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2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender

A riotous, wildly capable sedan with unhinged performance and amazing agility.

Automobile's All-Stars awards are back, and this year we have one of the best fields of cars we've ever evaluated. In total, we invited 21 of our favorite new or significantly revised cars to find out which are the very best of the best. We've split them into Contenders and Winners, but let us make it clear: Every car invited to our All-Stars event is one of the most special cars on sale for 2020. Each day between March 8 and March 10, we'll bring you a new batch of Contenders, and on Wednesday, March 11, we'll announce our 2020 Automobile All-Stars Winners.

It takes about half a lap of the claustrophobic Streets of Willow to realize that the 2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S isn't like other sedans. It's about two sizes too big for the place; it weighs over 4,500 pounds, and every fiber of your being knows it'll feel like a whale out of water. Yet somehow it turns—right when you want it to. It stays on your chosen line beautifully, there's little body roll, and the engine's massive power is put down to stunning effect. This monster sedan might be all-wheel drive, but it's anything but inert, the balance ever-changing depending on your throttle inputs. AMG's bruiser somehow dances like a sportscar.

So what the hell is going on? Well, let's assume there's some AMG fairy dust making the real magic happen, but the hardware itself is pretty impressive, too. Predictably, up front there's a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 producing 630 hp and a vaguely ridiculous 664 lb ft, driving through a nine-speed automatic transmission with a wet clutch in place of a torque converter. All that firepower is channelled through the AMG Performance 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system incorporating an e-diff in the rear axle. It has various modes from Comfort to Race, plus you can disengage the front wheels altogether to activate Drift mode. Suspension is by multichamber air springs and similarly cycles through modes right up to Race. Crucially, the GT 63 S also features rear-wheel steering. It also has active engine mounts and a host of other things I haven't got room to fully explore.

The results of which are pretty extraordinary. On track the GT 63 S is something to behold. "Big, stupid grip, big, stupid power, big, shouty noises," Aaron Gold panted after a few laps. "It drives like an honest-to-goodness performance car, and if you horse it into understeer—which happens to be my superpower—just lift off the throttle, let the front tires get their grip, then plant the accelerator and away you go." Contributor Basem Wasef was similarly impressed at the incongruity of the car's size and its abilities. "You wouldn't hesitate to track this five-door sport sedan," he began before raising a few concerns that maybe that's not really what a sedan should be all about: "The AMG GT 63 is so remarkably focused, isn't it? Maybe it reflects a singular vision of performance that's too extreme for most."

Away from the track and on the lumps and bumps of weather-beaten roads, there are certainly signs that the AMG GT 63's dynamics have an unerring but narrow focus. The seats—so supportive on track—seem to be stuffed with concrete coated in a diamond shell, and the ride quality does little to ease the suffering. I've never been one to worry too much about pillowy suspension, but some of my esteemed colleagues were less enamored. Both Gold and social media editor Billy Rehbock found the GT 63 S a little too intense for everyday use. They felt it needed Comfort mode to mean just that, backing off all the settings to a much more relaxed level.

Of course, what you lose in compliance you gain in control, and on the more testing sections of our route the AMG once again impressed. There's no escaping its sheer scale on the road, but it did disguise its weight to incredible effect, and the four-wheel steering creates superb agility in the slower turns and real stability through fast sweepers. For me the all-wheel-drive system feels a little contrived, creating an approximation of fun with awkward stabs of oversteer out of tight turns that are then clumsily caught by the stability control. The BMW M850i is more natural in this respect and manages to keep a sense of rear-drive balance without the histrionics. The nine-speed gearbox is also good rather than fantastic, and rather shown up by the dual-clutch unit in the Bentley. No complaints about the engine, though—what an absolute monster.

You might notice I haven't mentioned Drift mode. I suppose it speaks volumes for the GT 63 S that mostly you're having such a good time, goaded by that magnificent engine, the precise steering, and the incredible accessibility, that you never really think to disengage the front wheels and all the electronics and pit yourself against 630 hp without any help. I suspect most owners will never use it. Or perhaps just once. For the purposes of science, however, I did just that. Fortunately, Mercedes sent spare tires. It was essentially the same, only with more smoke. A riotous, wildly capable sedan with unhinged performance and quite amazing agility. Too much for some, a whole hill of money ($196,650 as tested) and perhaps not quite All-Star material, but nevertheless it'd make a hell of a family car.

2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S Specifications
PRICE $161,154 (base)/$196,650 (as tested)
ENGINE 4.0L DOHC 48-valve V-8/630 hp @ 5,500-6,500 rpm, 664 lb-ft @ 2,500-5,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE 15/20 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 199.2 x 76.9 x 57.0 in
WHEELBASE 116.2 in
WEIGHT 4,758 lb
0-60 MPH 3.1 sec
TOP SPEED 195 mph (electronically limited)

 

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2020 Automobile All-Stars Contenders

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