Mercedes-Benz’s lineup is like a Tokyo subway, crammed to its absolute limit, encompassing just about every inch of conceivable white space. Yet, somehow, the automaker is always able to make room for something else. Case in point, the 2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door.
You might wonder how the GT 4-Door can live alongside the CLS-Class without the two stepping on one another’s metaphorical toes, but Mercedes makes it work. The CLS-Class now stops with the Mercedes-AMG CLS53, which has also turned into the starting point for the GT 4-Door. And while it might look like a base model on paper, it’s anything but, taking everything good about the two-door GT and stretching the canvas.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
I still haven’t been able to confirm whether or not I even like the way the GT53 looks on the outside. The fact that it stays true to itself and looks like a longer AMG GT is a good thing. I’m also enjoying the actual hatchback that confers more cargo space than the CLS-Class, even if it will still smush taller perennials on a trip back from the garden center. It also happens to look better from behind than the CLS.
Yet, at the same time, it’s not really doing it for me. My GT53 tester’s front end doesn’t have the sharp, aggressive looks of its two-door sibling, despite being billed as such, and stretching the GT’s silhouette leaves it looking a little blobfish-y. From some angles, it looks the business. From others, it’s awkward and kind of dumpy. An unscientific poll of friends and colleagues reveals the same sort of split.
The GT53 in my command does redeem itself some, thanks in part to its optional 21-inch AMG wheels that fill the wells nicely, although they’re a pricey proposition at $ 3,450. And then there’s the $ 3,950 Designo Brilliant Blue Magno matte paint job. It’s such an arresting look that, for the first time, my mail carrier stopped to take a picture of the car in my driveway. However, it comes with caveats, like how it can’t be taken through an automatic car wash, or how scratches become much trickier to cover up. Even maintenance can be a burden, requiring mote-free microfiber cloths and no semblance of wax or quick detailer whatsoever, lest it become glossy again. It’s excellent for peacocking about, but I recommend skipping the option if the car will serve as a daily driver.
The GT53’s interior makes for an easier conclusion: It’s not perfect, but it’s quite good. Again, borrowing from its two-door relative, the sedan’s seating position is low and the beltline is high, positively surrounding me with car. Despite this, forward and side visibility are still good, although rearward visibility through the hatch is a little low. The steering wheel’s lower half contains mode-swapping buttons that are actually tiny little screens which, as a $ 400 option, seems worth it for wow factor alone.
The GT53’s rising center console is adorned with similar buttons, which seems unnecessary, but unnecessary is the mantra of Mercedes-AMG. While this part of the car definitely looks cool, it’s slightly annoying, as the cupholders are buried deep and aren’t the easiest to use. The wireless device charger is behind those cupholders, so if you have both a phone and a drink, be prepared to only have access to the latter. The gear lever comes from the AMG GT, and like its application in that car, I find it awkward to use, as my arms contort into weird T-Rex shapes just to shift into drive.
Despite some missteps, the interior is still laid out well and looks worth every penny of the car’s price. Unlike the CLS-Class, there’s only seating for four in the GT53, but each person has oodles of legroom — and headroom, despite the plunging roofline. Even better, each seat has access to a USB Type-A port.
Handles like the coupe, only bigger
Its powertrain is properly potent: Like all 53-badged AMG models, my tester wields a 3.0-liter, turbocharged inline-6 good for 429 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. Mercedes hooks this up to a 48-volt mild hybrid system that adds another 21 hp and 184 lb-ft as necessary. The electric motor does a great job filling in torque gaps in the rev band, pushing me along in a way that feels like I’m tapping into a seemingly endless well of miles per hour. But it can also act in a perfectly sedate manner, humming along quietly enough between home and the office.
The GT53 can ramp up or tamp down its aggression as the situation demands, thanks to vehicle modes that truly do change the character of the car. The $ 1,850 performance exhaust system is at its best with the engine set to Dynamic, its sportiest setting, where it pops and crackles and barks during upshifts, downshifts and whenever the throttle is lifted. My only qualm is that the result sounds more like a V8 than an I6. There’s room for more of the traditional straight-six rasp, the engine doesn’t need to pretend it’s something it isn’t.
Thankfully, that setting doesn’t force the car’s nine-speed automatic transmission to shift at crazy high revs, making it more than street duty suitable for noise junkies like me. No matter if it’s in manual or automatic mode, and no matter what mode the engine is in, the transmission shifts with purpose, but not uncomfortably so, never jarring the occupants even though gear swaps take barely any time at all.
While I appreciate the GT53’s engine cranked up to its highest setting, I think the adaptive dampers are best left in Comfort, where they can soak up the errant pothole or road undulation, which the suspension does with aplomb, even on my tester’s larger wheels. Unfortunately, the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires (275/35ZR21 front, 315/30ZR21 rear) bring a damn orchestra of road noise into the cabin, forcing the stereo and conversation volume ever higher as the speedometer heads north.
The whole kit and caboodle combines with some of the best electromechanical steering I’ve ever experienced. It’s nicely weighted in all modes, and its responsiveness borders on telepathy or Ultra Instinct. Just like its two-door sibling, you can chuck the GT53 into corners all day and the car will never feel out of its element. It may not have the backroad-ballistics nature of the GT63, but never once did I feel like any part of the GT53 was lacking. It’s every bit the sports car that the more comfort-oriented CLS isn’t.
In addition to being less expensive and still being a riot on the road, the GT53 has another benefit over the bigger, more brutish GT63: fuel economy. The EPA rates the GT53 at 19 miles per gallon city and 24 mpg highway, solid numbers for a four-door supercar and 4 mpg better than the GT63 in both categories. Those numbers are not hard to achieve with a light foot, but it’s hard to stop having fun in favor of thrift.
Everything about the GT53 might feel shiny and new, but the tech doesn’t. That’s not to say it’s bad, though: The old 12.3-inch COMAND infotainment system still offers plenty of responsiveness and capability in its most recent iteration, and it includes a bunch of standard stuff like Apple CarPlay, embedded navigation and a voice-recognition system that actually works well.
But the grievances of yore are still around. The menus and their submenus can be complicated to navigate the first few times. The touchpad’s various gestures aren’t exactly obvious and can be triggered accidentally. There’s no touch capability. I understand how development cycles work, but I hoped that Mercedes could’ve sandwiched its newer and more impressive MBUX system in here before the car went on sale. Guess that’s what the midcycle refresh is for.
Alongside the 12.3-inch infotainment screen is a 12.3-inch gauge cluster screen that also makes appearances in a variety of Mercedes products both newer and older. It’s manipulated through the left touchpad on the steering wheel, and it gives me the most pertinent telematics information right in front of my face. I can conjure up a navigation map, or I can pay strict attention to various fluid temperatures through AMG-specific submenus. It also has three different designs to cycle through, each prioritizing different bits of info in different ways. Whether it’s vehicle modes or displays, there’s no lack of configurability in the GT53.
On the safety front, the standard stuff is limited to automatic braking, blind-spot monitoring and active parking assist. Most everything else is tucked away in the $ 2,250 Driver Assistance Package, which adds full-speed adaptive cruise control, active lane-change assist, route-based speed adaptation and more. It’s a solid hands-on system, holding the lane with little wavering, but in a car that’s built for outright fun like the GT53, I can’t imagine using that tech too often. Even daily driving can be an adventure in this thing.
How I’d spec it
My tester rings in at $ 127,300 including destination, a far cry from its $ 99,000 predestination base price. But if there’s one thing Mercedes-Benz loves, it’s options, so let’s go through which ones I’d pick if I got that MBA my mom wanted me to.
I’ll start with the same $ 99,000 GT53 model as my tester, because I’ve really warmed to it. I like it in its free shade of Jupiter Red, but I’ll drop $ 750 on 20-inch alloy wheels because the standard 19s are way too small for this car. I despise chrome, so I’ll spend $ 750 on the Night Package that replaces it with gloss-black exterior trim pieces.
Inside, I’ll drop $ 2,990 for Nappa leather on the seats, replacing the standard MB-Tex vinyl. I’ll also spend $ 250 for a heated steering wheel. My tester’s $ 2,500 AMG Performance seats are worth the scratch, so they’re coming along, too. I’ll also spend the $ 450 to ventilate them, because that interior gets hot in the summer. I’ll stick with the free matte-finish wood trim, because my tester’s $ 2,850 carbon fiber interior trim does nothing but cast the sun’s reflection directly into my eyes at all times.
Finally, I’ll spend $ 500 on a surround-view camera and $ 1,850 for the active exhaust. For some reason, I can’t get the $ 400 steering wheel mode switches with a heated steering wheel, but comfort comes first, so I’ll choose to skip those. That leaves me with a post-destination price of $ 110,535.
Down to brass tacks
Since the GT53 starts where the CLS leaves off, it’s not technically a competitor. But it does have similarly priced, similarly sporty offerings poised for battle. The last-generation Audi RS7would be a competitor, but the new-generation RS7 has yet to be announced, and it’s likely to ring in even higher than the outgoing car’s $ 114,000-ish starting price. The Porsche Panamera 4S is its closest true competitor, with its 440-horsepower V6 and close-enough starting price of $ 104,000. At this juncture, the Panamera 4S is really the only competition for the GT53, since it’s a pretty niche segment to begin with.
The 2019 Mercedes-AMG GT53 does exactly what it sets out to do. It takes everything I like about the AMG GT coupe and slaps it into a body that offers a lot more versatility with few tradeoffs. Even though it packs the “lesser” mild-hybrid powertrain, it suits the car’s character just fine.