2020 Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S Sedan First Drive Review

Gotta hand it to AMG. Though the vast majority of the carmaker's clientele are likelier to eat glass than track their high-powered sedans, we sampled the 2019 AMG GT sedan at the epic 3.4-mile Circuit of the Americas course. Once the tire smoke subsided, we decided the GT is a potent, if slightly less track-worthy retort to the mighty Porsche Panamera. But our COTA drive didn't quite quench our curiosity about the sled's road trip potential — you know, the Grand Touring in GT.

As though eavesdropping on our thoughts, AMG invited us for a road drive in the GT sedan on the heels of our Austin experience. Even better, the drive through the Scottish Highlands would be a real world counterpoint to COTA's 150+ mph stretches. The catch? Snow on the ground and 20 degree Fahrenheit ambient temps — not exactly optimal conditions for a 630-hp machine.

For those unfamiliar with AMG's flagship GT sedan, imagine the love child of the Affalterbach-built GT supercar and a heavily modified E-Class chassis. Clad in slant-tailed bodywork, the $136,500 AMG GT 63 and top dog $163,000 GT 63 S send mixed visual messages regarding their intent. Though they're equipped with weapons-grade hardware motivated by a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 in 577- or 630-horsepower flavors, their outward appearance that comes across as, well, a tad naïve.

Blame the diminutive headlamps or the gently curved, undramatic bodywork. Apart from the twin powerdomes on the hood and the large air intakes flanking the so-called Panamericana grille, there's not a lot of overt aggression here. Annoyingly, some of the vents are also non-functional. It's not all disappointment, however; there's active aerodynamics and an impressively large rear spoiler that flips up for downforce. Spec a GT in matte paint, and its mean factor also amps up a few notches.

Inside is a decidedly fresh, if somewhat mixed, take on the postmodern sport sedan. Though we miss the physical reassurance of analogue gauges, the GT's big twin, 12.3-inch digital displays integrate well with each other, offering quite a bit of visual real estate without feeling as overly dominant as they do in the Panamera and its touchscreen/haptic-intensive cousin, the Audi A7. At least the Porsche retains its signature analogue tachometer front and center, a tangible reminder that a dash of substance still matters in this digital age.

The Benz's electronics operate on their own 48-volt circuit (as opposed to a 12-volt system), enabling higher battery capacity for the rest of the car's systems. But the has a few ergonomic niggles. There are no touchscreens, so the driver must navigate the vast majority of the multimedia system via a touchpad just ahead of the shifter, so it can take a bit of menu navigating to execute simple commands.

The innovative MBUX interface, which debuts on the entry-level A-Class, is unfortunately absent here. Sad that big spenders miss out on one of the best infotainment systems out there. However, the GT does have a few neat details like the tiny customizable color TFT display buttons on the steering wheel and center stack. The physical makeup of the cabin, which consists of flowing forms and copacetic combinations of leather, wood, and aluminum surfaces, feels substantial and appropriately upscale. However, the large, button-clad transmission tunnel doesn't compliment the otherwise harmonious shapes and surfaces.

Spoiler alert: those familiar with recent AMGs will feel right at home behind the triple-pointed steering wheel from the moment the twin-turbo V8 stirs to life. There is more drivetrain isolation here than, say, in the GT coupe, which feels more mechanical in nature. Some of this comes about due to the sedan's reinforced rear differential mount, which is said to smooth out some of the drivetrain's noise, vibration, and harshness. However, the spendier GT 63 S does offers a bit more visceral bite due to its punchier engine, and chassis that feels more intimate thanks to dynamic engine.

While the chilly temps and snow tires prevented us from fully exploiting the GT's performance capabilities, their sure-footedness seemed to defy the effortlessly torquey engines. Much of that credit goes to the GT's electronically controlled 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system, whose revised hardware and control strategy offers more variability than before, and comes standard in all GT sedans. In Wet mode, the drivetrain feels sedate and confidence inspiring, perfect for compromised weather. Sport and Sport+ provide some sharpness and stiffness from the multi-chamber air suspension that's surprisingly not scary under low friction conditions. And if you're feeling extra saucy, the 63 S model offers drift mode, which biases the entirety of the power delivery to the rear wheels — a mode we skipped on frigid Scotland's public roads.

Also reassuring is the GT's seamlessly integrated four-wheel steering system, which doesn't feel obtrusive like it does in some supersports cars (Lamborghini, we're looking at you). Instead, there's intuitive buildup in steering effort as the front wheels bite into corners. The precise steering is especially appreciated when you're driving on the left side of the road in right-hand-drive cars, keeping an eye on the side mirrors to ensure that the tires don't kiss the curb while you squeeze past oncoming traffic.

As the miles wear on, the GT's personality became easier to pinpoint. While you'll never mistake it for a big, cushy S-Class, the GT does offer some surprising usefulness for such a performance-focused car. There's decent rear seat headroom and solid rear cargo capacity thanks to its hatchback design. Our testers didn't have massaging seats, though they are available (and would be a welcome addition during interstate slogs). And while the thrum of the sport exhaust can be easily eliminated with the tap of a button, the GT never gets so quiet that you forget about its mighty athletic intentions.

And that's the thing about a ballistic weapon like the GT 63, and even more so the hairier GT 63 S: though it can zip to 60 mph in as little as 3.1 seconds, near supercar-like acceleration that would be impressive for a two-seater, this four-door will also haul four full-size humans and a trunk full of luggage with civility and speed. More relevant than its lap times at COTA is the adaptability to dish a day and a half's worth of comfort while hopping across Scotland's endless network of backroads. Though we'd prefer the unflappable S63 sedan for a straight-line bomb through the Midwest, twisty mountainous stretches bring out the GT 63's true nature: a versatile four-seater that seriously thinks it's a sports car. Not everyone will be on board with the GT 63's looks or some of its electronics interfaces, but it has a compelling combination of athleticism and surprising adaptability.