2024 Mercedes-AMG GT 63 review: The civil side of savage

The new Mercedes-AMG GT 63 is performance engineering with everyday practicalities in mind. Andrew Frankel likes what he sees

Mercedes-AMG GT 63

A two-seat sports car with a max speed nearing 200mph this may be, but there’s little fear behind the wheel for less-skilled drivers

Mercedes-AMG GT 63

Mercedes-Benz’s fabled AMG division is going through a curious phase. First it decided that for the new C 63 AMG it was going to replace its beloved 4-litre V8 engine under the bonnet of the hottest C Class with a rather less lovely 2-litre four-cylinder motor, with an enormous hybrid drive attached. I’ve not driven one, but it was launched to fairly dismal reviews in 2022 and to date not one has been made available on Mercedes’ otherwise well-supplied press fleet, into which you will read what you will.

And then this. The new AMG GT. You’ll remember the old one: two seats, double clutch gearbox between the rear wheels and a no-prisoners approach to the open road and, of course, the car from which it was directly derived, the wonderful SLS with its gull-wing doors. These cars were not mere hotted-up versions of more homespun Mercedes product, but bespoke AMG machines, unrelated to and unlike anything else in the Stuttgart stable. Some were better than others, but all were for drivers, endlessly rewarding when you were on the right road and on top of your game.

Mercedes-AMG GT 63 Interior

Mercedes will say Indulgent luxury but the interior styling of the GT isn’t to all tastes

But this new GT is no longer a bespoke car. It sits on the same platform as the SL Roadster and can reasonably be thought of as a coupé version thereof. It’s even gained rear seats and four-wheel drive. And not only has that transaxle layout been lost, its unique double clutch gearbox has been swapped for the same nine-speed wet clutch auto transmission you’ll find in the SL.

Some markets even sell this car with four cylinder engines, though for the UK the choice is between two V8s, the car tested with 577bhp and a forthcoming version with a hybrid drive attached that will bump that figure well north of 800bhp, but with a massive additional weight penalty to a car whose mass has already risen a quarter of a tonne beyond that of its slimline predecessor.

It all sounds like progress is the diametrically opposed direction to that in which I’d choose a car like this to travel.

“Mercedes has conceded it’s never going to build a car that will reward highly skilled drivers”

And there are issues. AMG has worked hard to keep the car’s considerable bulk always pointing in your preferred direction, replacing anti-roll bars with electronically controlled actuators that don’t merely limit body movements, but actively control them. There’s that four-wheel-drive system and now four-wheel steering too. But the ride is too firm and AMG has resorted to that old trick Ferrari used to play of employing a quick steering rack with aggressive off-centre response to create the illusion of a cat that’s more agile and responsive than it is.

And yet it works. It looks fantastic, the driving position is superb, the interior functional if a bit too chintzy and reliant on haptic controls, and the motor makes it go like the clappers. The gearbox is terrific too.

But the real surprise is that this car really handles. Not in that seat-of-the-pants, steer-it-with-your-toes way that, say, a Porsche 911 GT3 handles, but in a manner that will still transport you the length of your favourite local road at an astonishing rate and leave you at the end marvelling at its body control, level of grip and a sense of reassurance no previous GT or SLS ever provided.

What appears to have happened here is that Mercedes has conceded it’s never going to build a car that will reward dedicated and highly skilled drivers like the 911, or probably an Aston Vantage too. So it’s stopped trying. It has concluded that what a Mercedes customer wants is a car that works whatever the weather, that won’t scare its owner if he or she slightly oversteps the mark, but which will allow you to dump your shopping or children on the back seat, while having a practically proportioned boot and state-of-the-art electronic architecture. And it is hard indeed to say that this analysis is flawed because it’s not: it was building a bespoke car on a bespoke platform that, however wonderful, didn’t relate to anything else the company was selling that was more commercially questionable.

And all that without mentioning the really big win, which is that by spinning it off an extant product it will have cost the company a fraction to develop compared to what a like-for-like replacement of the old GT was likely to have come in at.

So what Mercedes might call pragmatism, and you and I something closer to compromise, has won the day, a fact someone like me should be lamenting long and loud. Had the old AMG been a Ferrari- and McLaren-humbling icon of dynamic ability I probably would be. But it was more like that bloke you met in the pub who was good fun over a beer, but who came with a reputation, asked a few too many probing questions and who you never quite trusted. This new AMG GT is a more avuncular companion, less ready with the punchline, but less likely to laugh at you behind your back too. That’s probably no bad thing.

Mercedes-AMG GT 63 rear

Mercedes-AMG GT 63

  • Price £164,905
  • Engine 4 litres, eight cylinders, petrol, turbocharged
  • Power 587bhp at 5500rpm
  • Torque 590lb ft at 2500rpm
  • Weight 1895kg (DIN)
  • Power to weight 310bhp per tonne
  • Transmission Nine-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph 3.2sec
  • Top speed 196mph
  • Economy 20.0mpg
  • CO2 319g/km
  • Verdict A gift for the ‘Mercedes driver’.