2022 Mercedes-AMG GT 53: Not As Hair-Raising As Its Two-Door Sibling
Is 6 Cylinders Enough?by Steven Hammes, on LISTEN 08:22
One of my favorite test drives in recent memory is of the AMG GT R Coupe - a spectacular 2-seater with exotic-car looks; ready for the racetrack right out of the box. So, you’d think a 4-door version of that car would be nearly as exciting, right? well, I’m discovering this week that this GT 53 has a completely different personality; one that doesn’t raise the heartbeat to a full-on AMG level.
2022 Mercedes-AMG GT 53: Not As Hair-Raising As Its Two-Door Sibling
Horsepower @ RPM:429 @ 6100
Torque @ RPM:384 @ 1800
Energy:SIDI; Mild Hybrid
0-60 time:4.4 sec.
Top Speed:174 mph
Added to the Mercedes range-topping GT lineup for the 2019 model year, the 4-Door Coupe was originally offered with a turbo-six - known as the GT 53 - or a twin-turbo V-8 called the GT 63 or GT 63 S depending on the engine tune. The entry-level GT 43 joined the party in 2021 and is the only model with a sub-six-figure starting price. But all share some commonalities: they were autonomously developed by Mercedes’ in-house speed shop AMG and they’ve all just received their first meaningful updates.
What’s New for 2022
This magnificent Starling Blue matte finish paint, known in Mercedes speak as Magno, is one of three new colors as is this optional combination of grey and black Nappa leather with attractive yellow topstitching. There’s also an updated flat-bottom Performance Steering Wheel in soft Nappa with integrated haptic touch controls for the 2 screens and freshened AMG Drive Unit buttons for choosing all of the pertinent programs and setups. And a number of options that were previously exclusive to the V-8 models have trickled down to the GT 53. This particular car is loaded with over $20,000 in add-ons covering everything from a performance exhaust system to increased sound deadening taking the price from nearly $104,000 to almost $125,000. For some perspective, that’s $32,000 more than a comparably-equipped and similarly powered AMG E 53 Sedan. Food for thought.
Now With Seating for Up to Five
Until this year, the GT four-door came exclusively with four seats. But now, you can order it with a rear bench seat which can technically seat three across, but if your bottom ends up in the middle position you will have drawn the short straw. The prominent transmission tunnel leaves little room for splayed legs. And as for accouterments, there’re not many. You get two HVAC vents, a USB port, and a manual rear sunshade. The bench seat is a $1,000 option and they do split fold nearly flat via remote switches allowing for bigtime expansion of the GT’s cargo capacity, so chalk one up for the hatchback design. There’s also kick-activated access to the luggage compartment, an elastic restraining strap on the left side, a cargo net, cargo cover, and some underfloor storage with a foldable cargo box. Useful stuff. And though the rear seats are compact-sized there’s comfortably enough room for 2 adults. The optional Fixed Panorama Roof aids in perceived spaciousness.
Do I Really Need the V8?
But what about the drive?
Is the electrically-boosted and turbocharged inline-six enough to evoke genuine AMG emotions?
429 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque appear legit and then an additional jolt of up to 21 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque from the 48-volt mild-hybrid system further ratchets up expectations.
However, I’m starting to believe this car was simply destined to run with V-8 juice.
I have to admit, when I first started driving this GT 53, I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of power; no doubt a victim of my memories from hot-lapping the 63 S around Monticello several years ago. And for me personally, the six-cylinder engine for this car is a hard pass. That being said, there’s a sweet spot here where it can be configured to make it run like a true AMG but you’ve got to toggle all the way up to Sport+ and you have got to shift for yourself. And it’s here where the fun of spirited driving can be extracted while tearing up the backroads. It handles extremely well for a big car and the ventilated brakes really inspire confidence. But the GT 53 is more concerned with a luxurious, grand touring driving experience underscored by a high dynamic range.
Sport+ Plus Paddle Shifters = AMG Excitement
The active side bolsters apply lateral pressure to one side as you power through the curves, the front seats are long trip-comfortable and expensive 20” Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires with Noise Reduction Technology - wider in the rear - keep the GT adhered to the road in the most impressive way. That on-rails sensation is furthered by 4MATIC+ that transitions the GT 53 from rear-wheel drive to all-wheel drive via continuous adjustments to the torque split according to driving conditions. However, the limited-slip differential, rear-wheel steering, and drift modes are all reserved for the V8 GTs.
Nevertheless, in Comfort and Sport modes the GT 53 plays the role of luxury cruiser. Even without the air suspension – again, reserved for the V-8 – the adjustable damping used here takes the edge off the sports car ride while never infringing on suitable comfort even in the most aggressive setting. Though 0-to-60 mph takes only 4.4 seconds, the acceleration feels a tad too casual. The 63 S runs a 3.1 with the added help of Race Start. Ditto for the AMG exhaust note which sounds decent but simply doesn’t stir the senses. This nine-speed automatic transmission uses a torque converter – it doesn’t double clutch as with the V8 - but in Sport+ you can still bang out pretty quick shifts and it’s when this car is on twisty roads, where raw power takes a backseat to sophisticated steering and handling, that the 53 model flaunts its stuff. It weighs as much as a Volkswagen Atlas yet it’s slick in its moves. Expect 21 mpg on premium, of course. And if you’re curious, top speed is 174 mph.
A Stunning Cabin
The cabin is truly stunning, particularly at night when the multi-color ambient light show takes centerstage. The Natural Grain Grey Ash Wood, the new yellow topstitching on the black leather; this car definitely takes on a more luxurious persona than the dearly departed GT R.
There’s a lot of redundancy for the multitude of driver controls with the Porsche Panamera-like center console buttons and switches doing much of the same work as the steering wheel-mounted dials: pre-configured drive modes, shocks, transmission, exhaust, and even the deployable rear wing spoiler. And the GT is serious about performance with TRACK PACE and Performance apps that include racetrack layouts, drag race settings, telemetry, and all sorts of statistical analytics. The driver’s display can also be configured with Sport and Supersport layouts, but I really wish there was a head-up display; an option this car forgoes. Look in the glove box, and you’ll discover a bottle of perfume in an AMG-specific scent for the air fragrance system that smells like money…well, not really, but it does whiff of sporty.
The light display also has a high wow factor with an exterior welcome mat with AMG logo projection, various color palettes for cabin lighting, and an illuminated, pulsating AMG logo on the doorsills. The package isn’t EQS-level impressive but it certainly makes a statement. As for MBUX or the Mercedes-Benz User Experience, again, it’s not as advanced as the infotainment unit in the new EQS but it’s very solid in its offerings and can be controlled by voice, hand gestures, a console-based touchpad or the touchscreen itself. The Burmester Surround Sound combined with the Acoustic Comfort Package also makes for a stellar listening environment. No wireless projection here, though a good massage and heated armrests will help you forget about the things your car doesn’t have.
Exclusivity at a Premium
I’m not sold on the GT with this engine at this price. It’s just not the right mix for me nor does the styling seduce me. But for a high-performance family with AMG virtues, the GT provides exclusivity and race-ready engineering for up to 5.