Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door 63 S E Performance’s cutting-edge technology results in astonishing performance figures, it also feels like a bit of a dinosaur. It’s a new take on the hugely powerful saloon car formula and one that doesn’t come with too much finesse. At this price point we’d expect greater driving involvement.
The most powerful Mercedes-AMG you can buy is probably the most appropriate way to introduce the new GT 4-Door 63 S E Performance. That ridiculously long name also serves as a hint to this car’s split personality between a luxury saloon and a rambunctious sports car – a feat only a handful of cars in history have managed to successfully pull off.
As well as a complex name, the GT 4-Door S E Performance comes with a fairly convoluted powertrain. At the heart of it is the M177 twin-turbocharged V8 engine – one of AMG’s greats that has powered some fantastic models from Affalterbach (and a few Aston Martins from Gaydon, as well). To help distance the E Performance from the regular GT 4-Door is a plug-in hybrid set up that adds a 6.1kWh battery powering an electric motor (both mounted on the rear axle) for a maximum 201bhp. The result of this is a total output of 831bhp and 900Nm of torque – that’s over 200bhp more than the BMW M5 CS.
Mercedes says the battery is ‘ultra lightweight’ with a total mass of 89kg. The total kerbweight of the GT 63 S E Performance stands at a fairly significant 2,339kg, however – 333kg more than the GT 4-Door 63 S. So despite a perfect weight distribution between each axle name, the E Performance has its work cut out providing the driving engagement you expect of a fully-fledged AMG flagship.
Power from the petrol engine goes through a nine-speed automatic gearbox to the 4MATIC four-wheel drive system, which features an electric limited-slip rear differential. The electric motor sends its share of the power to the wheels through a two-speed transmission and can do so independently of the combustion engine for electric-only driving. Mercedes only quotes a meagre eight miles of EV range, however.
Sliding into the E-Performance for the first time, you’ll notice the driving position is much higher than that of the two-door AMG GT sports car. That’s because the 4-Door is the only car in Mercedes’ line up that still uses the MRA1 platform – which was used for the previous generation C-Class, E-Class and S-Class, rather than an adapted version of the AMG GT coupe platform.
It might be the most potent AMG ever but that doesn’t mean the E Performance is without a degree of subtlety. Starting the car for the first time you’d be forgiven for expecting a V8 roar as confirmation of this car’s position at the head of the AMG line up. But no, there’s just a muted whoosh sound effect coming through the speakers as the car sets off in its default Comfort mode using only electric power.
There are seven drive modes to choose from, all pretty self explanatory. Comfort, Electric, Sport, Sport+, Race, Slippery and Individual. You can toggle between them using the rotary knob on the steering wheel with a neat digital display within it.
Before we head out on to some open roads where we can let loose the monstrous power, Comfort mode is engaged which means the adaptive air suspension is in its softest setting and the gearbox changes up at lower revs. The GT 4-Door feels perfectly adept over rough surfaces and the 21-inch wheels only transmit the odd jiggle through the suspension, the massively wide tyres serve up some noticeable roar at times and the weight of the car means it lumbers over speedbumps.
The dynamic seat bolstering is worth a mention because while it’s no doubt an impressive tool, the calibration is way off. Even making tight turns at car park speeds can engage it and take you off guard as the seat moves to hold you in place. You can turn it off or change its aggressiveness in the seating menu (one of five individual seat functions no-less), but it’s something we never got comfortable with.
When you shift into Sport+, the E Performance triggers some excitement with a more audible exhaust note, quicker steering responses and firmer damping. There’s still a flutter from the turbocharging and the electric system delivers a whine over the V8 growl. Whether you like the selection of noises is certainly a matter of personal preference but there’s no denying it adds to the E Performance’s unique drama.
As you’d expect given the numbers we’ve mentioned above, the E Performance requires a lot of commitment in the corners. The steering is well-weighted and turns in pretty keenly without much resistance from the front tyres. There’s a sensation of lateral weight shift but this doesn’t really translate into body roll, there’s actually plenty of grip to be enjoyed with the E Performance and although it can feel like a fight with physics at times, this big super saloon possesses a surprising amount of agility.
The power can be deployed almost instantly thanks to the electric motor’s torque. You gain confidence in tapping into the vast reserves of forward thrust thanks to the way the powertrains and the nine-speed automatic gearbox combine so smoothly. The ‘box certainly aids the overall feeling of driving involvement with its rapid manual shifts.
We’d like a greater emphasis on the V8’s noise when switching up to the sportier driving modes but ringing the E Performance out to the red line still delivers a satisfying shout – which we suspect buyers will experience time and time again because the surge of power is so intoxicating.
The weight of the E Performance did take a noticeable toll on the tyres, we suspect that on a hot day the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres will start to struggle, but the carbon ceramic brakes felt like they could shrug off the task of controlling the car’s considerable momentum all day.
The E Performance’s interior highlights this car’s ageing platform. The layout mimics that of the AMG GT coupe with a selection of buttons arranged in two banks of four – a nod to the car’s V8. The twin 12.3-inch screens might look a generation out-of-date compared to the new ‘superscreen’ offered in the latest E-Class, but the infotainment works well and they’re easy to use – fiddly steering wheel buttons aside.
A focus on delivering a sports car feel inside is more apparent when looking around the cabin for storage, which is kept to a minimum. The high centre console also makes it seem pretty snug in there. As there’s a rear hatchback rather than a saloon-style bootlid, the boot capacity stands at a respectable 535 litres, although it’s compromised by the raised boot opening and a truncated floor due to the plug-in hybrid package.
At £171,705, the E Performance version of the Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door sits in a different realm to the likes of BMW’s M5 and even Mercedes-AMG’s own E 63 S. The hybrid system certainly adds an extra layer of excitement to the GT 4-Door package, although as a driver’s car it’s obviously flawed in its execution.