While I certainly enjoy reviewing option-packed press cars in foreign locations, there is probably something to be said about reviewing a car in slightly more real life conditions. As such, luxury car rental company Octane club handed me the keys to their new Mercedes-AMG GT 53 4Matic+ to use around Moscow for a couple of days.
First things first, I think that the naming strategy here is more than a little bit disingenuous. Mercedes-AMG GT 4-door Coupe sounds like it ought to be a 4-door version of the Mercedes-AMG GT Coupe, but it isn’t really. This car is built on an entirely different platform and has far more in common with the CLS than with the original GT. Adding insult to injury, calling something a 4-door Coupe is as self contradicting as a light shade of black. You can’t have a 2-door car with 4 doors, because of the dictionary and mathematics. Not that Mercedes are the only ones engaging in this type of tomfoolery, oh no. It seems to be something of a trend among car manufacturers these days to come up with names that makes as little sense as possible (I’m looking at you too, Porsche Cayenne Coupe).
Then again, what’s in a name, eh? It certainly doesn’t make the actual car any better or worse, but I just like to get annoyances like these off my chest before we get going. But while I’m at it, I’ll first tell you what else I don’t like too much about this car before I get to how brilliant it actually is. Because it is in fact quite a brilliant car but the journalistic habit is to make it sound just a bit bad at first before, surprise, hitting you with that twist that you could see coming from miles away. Anyway, I digress.
It wasn’t actually that easy to come up with any negatives, so you may find these a little far fetched. Let’s do the styling first. I think the front end of the car looks great. It’s mean and very much reminds you of the actual GT Coupe. The sublime creases in the bonnet make it look powerful and even slightly intimidating. But the rear end? That’s a bit meh for me. It’s fine when you look at it straight, but from certain angles and in profile I can’t say I’m a big fan. Reminds me a little too much of the ugly first generation Panamera, but then tastes are personal aren’t they. You might not agree with mine. Either way we’d have to still give this car some pretty high marks in the looks department. But I did also find the sporty front seats in this car to be pretty hard to sit in and I kept painfully hitting my right knee against the wide central tunnel every time I got into the car too. Though the latter problem more a case of this donkey simply hitting the same stone at lot more than twice before learning.
The interior of this car is pretty imposing and it exudes quality — with a sporty twist. It feels like a mix of the AMG GT Coupe and an S class, which I suppose is more or less what this car is anyway. Mercedes does this thing now where they use little LCD screens for certain buttons and switches, so they change depending on their position and whether you press them or not, and they are absolutely glorious things for your inner 8 year old self to play with while you imagine yourself on the star ship Enterprise. Great stuff. There’s also your typical modern Mercedes dual LCD layout for the dashboard, which is a similarly great digital implementation. You hardly miss the old analog needles, if at all. I’m less convinced about the new track pad style control for the infotainment system. It’s almost as if Mercedes looked at the truly terrible Lexus track pad and thought to themselves: let’s do that but better. Well they did make it better, a lot better in fact, but it’s still a little clumsy to use. Not sure that it’s an improvement over the old rotary knob.
Shall we move onto the engine next? OK. This “53” model uses the same turbocharged 3 liter inline 6 engine with a mild “EQ boost” hybrid system that we already know from cars like the CLS 53. Which is also the same engine that you can get in the “43” model of this car except that you then get 367 horsepower rather than the 435 that we get in this 53. The top models of the range, the 63 and 63 S use the bigger 4 liter turbocharged V8 that Mercedes-AMG now uses in a plethora of models and they get 585 and 640 horsepower respectively. Which is obviously a huge step up from the 435 horsepower that the car in this review had to make do with, but as you may imagine you never really feel like it’s underpowered by any stretch of the imagination. 4.5 seconds to 100 km/h and 285 km/h as a top speed are still very quick even in 2019.
The straight six is uncannily smooth and powerful, probably one of the best engines on sale today in fact, but it does lack a little bit of the drama and sense of occasion that you would get with the more powerful V8. The six isn’t exactly a boring motor, it’s just that it may be just a bit too sensible for a car that it shouting out to be a little crazy. If you want to get as close to possible to the feeling that the GT Coupe provides, you really do need the V8. If, on the other hand, you’re just looking for a great and moderately powerful big GT car to rival the Porsche Panamera S, well then look no further than this 53 model. You won’t be disappointed either way. The EQ boost hybrid system delivers up to 21 horsepower on its own but in practice is is seamlessly integrated into the engine so you can’t really tell if it’s doing anything. One extremely clever thing that it does though is that it uses maximum regeneration, which means stronger engine braking, when you let go of the throttle and the car’s sensors detect that you are quickly closing on the car in front of you. In situation where you would normally apply the brakes slightly, the car thinks two steps ahead and applies the stronger regenerative engine braking instead, thereby being more efficient and saving you the trouble of needing to brake in some situations. It’s brilliantly calibrated.
The 9-speed automatic “SPEEDSHIFT”, meanwhile is every bit as good as this engine deserves. It’s smooth and unobtrusive when you’re driving slowly but blindingly fast and crisp when you put your foot down. The programming, though, is a little odd in that it never really chooses to stay in low gears when you switch it into SPORT or SPORT+ mode. Most cars’ gearboxes become totally unusable on the road when you put them in sport plus but with this Merc you can barely tell the difference. It’s still happy to be in 8th gear at 110 km/h or so. Certainly your passengers wouldn’t think anything out of the ordinary is going on. This is certainly not a complaint, in fact it probably makes some sense in the real world, but it’s definitely something where Mercedes-AMG have gone in a different direction to their competitors. I did find myself putting the gearbox in SPORT mode for regular driving as it was shifting at absurdly low revs when left in regular Drive. That is something that all cars do have in common these days, probably because of emission testing.
The handling of this car, as you would expect, is rather exemplary. Especially considering just how heavy it is at well over two tons. It obviously doesn’t take corners at all like the AMG GT Coupe can, which is of course to be expected but I can’t help myself but mention it once again seeing that I’m still a little peeved about the name of this model. The 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system provides ample grip in all conditions but at the same time manages to be a little playful once you relax, or turn off, the stability control systems. But it cannot be put in rear wheel drive only “drift” mode like the system on its bigger brother with the 63s tag can, so that’s a bit of a bummer. I guess you have to pay to play.
At the end of the day, if you’re in the market for a car that is exactly like this then you’ll be choosing between this AMG GT 4-door or the Porsche Panamera. (Take note, by the way, that they did not call that car the 911 4-door! Sorry, I’ll let go of it now.) Which is better? That’s going to depend entirely on which brand you prefer, I suppose. They’re both big, too heavy to be genuinely sporty, expensive, and utterly brilliant. Which of course they should be in order to be worthy of their price tags which only the most fortunate among us can hope to afford. As a car that most of us can only dream about, though, the Mercedes-AMG GT works just as well. Both with two doors, or four.