SOMETIMES PEOPLE get the wrong idea. I’m not here to sell you a car. Frankly I think Americans would be wasting their money on the Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S, since it’s about four times the automobile one could safely access on our dilapidated roads and highways. On the autobahn between Munich and Stuttgart, sure, this beautifully built, smartly styled luxury car can surge to 150 mph at will, with a bare-chested roar like a strongman tearing through a phone book.
But in the United States? No, and let me count the ways: speed limits; inadequate roads and highways (also an impediment to vehicle autonomy); undisciplined traffic. Why hand over another 30 or 40 grand for performance you will never use? Honestly, here in the U.S. the whole Mercedes-AMG lineup is Squanderville.
Powerful and expensive cars are a luxury item for the 1% whose enjoyment nonetheless depends on public support in the form of adequate infrastructure. My fellow Americans, we didn’t build that. The Germans did.
But what about taking the GT 63 S to a racetrack? This is another costly fantasy detached from the real-world use case, engineered to plunder the pockets of the naive. Listen, Walter Mitty, you are never going to track your six-figure super-sedan. It doesn’t really matter if it has a 630-hp twin-turbo V8, nine-speed multi-plate transmission, all-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, four-corner air suspension and an available “Drift” mode built into the dynamics software. Never. And if you did, the supercharger and brakes would overheat in just a few laps. Too heavy, not enough cooling. These are uncontroversial observations.
And yet the entire GT 63 S mechanism is built around a complex vehicle/powertrain software that rewards five levels of achievement, kind of like Amway: Basic, Advanced, Pro, Master and Individual. By the time you get to Master, all the safeties have been turned off and you (your fantasy self) can make long, hazy four-wheel drifts at very high speed as long as you like, or until one of many warning indicators light up. Dude, snap out of it. Nev-ah.
I say never, but I should make an exception for drag strips: I’m sure a few bucks-up hooligans will trip the hammer in the quarter-mile, where this large and suavely dressed four-seater can fling itself to 60 mph in 3 seconds and break the quarter-mile beam in 11 seconds. A semiautomatic launch control is built in: Hold the brake and accelerator until the engine reaches your desired rpm, then release the brake and continue to scream normally.
Never mind the engine temps. Keep an eye on that depreciation gauge.
Let’s count some rivets: The GT 63 S is the first four-door vehicle from Daimler/Mercedes-Benz’s nascent performance-luxury brand, the same devil’s farrier that brought forth the SLS AMG, the GT Coupe and GT Roadster. Taking the monocoque of Mercedes-Benz E 63 S station wagon as a starting point, the GT 63 version applies a variety of stiffening elements and added structure to the front clip and transmission tunnel. This extra measure of rigidity, the hammer-like sensation in your palms, really is only evoked when the car is traveling at high speed, like about 210 kmh, or about 130 mph. Sorry, American turnpikers.
“ ‘This beautifully built, smartly styled luxury car can surge to 150 mph at will. But in the U.S.? No.’ ”
Even in Germany, it’s rare that all the elements come together to go properly fast: good weather, light traffic, lots of horsepower. And you have to fly with a squadron of well-trained, well-equipped German drivers such as the lunatics I fell in with three weeks ago. This was a parade of pricey German dreadnoughts, including a BMW M6 of recent vintage and an Audi RS 7, platooning nose-to-tail, slithering around slower traffic like a glass snake—joyous kilometers on end with my heart in my throat. The future is electric, to be sure, but as yet no electric car can yet do this: high-speed, nonstop internodal travel. It almost sounds respectable.
The engine is outrageous: a hand-built, all-aluminum 4.0-liter V8 dressed with science-fiction turbos: two twin-scroll units with ultralow-friction ball bearings instead of journals, for quicker throttle response. At full shout, the dual-cammer produces 630 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque that arrives like artillery landing in the back seat. If you are pressed for time the car will catapult itself from 0-100 mph in less than 7 seconds, I judge, all four tires digging for glory.
Mercedes-AMG thoughtfully offers degrees of derangement: the GT 63, with a mere 577 hp; and GT 53 (429 hp), which use Merc’s new electrically supercharged and turbocharged 3.0-liter in-line six, with 48-volt “EQ Boost” hybrid architecture. Believe it or not the honking, race-prepped V8 is the simpler mechanism.
People with their heads in these clouds will also consider the Porsche Panamera Turbo, Zuffenhausen’s flagship sedan. They are both exquisite automobiles with computerized air suspension out the wazoo, so they both ride equally well. Both muscle past the peasantry like they weren’t there. I can’t quite put my finger on this quintessence, but the Porsche’s cabin environment seems a bit cleaner and easier to embrace. The Merc interior never ceases to glitz.
Our GT 63 S tester was the show car, painted a fabulous dusky blue in matte finish, shod with 19-and 20-inch wheels and Michelin’s best winter tires, which were wonderful, although they do have a 168-mph speed limit. How do they expect a fella to get anywhere?
2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S
Base Price: $160,000 (est.)
Price as Tested: $185,000 (est.)
Powertrain: Twin-turbocharged direct-injection overhead-cam V8 with variable valve timing; nine-speed multi-clutch automatic transmission with manual-shift mode; rear-biased all-wheel drive with limited-slip rear differential and multi-mode dynamics.
Length/Width/Height/Wheelbase: 199.2/81.5/56.8/116.2 inches
Curb Weight: 4,500-4,600 pounds (est.)
0-60 mph: 3.5 seconds (est.)
Top Speed: 195 mph
EPA Fuel Economy: 14/21 mph, city/highway (est.)
Write to Dan Neil at Dan.Neil@wsj.com