REVIEW: the new Mercedes-Benz AMG GT-S four-door coupe
Channelling the pedigree of AMG’s prestigious racing reputation and the spirit of its achingly cool early cars, its four-door coupe cruiser is the pinnacle of practical performance
Few companies can claim to have roots quite like AMG. Founded in the 1960s by two engineers, Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher (that's where the A and the M come from in the name), the duo were tasked with making a not-so-racy Mercedes 300 SE as fast as humanly possible. Despite Mercedes abandoning its motorsports programme not long after they'd got to work, the pair continued to work on the engine in Aufrecht's house in Grossaspach (which is where the G comes from).
When they'd finished tinkering, they rolled the car out in 1965 and entered it into the German Touring Car Championship hoping for a good result. What followed were no less than ten outright victories for the car sporting the engine they'd created at home in their garage. From that moment, the pair set up shop on their own, tunning a select few Mercedes models. Quickly gaining a reputation for bringing outlandish performance and subtle-ish styling cues to practical cars, AMG badged Mercedes were the ones to have from the mid-1980s onwards and, if the AMG GT four-door coupe is anything to go by, not much has changed.
Since those early days at AMG, things have escalated. Quite a lot. Staying true to the company's roots, the name is still synonymous with racing, with the company scooping up no less than seven world championship titles in Formula One to date, not to mention its success in other series. Off the track, the once niche tuning company is now a mainstay of the Mercedes-Benz marque, tasked with spicing up popular road cars and coaxing out as much performance as possible. Take our car in question for example: with a mighty 4.0-litre V8 biturbo up front delivering 630bhp and 627lb-ft of torque, the numbers associated with this four-door family saloon are more commonly found on supercar spec sheets.
With all that, you can expect equally absurd performance when you come to plant your right foot, too. Making (very) short work of the blast from 0-62mph, the AMG GT four-door Coupe will cover it off in just 3.2 seconds and will push on to a top speed of 195mph. With a slight breeze behind it, you'll be knocking on the door of the supercar club's 200mph entry requirement in no time at all, only you've got space in the back for two children and the family dog. Which raises an important question about the four-door coupe: why make a practical family car so insanely fast?
Of course, the answer can be found in those heady days of the 1980s and 90s, when AMG turned sensible family cars and coupes into rip-roaring racers just because they could. After all, it's nice to know you and the family can happily take on a Ferrari on the traffic light dash even if you don't do it every day. The fact that AMG's first complete car was named 'The Hammer' says it all, doesn't it?
Still, making a car with all that performance also handle the daily drive, school run or commute is arguably a much greater engineering challenge than making it go around a track as fast as possible. Luckily, the four-door coupe comes well equipped in that department with air suspension, adaptive damping, an active rear axle, dynamic engine mounts and fully variable all-wheel drive handling rough country roads, potholes and motorway miles with aplomb. As for the transmission, the nine-speed dual shift gearbox smoothly cuts through the gears faster than you care to notice, while no less than six drive modes allow you to choose the right set-up for the job, tuning the steering, suspension, engine and transmission accordingly, from Slippery through to Race+ mode.
Inside, the usual spread of sumptuous leather, screens and tech are capped off by lashings of carbonfibre, metal or wood trim (depending on your preference) and a vast centre console that flows through to the back seats. The effect is cosseting rather than claustrophobic which is due to a combination of the four-door coupe's high window line and huge proportions. Measuring in at five metres long and nearly two metres wide, there's plenty of space inside and up to 456 litres of boot space making it a perfectly practical sportscar, should that be what you're searching for. Despite weighing a whopping 2,045kg, the four-door Coupe still feels nimble, largely due to the trick engineering from the AMG performance wizards.
Only at low speeds around the city do you notice the weight, length and width of the car, no more so when the huge 21" wheels occasionally rub and squeak during tight turns. Visually, the styling does a good job of disguising all that mass, with a curved window line (much like the CLS) giving the four-door a sense of speed and movement, even when static. Compared to the similarly pacey AMG fettled E63 estate, the four-door coupe does feel significantly more special both inside and out, even if that comes with a comparative compromise in terms of practicality.
Unlike the early cars tuned by Aufrecht and Melcher, the AMG GT-S four-door coupe isn't just a pumped-up Mercedes on steroids - it's one of only a few full AMG cars, built from the ground up, which goes some way to justifying the price tag of between £120,000 and £160,000 for a fully loaded top-spec 'S', as tested here. While it lacks the practicality of the considerably cheaper E63 estate or Audi RS6 Avant, the AMG four-door coupe is a cut above. Channelling the pedigree of AMGs learnings on the race track and the spirit of its achingly cool early cars, the AMG GT four-door coupe is a truly raucous road racer fit for parents with a penchant for performance.