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.
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.
See trim levels and configurations:
|AMG GT 53 4MATIC||
3.0L Turbo Inline-6 Gas
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.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
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.
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.
|Mercedes-AMG GT 53||429 hp||19/25 mpg||$102,600|
|Porsche Panamera||325 hp||18/24 mpg||$92,400|
|Mercedes-AMG GT 63||577 hp||16/21 mpg||$140,600|
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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