Geneva - Now that the dust has settled after a flurry of reveals at the Geneva Motor Show last week, we couldn't resist taking a closer look at, and getting under the skin of, Mercedes-AMG's new GT 4-Door, which is an intriguing mix of performance and luxury; the quintessential iron fist in a velvet glove.

Used to be a coupé was a short-wheelbase two-door version of an existing four-door design; the name literally means ‘cut short’ in French. These days, the best definition I can come up with of the term, is that it is a sedan with a sexy roofline and compromised boot - and even that doesn’t work when it comes to the AMG GT 4-Door, which is being marketed as a four-door version of the AMG GT two-door - but Mercedes still calls it a coupé.

OK, enough with the semantics; even though Americans pronounce it as though it was a place to keep chickens, the term has strong sporty connotations in the automotive lexicon, so the marketing mavens - who don’t know what it means and wouldn’t care if they did - will continue to use it for all sorts of vehicles.

And this one certainly fulfills that sporty ethos: even the base-level AMG GT53 version of the first four-door from Affalterbach - endowed with AMG’s distinctly sexy new three-litre straight six - is good for 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 285km/h, while the V8 versions are reaching for supercar status.

She’s got the look

At first glance the resemblance to the current CLS sedans is unmistakable; nevertheless, the two power bulges on a long bonnet set the tone for a design composed mostly of long curves, crisply outlined, with its muscles barely hidden under the skin. Narrow headlight clusters, a very chunky grille and typical AMG aero treatment make the front look a little busy, but leave you in no doubt that every plane is there for a purpose.

The silhouette - not, as you might expect the most difficult aspect of this design to get right - breaks the waistline at the base of the A pillar to increase the wedge effect and make possible a flat windshield, raked far back, while frameless side windows and a dramatic inset in the C pillar make the greenhouse look even longer and lower than it really is.

The same inset helps prevent the ‘buttress’ look that afflicts the rear three-quarter aspect of so many fastback coupés - whether two or four-doored - and helps tie together the converging planes of the rear end, around the slim tail lights. The rear apron may be a little deep in practical terms, but there’s a limit to how far you can drop a roofline before it starts looking like a 1936 Tatra, the Jaguar E-Type FHC notwithstanding - and anyhow, not many soccer moms are going to be buying this car as a shopping trolley.

Putting the Grand in Turismo

As much as AMG is still unashamedly a performance brand, the GT 4-Door is also a luxury four/five seater, as is its nearest competitor, the Porsche Panamera. And that shows in the wrap-around fascia, with a sculptural instrument panel in the base model and two side-by-side 31cm displays in the V8s, the broad, V-shaped centre console and the option of two individual rear seats.

The Widescreen cockpit can show your choice of Classic, Sport or Supersport displays - and your choice of preferred data can be flashed up on the left or right of the screen via a control on the steering wheel - for example the classic speedo and rev-counter, full-screen map view for navigation, detailed engine information including a shift light - or even a g-force display, or real-time output and torque information.

The centre screen shows all the infotainments functions - but these can also be controlled from the steering wheel with finger swipes, while an optional round controller below the right-side spoke and two buttons on the left let you control the car’s drive modes without taking your hands off the wheel.

New colour display buttons with backlit symbols in the centre console both control and display the status of the transmission logics, suspension, exhaust system, idle stop and active rear wing - and you don’t even have to touch the capacitive switches ahead of the centre-console V that operate the reversing camera, navigation, radio, media, telephone and vehicle settings. Move your finger within a minimal distance from the panel and the appropriate symbol lights up directly in the head unit (and in the multifunction display in the widescreen cockpit) to preselect that function: then press and it’s activated.

AMG Track Pace

This is an additional standard function of the GT 4-Door Coupé’s Comand online infotainment system, that lets you capture and analyse your lap times as well as more than 80 track-day performance parameters, including lateral and longitudinal acceleration, the accelerator and brake pedal or steering angle, 0-100km/h and quarter-mile times, even the drift angle of the car - more about that later.

And from a completely different point of view, the GT 4-Door Coupé is the first AMG with its own room fragrance, a crisp sporty scent to match the feel of the car.

Depending on how sporty your driving style is, you can choose from three different front seat styles, while the rear seating can be ordered either as a three-seat bench or two individual seats. Opt for the High-Class individual seats and the rear-seat passengers get a touchpad screen in the console between the seats from which they can everything from the ambient lighting to climate control and seat heating - or even call up track-day telemetry!

Also an option is the energising comfort control, which integrates the air conditioning, seat control, massage functions, steering wheel heating and ambient lighting to relax or refresh you and your passengers with preset programmes.

Nuts and bolts

The new three-litre petrol straight six in the GT 53 base version has a conventional turbocharger, backed up by a 48 volt electrical compressor to prevent turbo lag at low revs and add extra boost at the top end - up to 320kW of it.

But it’s also a mild hybrid, with a 48 volt, 16kW/250Nm EQ Boost electric start/generator/motor between the engine and transmission, and drives all four wheels via a nine-speed Speedshift TCT 9G automatic transmission with an electromechanical centre clutch.

The two V8 options - each with AMG’s proven four-litre, twin-turbo-in-the-vee turbopetrol V8 driving all four wheels via a nine-speed Speedshift MCT 9G with wet clutch, double-clutching and launch control functions, an electromechanical centre clutch and - are the GT 63, with 430kW and 800Nm (0-100 in 3.4 seconds, 310km/h flat out) and the the GT 63 S, with special antifriction bearings in its twin-scroll turbos, active engine mountings and an electronically controlled locking rear differential, rated at 470kW and 900Nm from 2500-4500rpm.

AMG quotes 0-100 in 3.2 seconds and a terminal velocity of 315km/h.

Standard on the S variant and optional on the other two is Drift mode, which locks the centre clutch open and converts the GT 4-Door to rear-wheel drive only, provided the electronic stability program is deactivated and the transmission is in manual mode.

And that lets you get the car as sideways as you want - with the Track Pace telemetry to tell just how badass you were…

Electrical rear-wheel steering is also standard on the V8s and optional on the six; up to 100km/h, the rear wheels point in the opposite direction to the front wheels, for quicker turn-in and a tighter turning circle. Above 100km/h, the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the front wheels, reducing the tendency for the rear end to break away and enhancing stability.

The GT 53 and GT 63 roll on 19 inch rims shod with 255/45 front and 285/40 rear rubber, while the GT 63 S boasts 20 inch hoops, and 265/40 front and 295/35 rear gumballs.

IOL Motoring