by Karl Furlong
What do you do if you want a rapid Mercedes-AMG, but one that's not a monstrous gas-guzzler? What if you also want it to have four doors like a regular sedan, but with more of a performance focus than the slinky CLS, which is also a four-door coupe? Yes, explaining where each Mercedes fits in within the brand's extensive portfolio is no longer an easy task for a car fanatic, let alone the average Joe. By the way, the answer to those first two questions is this, the Mercedes-AMG GT53. It's an all-out performance sedan that wants to leave the Porsche Panamera with a bloodied nose. In GT53 form, 429 horsepower is derived from a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six with EQ Boost and an electric auxiliary compressor, qualifying it as a mild hybrid. It'll scoot to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and rewards with a truly engaging drive in Sport Plus mode. Oh, and did we mention that it looks like a million bucks? Even though we're not sure how the GT53 came to exist, we're grateful that it does.
Introduced last year, the four-door version of the GT remains fresh and continues into 2020 without any major changes. However, there are two smaller changes: Emotion Start, a feature on all 2020 AMG models, endows the car with a slightly louder, sportier engine note when starting it up. Illuminated door sills are now also standard.
See trim levels and configurations:
|AMG GT 53 4MATIC||
3.0L Turbo Inline-6 Gas
While styling is subjective, few would deny that the AMG GT53 is an exceptionally striking piece of automotive design. Simultaneously beautiful and aggressive, its looks alone are enough to buy one. The AMG body styling features a deep front apron, a multi-stage active rear spoiler, and the imposing grille with its vertical bars. 19-inch alloy wheels, all-LED exterior lighting, and a power glass sunroof with tilt/sliding functions are all standard. Four round exhaust tips help differentiate this as a 53 derivative, as 63-badged variants get trapezoidal outlets.
Nearly identical in size to the CLS, the GT53 is, however, taller by 1.3 inches. Key dimensions are a length of 199.2 inches, a width of 81.5 inches (including the mirrors), and a height of 57.3 inches. The wheelbase measures 116.2 inches. Curb weight works out to 4,594 pounds, which is just under 300 lbs heavier than the Porsche Panamera 4S.
A color palette spanning nine shades is available for the AMG GT53, starting with the standard options: Polar White and Jupiter Red. From there, you can choose between four metallic shades at $720 each: Obsidian Black, Iridium Silver, Graphite Grey, and Brilliant Blue. The next tier of colors is the designo shades, with Diamond White costing $1,515. Selenite Grey Magno and Brilliant Blue Magno are the most expensive choices at $3,950 each, but come with a striking satin finish.
It may not be the full-fat AMG GT 63 model, but the GT53 is no slouch. The mild-hybrid powertrain is highlighted by the 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six engine - power is sent to all four wheels via the standard 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system. The six-cylinder has peak outputs of 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque (with the EQ Boost system adding up to 21 hp and 184 lb-ft at lower engine speeds), sufficient for a 0-60 mph run of just 4.4 seconds. That's just four-tenths off the pace of the more expensive Porsche Panamera 4S (when it is equipped with the Sport Chrono Package). For around $9,000 more, the new BMW M850i Gran Coupe will hit 60 in only 3.7 seconds. So, while the Mercedes isn't the fastest four-door coupe around, it's plenty fast enough and makes a pleasing straight-six snarl under load, a sound no longer reserved only for BMW-badged cars. Flat out, top speed is limited to 174 mph.
There's a lot going on beneath that curvaceous hood. Mercedes describes the 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six as "AMG-enhanced" since it isn't a full-on AMG motor, but is more powerful than lesser Mercedes powerplants. Notably, the inline-six layout is relatively new to Mercedes after more than two decades of using V6s. The EQ Boost system makes use of a 48V battery and an integrated starter-generator - the electric auxiliary compressor helps the spooling of the turbo at lower engine speeds, providing an instant hit of torque and overcoming the usual effects of turbo lag, while a traditional turbo takes over at higher engine speeds almost imperceptibly. The 3.0-liter engine produces 429 hp and 384 lb-ft, while the EQ Boost system adds up to 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque lower down. An AMG speedshift nine-speed automatic transmission is used.
Off the mark, the AMG GT53 feels urgent and responsive, leaping off the mark with ease and making traffic light blasts hard to resist. Higher up in the rev range, the 3.0-liter engine shows its prowess, endowing the Mercedes with ample passing power. Sport Plus mode will remind you why this is a legitimate AMG, with sharpened throttle responses and quick gear shifts that make the GT53 a joy to pilot. The integration of the electric compressor provides the four-door coupe with improved drivability at low speeds and the inline-six sings a lovely tune when extended. What more could you want?
Like many modern AMGs, the GT53 has a dual personality, able to either ferry you and your brood around with minimal fuss or to provide hours of high-speed entertainment when the conditions (and your mood) call for it. The 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system can send up to 100 percent of the vehicle's torque to the rear wheels, but otherwise continuously adjusts torque between the front and rear wheels. Wheel slip is contained with the standard limited-slip rear differential.
On the road, it all translates beautifully, the GT53 turning in sharply and the well-weighted steering inspiring confidence. Grip levels are unlikely to be challenged on public roads. Using the AMG Dynamic Select system, switching to Sport+ mode unleashes another layer of performance, with tighter steering and reduced roll. The engine also takes on a harder-edged note that any gear head would appreciate. On fast sweeps, the GT53 feels unstoppable and is enormous fun to drive. Back in Comfort mode, the ride is compliant enough for the daily commute, even if it isn't as cushy as an E-Class. It also isn't as quiet as Mercedes' more luxury-oriented sedans, but that's the price to pay for the excellent handling.
Unless you drive this back-to-back with the GT63, the 53 won't make you feel as though you're missing out on anything.
The GT53's EPA-rated economy figures of 19/24/21 mpg on the city/highway/combined figures aren't in the thrifty category, but they are more impressive when put into context with the sedan's towering performance. Filled to the brim with premium gasoline, the 21.1-gallon gas tank should realize a combined cruising range of about 443 miles.
The theater continues when you climb into the AMG GT53 for the first time. The gorgeous interior shares its turbine-like air vents, swoopy ambient lighting, and an array of premium materials with other Mercs, but the GT53 has a few unique details of its own. The fat console between the seats, for example, houses several buttons with tiny digital screens - they look cool, although larger-framed individuals may find this console a tad confining. To drive home the message that this is a coupe, the GT53 seats only four, with the rear area sculpted for two. The sport seats are otherwise comfortable. There are loads of toys to play with, from power-adjustable front seats to dual-zone climate control, a power liftgate, keyless go, and two 12.3-inch screens displaying digital instrumentation and infotainment functions.
Seating just four, the AMG GT53 doesn't care much for a middle rear-seat passenger, instead, using this space for additional storage. The four people that can be accommodated will be comfortable in the seats, which are upholstered in a mix of MB-Tex (synthetic leather) and Dinamica. As is often the case, there is a bit more space in front, but taller adults will struggle with sufficient headroom at the back. And, while getting into the front seats is easy, ingress and egress at the back are hampered by a small foot opening and the roofline that slopes towards the back. The driving position is good, but broad roof pillars, smaller-than-ideal mirrors, and a high-set dashboard negatively impact visibility and combine to make parking sensors a necessity in this car.
Although not genuine leather, Mercedes' MB-Tex upholstery (combined here with Dinamica) feels high-quality. Only the default black upholstery doesn't cost extra, while Nappa leather in either Black or Magma Grey/Black goes for $2,990. There are four exclusive Nappa leather color options, each available at $4,450: Black, Auburn Brown/Black, Red Pepper/Black, and Magma Grey/Black. Finally, exclusive style Nappa leather costs $4,850 and adds luxurious diamond stitching to the seats - it's available in either Saddle Brown/Black or Macchiato Beige/Magma Grey, although the latter requires upgrading to the Executive Rear Seat Package. Selecting the designo Macchiato Beige Dinamica roof lining will also require upgrading to the executive rear seat package. All the trim options are appealing in their own way, from the Black Piano Lacquer to the Natural Grain Brown Ash Wood and the Natural Grain Grey Ash Wood. AMG Carbon Fiber trim costs an extra $2,850. There is a selection of steering wheels available, including an AMG Nappa leather/Dinamica design, while seatbelts can be had in either red or silver.
If it's a cargo hauler you want, this isn't it. The GT53's trunk measures 12.7 cubic feet, sufficient for daily needs but a problem if you'll be undertaking an extended trip with three passengers. Thankfully, there is a power liftgate fitted as standard, making it more convenient to access the trunk. The hatchback-like trunk is long but not especially deep. As standard, the rear seats are fixed into place, but upgrading to the $3,350 Executive Rear Seat Package enables a 40/40-split folding rear seat (the central portion remains fixed), at least providing a little extra versatility when carrying larger items.
Cabin storage comprises the usual center console and glovebox, while the door pockets are sufficiently broad but not very deep. The cupholders are deep, however, to the extent that placing shorter beverages in them is a problem. Passengers at the back get some open storage between their seats, including an available under-armrest bin.
Both front seats are power-adjustable with four-way power lumbar support, heating, and a convenient memory system. The driver's side memory system includes settings for the powered steering column and the side mirrors. Other amenities that make it into this luxury four-door coupe include 64-color LED ambient lighting, remote start, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power liftgate, and AMG illuminated door sills. Mercedes has been generous with its safety specification once again, shaming rivals like Porsche with standard blind spot assist, crosswind assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and pre-safe. Perusing the options list reveals niceties like ventilated seats, three-zone automatic climate control, heated rear seats, and a rear-window sunshade.
While it doesn't get the very latest Mercedes infotainment tech, the COMAND infotainment system is still feature-packed. It's just not immediately intuitive to use the touchpad controller and one-touch keys; sometimes the system is overly sensitive to inputs, and one wishes for a touchscreen to control some functions. The 12.3-inch central screen is matched by another 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster ahead of the driver, so at least it all looks thoroughly up to date. Standard features include Apple CarPlay (but strangely not Android Auto), a hands-free Bluetooth interface, Bluetooth audio streaming, three front USB ports, HD Radio, and an SD card reader. COMAND navigation with 3D maps ships standard. Sound comes from a 14-speaker Burmester system - it not only sounds great, but those speaker grilles are a work of art, although a 25-speaker Burmester system is optional at the expense of a sunroof.
More time is needed to assess the GT53's reliability, but the model was subject to a recall last year that affected a host of other Mercedes models. The issue pertained to the active brake assist system which may not engage, increasing the risk of a crash.
Mercedes covers the GT53 with its four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, inclusive of the powertrain and roadside assistance.
Local crash-testing authorities have yet to put the AMG GT53 through its paces, but it's possible that they never will since luxury sedans and exotics are rarely intentionally crashed into concrete barriers. This is a Mercedes-Benz, though, so expect only superlative safety standards.
Mercedes' suite of seven airbags (including a driver's knee airbag) is said to provide nine-way occupant protection. The GT53 also gets LED headlamps (with LED daytime running lamps) and Car-to-X communication, although the latter tech is still in its infancy and will require most other vehicles to have the same functionality to alert you of impending hazards. Tire pressure monitoring and rain-sensing windshield wipers are fitted, too.
The list of driver safety aids is excellent, with standard rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot assist, crosswind assist, attention assist (monitoring 70 different parameters of driving habits), and active brake assist. The Pre-Safe system, meanwhile, detects an imminent collision and readies the car for it. Optional safety gear comprises active lane keeping assist, evasive steering assist, radar-based cruise control, active lane change assist, congestion emergency braking, and a surround-view system. Essentially, it's the full gamut of safety features available in a modern sedan.
Hybrid technology used to conjure up images of a vehicle that was shockingly light on fuel, awful to drive, and revolting to look at. The AMG GT53 may be a hybrid, but it's none of those things; rather, it's a clear showcase of how the technology has evolved into the performance car realm. The 53's powertrain is smooth, sounds good, and provides potent performance from the moment you touch the throttle. Allied to the GT's brilliant dynamics, you've got yourself one of the most engaging four-door sedans that Mercedes makes. That's all without mentioning the seductive styling - most will find it more beautiful than both the BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe and the Porsche Panamera. The dramatic cabin is another win, being both stylish and lavishly appointed. Flaws? Well, the question remains whether it's worth the extra cash over the CLS53. The infotainment system also isn't the best that Mercedes produces right now, rear headroom is lacking, and the trunk isn't huge. But the GT53's sheer desirability has a way of making you forget about these distractions and focus on the many things it does well.
Sneaking in at under the six-figure mark, the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT53 carries an MSRP of $99,950. Of course, that's excluding tax, licensing, registration, and a destination charge of $995, so this is a $100,000+ vehicle. Plus, with just a few options added, it's easy to surge past $120,000.
Only one GT53 is available. The combination of a 3.0-liter six-cylinder turbocharged engine produces 429 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque and is supplemented by the EQ Boost system's electric auxiliary compressor at lower engine speeds, which adds another 21 hp and 184 lb-ft. A nine-speed automatic transmission and the 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system are standard fitments.
The sleek four-door coupe is enhanced with 19-inch AMG alloy wheels, all-LED exterior lighting, a power glass sunroof, an active rear spoiler, and the obligatory quad tailpipes at the back. Inside, the GT53 seats four on sporty seats upholstered in a mix of MB-Tex and Dinamica, while the driver and front passenger enjoy power-adjustable and heated seats. Twin 12.3-inch screens display key driver and infotainment information, while the latter system integrates navigation, HD Radio, Apple CarPlay, and a 14-speaker Burmester sound system. Blind spot assist, attention assist, and crosswind assist form part of the standard safety gamut, while a long options list contains luxuries like ventilated seats, three-zone automatic climate control, and heated front armrests.
If money is no object, the AMG GT53 can be equipped to S-Class levels via a range of add-on packages. The AMG Night Package costs $750 and equips jet black external elements (such as the front splitter) for an even more menacing look.
Moving inside, the Executive Rear Seat Package goes for $3,350 and fits more comfortable twin rear seats, a large rear armrest with covered storage and a built-in touchscreen, heated and cooled cupholders, and the ability for the rear seats to fold down in a 40/40 split. More luxury is available in the form of the $550 Energizing Comfort Package, a system that coordinates aspects like the climate control and fragrance system depending on your mood. The $1,050 Warmth and Comfort Package, meanwhile, adds a heated steering wheel, rapid front-seat heating, and heated front armrests. Semi-autonomous driving is just one option away, as Mercedes has bundled virtually every driving aid it has in the $2,250 Driver Assistance Package (active steering assist, radar-based cruise control, active lane change assist, and much more).
Of course, you can also add features individually. The options that are likely to prove popular are the multi-contour front seats with massage ($1,320), heated rear seats ($580), an AMG head-up display ($1,100), soft-close doors ($550), and the fantastic 25-speaker Burmester high-end 3D surround sound system ($4,550). A panorama roof floods the cabin with natural light and will cost you $2,100, but can't be had with the upgraded sound system.
Color and wheel choice remains highly subjective, but there are few more menacing sights than an AMG GT53 in a dark shade like Graphite Grey Metallic, paired with black 20-inch AMG wheels. The Magma Grey/Black Nappa leather upgrade also gives the cabin a lift. We'd leave the rear seats as is, since you'll likely be doing most of the driving yourself, anyway. Other options we'd add are the AMG head-up display and multi-contour seats with massage. Because some of these features can only be had in conjunction with other upgrades, the final price including destination works out to a steep $108,775.
Both of these combatants are unconventional alternatives to a traditional, three-box performance sedan with their coupe-like styling, although if we're being honest, the Mercedes is a much more beautiful piece of design. The Panamera range starts off at $87,200, but you'll need to spend $105,000 for the 440-hp Panamera 4S to get performance that improves on the GT53's sprint time of 4.4 seconds to 60. In this guise, the Panamera uses a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 and is faster than the Mercedes, clearing 60 in four seconds dead when equipped with the Sport Chrono Package. As well as the GT53 handles, the lighter Panamera feels even more athletic, although the Mercedes' motor is more characterful. The rear seats in the Panamera are better for adults and the trunk is much bigger at 17.6 cubic feet, but the Mercedes has more standard features. For the sheer drama embodied in every facet of the AMG, it's the one we'd want to take home.
If nothing less than a monster V8 will do, you'll need to find an extra $40,300 for the privilege of owning one. With its 4.0-liter bi-turbo V8, a massive 577 hp is underfoot and it'll cut more than a second off the GT53's benchmark sprint time (0-60 takes just 3.3 seconds in the GT 63). There is also little to compete with this V8's acoustics when it is fully extended, making it an even more evocative car to drive. Being the 63, it also gets a few extras like standard ventilated seats, plus access to features like Race and Drift modes. Active rear-wheel steering is another standard extra on the 63, adding even more agility and rear-wheel grip. Essentially, it'll come down to whether you think the engine is worth an extra $40k because that's what separates these two siblings from each other more than anything else. If we could, we'd take the plunge and go for the 63.
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