REVIEW | Is the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT 53 4MATIC+ a red herring?
Gratuitous fawning was justified when Mercedes-AMG launched its flagship GT coupé on SA shores in August 2015. Though it forewent the impressive upswinging doors of the former halo car in the stable, the SLS, it wielded many other essential ingredients befitting a pedigreed sporting machine.
On the aesthetic front, many will agree that the right elements were present, from the long prow to the squatting rear, whose silhouette seemed to echo just a hint of Porsche 911. No coincidence, of course, because one of the chief mandates of the GT was to pose a compelling counterargument to the evergreen contender with its engine in the rear.
We noted how different it was in texture to the benchmark: a wilder, more boisterous alternative. Much of this character was owed to the potency of the 3,982cc, twin-turbocharged, eight-cylinder up front, wearing the M178 designation.
By then, the market had already been acquainted with this internally-dubbed M176 engine family and its variations, with the 2015 W205 C63 being the first in the Mercedes-AMG stable to feature the M177 unit. It preceded the GT by a few months, launching in May 2015.
Sure, it lacked the beefier displacement of the 6,208cc M156 that was well-regarded in older breeds. And some will argue that the acoustics were less thrilling. But it compensated with improved tractability and, more crucially, improved economy. As you know, even Aston Martin deemed it fit for use in their current crop of products. In 2017 the GT family expanded with the addition of a roadster variant. And in 2018 the spirit of the model morphed into a more practical offering in the form of the GT four-door.
This week we secured some seat-time in the model, which made a quiet entrance through the border towards the end of 2019. Now to address the elephant in the room: does Mercedes-Benz not already have a coupé with four doors in its ranks?
Yes, the CLS-Class is still part of the model mix, with its slim windows and quadruple entrances. But the noteworthy, italicised term in the GT story is fastback. As identified by the single slope from roof to rear — and integrated tailgate.
Technicalities aside, the result leaves feelings of ambivalence. The regular, original GT is immediately attractive and striking for the best of reasons. This stretched-out interpretation is striking, too, but in a way that impels you to pause, examine and mull it over, scratching your head for effect.
A hot-rod sentiment came to mind when poring over our vivid red 53 4MATIC+ tester, especially thanks to the relative plumpness of its Pirelli P Zero tyres: 255/45/ZR19 front; 285/40/ZR19 rear. Keep in mind that the GT four-door is based on the same architecture as the aforementioned CLS-Class and contemporary E-Class.
If you plan on filling each of the three seats remaining in the GT on a long journey, take note of the 395l luggage capacity, with a further 60l beneath the boot floor. Kinship with its two-door counterpart is seen in cabin layout, where a sizeable centre tunnel connects with the fascia. At the heart of the specimen pictured here you will find the six-cylinder, in-line M256 engine on duty. The 2,999cc, turbocharged unit has an output of 320kW and 520Nm, with a claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.5 seconds.
It is supplemented by a 48V hybrid system, comprising a boost effect of up to 16kW and 250Nm. Among the interesting benefits brought by this is a lag-mitigation system. A technical explanation from the company reads: “Assisted by the integrated starter-generator at start-off, the electric auxiliary compressor guarantees immediate high torque when driving off and under acceleration, bridging the time before the large exhaust turbocharger cuts in.”
Dismay caused by the frankly meek tone on firing up the 53 is shooed away once the power pedal goes down. It is as fast as the national prescribed limits require, packing responsiveness that provides confident merging. And the noises get appropriately bolder as you progress through the driving modes, with Race at the top stage. There is plenty in reserve for velocities that see the AMG Speedshift MCT transmission exploring its latter ratios, of the nine on offer.
Those loftier digits also see the deployment of an extending rear spoiler. In the front, electronically-controlled louvres open and close to direct airflow, a trick borrowed from the track-focused AMG GT R. The all-wheel drive system makes for assured, nigh-on foolproof handling characteristics, with a degree of heft expected from a car with a 1,970kg kerb weight. A slalom champion it is not. Rather, the GT four-door is a skilled touring machine that joins distances rapidly, in acceptable comfort, with lively streaks in its personality to indulge the person at the helm.
Should said person feel that the 53-specification is too tame, take heart in the full-fat 63 and 63 S versions on offer, their boosted V8 units serving 430kW and 800Nm and 470kW and 900Nm respectively.
PRICING: Mercedes-AMG GT 53 4MATIC+: From R2,037,118.