected. Once straight again power can be fed in quickly with the front wheels aiding traction out of a corner.

Light on its feet

From T1 the circuit heads downhill again. The sweeping sequence from T2-6 really calls on the car to change direction quickly and maintain composure as it is flung from side-to-side.

Despite weighing in at the better part of two tons the GT63 S holds its line admirably, leaning heavily on its tyres to stick to the chosen line. The run from T11 to 12 is a 1km straight. In that space, I could actually close the gap to the GTR ahead, the only place in the lap I am able to catch the maestro.

Mercedes-AMG GT63 S at circuit

                                                                         Image: Mercedes-Benz

In the tighter corners that make up the closing sections of the lap, I get more adept at steering out with a heavy foot and a hint of oversteer, great fun.

Through the long downhill, an off-camber double right-hander at T17 and 18 the big Merc once again leans heavily on its tyres but does not relinquish grip. We repeat the exercise for two more laps before taking a break. If anything it is the tyres that take the biggest strain having to deal with the dynamics of a heavy, long and wide car. 

Our fearless leader calls a return to the pits for a quick debrief. He is keen to hear our feedback of the car and the circuit. After a few words and a short break, we repeat the fun exercise a few more times through the day. With each passing session, speeds go up and so does confidence in the GT63 S’s abilities. 

Summary

I highly doubt that any GT63 S will ever make it to a track day in the hands of a private owner, though I would love to be proven wrong in this regard. The exercise at Circuit of the America’s proved that this is a serious piece of high-performance kit.

Mercedes-AMG GT63 S

                                                                         Image: Mercedes-Benz

Not only does it have an extremely powerful motor under that domed bonnet, but it can utilise that power effectively. The all-wheel-drive system and active dynamics suite (which includes dynamic engine mounts, an AMG driving dynamics package, an electronically controlled LSD, active rear axle steering, among others) really give the GT63 S proper sporting credentials.

Logistics and timing meant that I did not have the chance to sample the model on regular roads. Previous experience with Mercedes’ air-sprung models, as the GT63 S is, leads me to believe that the ride will feel a tad stiff over anything but the smoothest of tar.

On the whole, Mercedes-AMG’s third model delivers a heavyweight punch from a sleek package that features the brand’s usual luxury and high-tech accoutrements.

Sudhir Matai is the editor of Double Apex

NEXT ON WHEELS24X

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.