Do you really need a sports car with a back seat?

It might seem unintuitive, but keen drivers can have families, too.

By Ged Bulmer, February 25 2020
Do you really need a sports car with a back seat?

On his 1989 album New York, rocker Lou Reed sings on a track called Strawman in typically sneering style: “Does anyone really need a billion-dollar rocket, does anyone need a sixty thousand dollars car?”

The song is Reed’s evisceration of his home city and broader US society at the end of the so-called ‘decade of greed’, in which the few accumulated much, while the many “don’t have anything at all”.

Reed died in 2013 and most of his back catalogue never made it onto high-rotation radio - perhaps just as well for owners of the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 63 S 4-Door, lest they stumble upon the angry aural assault of Strawman while cruising in their $349,900 (plus on-road costs) style statement.

If the rock’ n’ roller wondered back then why anyone needed a sixty-thousand-dollar car, imagine what he would make of someone roaring past today in a sports car that costs almost as much as a small apartment? 

Performance versus practicality

Reed’s views on hedonistic hero cars like this one aside, some may also question whether anyone needs a 470kW/900Nm sports car that’s equipped with a back seat. After all, isn’t the very definition of a sports car a machine in which performance takes precedence over practicality?

Understanding the etymology of the phrase is perhaps easier than getting to the nub of why Mercedes-AMG felt the need to add a four-door, four-seat version of the epic AMG GT roadster to its groaning Australian model portfolio (106 variants, and counting).

The answer lies not in the lyrics of a Lou Reed song but in a marketing play book which (probably) declares, “thou shalt not leave any niche unfilled, lest thy competitor fill it”.

With Porsche making hay and handsome profits from its Panamera four-door, BMW charging back into the scene with its resurrected 8-Series Grand Coupe, and Aston Martin soldiering on with its V12 Rapide, Mercedes-AMG needed to get in the four-door sports coupe game. 

The power and the glory

When you have a drivetrain from the AMG GT coupe/roadster capable of leaving the outputs of these and other rivals in its dust (0-100km/h in a Porsche GT3 RS-rivalling 3.2 seconds), who wouldn’t be tempted to wheel it out as the ultimate solution for the sports car fan who has just about everything?

Which is how I come to be seated in the body hugging, low-slung sports seats of this Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door, its thick, suede-covered steering wheel resting in my palms, and that epic twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 idling effortlessly up front, having barked into life moments earlier.

This engine’s monstrous power is currently unrivalled in the Mercedes range, despite the GT 4-Door’s pricing sitting several rungs below the uber-luxe S650L Maybach and a handful of AMG S63 models. 

Distinguishing design

Despite appearances to the contrary, the GT 4-Door is not a stretched version of the AMG GT coupe, but a bespoke model loosely based on the E-Class, utilising the all-wheel drive system from the AMG E 63 S to harness shattering performance.

The ballistic 4-Door is of course wider, longer, lower and much more aggressive than any E-Class including the E 63 S, its front end featuring the same gaping grille as the AMG GT coupe and air ducts that look capable of swallowing small children.

In side-view, the coupe-like roofline sweeps back over two sets of frameless doors to powerfully flared haunches, where a hatch lifts to reveal a 395-litre boot, with another 66-litres under a lidded section, endowing surprising practicality to one of the fastest sports cars on the market.

Countering that, the interior is bisected by a wide and high central console that emphasises the narrow race-car-like feel of the cabin. A tiny leather-topped AMG gear selector sits atop the console, behind a touch-sensitive mouse pad for the entertainment system, with a bank of switches either side for individually selectable performance features.

The dash upper is clad in tastefully stitched leather, the lower in Alcantara, with a lovely slab of carbon-fibre weave connecting top and bottom. Toggles on either side of the sports steering wheel enable gearbox, drive mode and suspension settings to be adjusted on the fly, while the infotainment system is rendered with impressive clarity on Benz’s latest twin-screen design.  

Behind, but not forgotten

Importantly for this style of vehicle, the rear seat accommodation is actually worth spending time in. The scalloped buckets are good, with decent legroom and a comfortable position – although the plunging roofline, small windows and dark headlining make it feel a bit sombre. Lou Reed would probably like that bit.

A quick check of Nürburgring lap times confirms that the AMG GT 4-Door is, indeed, the real-deal performance-wise with the fastest-ever lap for a production four-seater, and also includes race car-like features including Drift Mode, rear-wheel steering, an active rear spoiler and active rear differential.

But the headline act remains that epic twin-turbocharged V8 attacking its 7000 rpm redline with force-fed gusto, while the nine-speed auto fires home millisecond-perfect changes.

And despite its limousine-like fitout, the AMG GT 4-Door changes direction with a dexterity that belies its 2045 kg kerb weight. The steering is properly sharp and precise, the handling instantly responsive and the grip levels high. Yet for cruising, the air suspension’s Comfort mode offers luxurious, wafting ride quality.

This raucous bad boy from AMG may not make sense to everyone, and it’s a car few could honestly say they need.

But the AMG GT 4-Door proves a surprisingly versatile and highly desirable sports car-cum-grand tourer. It’s a family-friendly supercar in which even the late, great Lou Reed might have been tempted to take a walk on the wild side. Or maybe not.

Ged Bulmer

Executive Traveller motoring correspondent Ged Bulmer is one of Australia's most respected motoring experts and a former editor of Wheels, Motor, WhichCar and CarsGuide

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06 Mar 2020

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looks so good

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