Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S E vs. Taycan Turbo S
Would sir like his electrified sports saloon with a big battery – or a large V8?
By Stephen Dobie / Saturday, 20 May 2023 / Loading comments
There’s a story from the 1960s space race that was front of mind as I absorbed the tech specs of these cars before driving them. Upon learning that a good old biro wouldn’t work in zero gravity, NASA spent ungodly sums of money designing a pen that would, while its Soviet rivals simply packed a bunch of pencils into their astronaut’s flight bags.
I’m sad to report there’s a generous portion of urban myth baked around a kernel of truth; the abridged version appears to be that a private company spend millions developing its own pen which both space agencies then adopted. The mis-told tale is much neater, of course – a timely allegory about keeping things simple.
It pops to mind when trading tech numbers between the Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S E Performance and Porsche Taycan Turbo S. Tasked with making an ‘electrified sports saloon’, AMG developed an overwrought pen. Porsche simply sharpened a pencil.
This isn’t to say the Taycan is at all simple. It reveals much about the sheer complexity of the GT 63 that a fully electric saloon with two motors, two transmission speeds, all-wheel steer and five driving modes feels so minimalist in its execution when parked alongside it. Make no mistake, the AMG looks and feels imposing and brutish. The spec sheet always promised as much. It’s basically a stock GT 63 S with another 204hp, 335kg and £22,385 added to the recipe. A car that wasn’t slow, light or cheap in the first place, it’s worth adding.
The headline is its 843hp peak, the result of bolting an electric motor to the rear axle while a 639hp 4-litre twin-turbo V8 continues service upfront. The motor and its 6.1kWh battery are stacked (eating noticeably into boot space) to achieve 50/50 distribution while 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive allows its behemoth power to be spread around. Though in truth I checked that fact more than once, convinced the murdered-out example pictured here was missing its front driveshafts. It can be a lively bugger.
Worried the battery is rather small? Well, it certainly curtails any ‘blatant tax dodge’ accusations you might normally throw the way of a luxury hybrid. You can plug it into a socket, but I’m not sure how often you’ll bother. At most, it’ll give you eight miles of electric-only range, ensuring the rigmarole of finding somewhere to charge it – before paying soaring energy costs to do so – will rarely seem worthwhile.
AMG makes little attempt to hide the fact its e-boost brings more power rather than a worthy push for sustainability. Claims of 35.8mpg and 180g/km are a vast improvement over a regular GT 63 on paper, but it remains a 20mpg car in daily use. Whirring past gawping onlookers in hushed tones is an oddly appealing game, though, the soundtrack briefly a universe away from the blood and thunder its styling implies.
The driving experience certainly matches, though rarely has a full week with a test car been so vital to understanding it. A 20-minute loop in a true performance car icon will prove more than enough to convince you it’s the second coming; a short 20-minute taster in this will both nonplus and overwhelm you, the sheer quantity of its driving modes making it all appear a bit standoffish. There are seven modes, each of their parameters then individually toggled via its sea of miniature centre console screens. But sticking in default Comfort is actually the key to just getting on with enjoying the thing – not least because the ride is already heroically firm and ramping up the responses of an 843hp powertrain on the road often feels unnecessary.
The GT 63 has always done a jolly good job of making Britain’s ageing road network feel even narrower than usual, and another 200-odd horsepower only serves to exaggerate the impression. Once you realise how much swagger this chassis has – how eager its rear axle is when the e-motor spools up in an instant – you’ll be gagging to find your favourite corner or roundabout to enjoy the spoils. Only to discover the bend has suddenly halved in size and you no longer have the bottle to get stuck in.
There’s certainly an argument to be had about the diminishing returns of swelling power and mass here; an E63 is hardly an Elise in comparison, yet it draws you into its driving experience more easily. My first few hours (in fact days) with the GT 63 S E were spent exploring its abilities as a limo, dissolving long distances into dust with little desire to detour somewhere more interesting. Though a smaller fuel tank than usual (66 litres rather than the stock GT’s 80) does keep any cliches about ‘continent-crushing ability’ at bay, pauses for petrol being a little more frequent than you might hope.
Its fully fuelled (and charged) range simply mullers the Porsche’s, though. The official claim for the Turbo S is 257 miles but the reality is naturally slimmer, especially when we still ought to leave wiggle room for faulty chargers or angsty queues at service stations. Nic C had to nurse the Taycan to our shoot location, and I then only had 30-40 miles of exploring it on the same roads as the AMG before it had to be nursed back to the nearest rapid charger. Its status as one of the very best EVs on sale doesn’t shield it from the logistical anxiety of running an electric car amidst the UK’s current infrastructure.
Luckily the Taycan doesn’t take anywhere near as long to reveal its talents as the GT 63. Its two electric motors add up to 761hp and 775lb ft peaks, enough to beat the Merc’s 0-62mph by a sole tenth of a second. But the Porsche’s performance advantage feels even greater on tarmac rather than on paper; it may be only 85kg lighter and cover almost the same footprint, yet this feels like climbing into something a full class-size below the AMG, its bodywork shrink-wrapped around you in comparison.
It plays the role of ‘Porsche on a group test’ perfectly, reading every line of the script with clarity. Which is mostly a compliment. It’s the lither and more athletic of our pair, it steers with more calmness and clarity and it even rides pretty well (regardless of drive mode) despite its low-slung ride and stocky 21-inch alloys. Without them it would probably look quite demure in the AMG’s company; like them or not, they’re visual shock and awe that disguise the Taycan’s three years on sale admirably. It’s a car that seems ten-a-penny around London at the moment and something to distinguish the Turbo S and its prodigious performance might be welcome. They’re standard-fit here, but naturally you can option them onto even a base Taycan, albeit for over £5,000 once you’ve specced the appropriately sized brakes they must be complemented by.
The instant potency of the Taycan reaffirms its position as the car with a simpler, clearer sense of purpose. In the Merc, a boot-full of throttle is followed by a short pause as the nine-speed gearbox, V8 petrol engine and rear-mounted e-motor have a quick conflab about what they intend to do together. It only lasts a beat – and is followed by all hell breaking loose – but it’s pronounced. The Taycan, meanwhile, just slingshots you aggressively from corner to corner, managing its considerable weight impressively well in between those absurd bursts of acceleration. It feels outdated in its lack of adjustable brake regen, and it would be nice to be using more pronounced energy recuperation in lieu of braking in quicker corners. Even the AMG allows significant regen (adjustable through three levels) despite being predominantly petrol powered.
Getting into a quick, smooth flow along a favourite road is the work of a moment in the Taycan, though, and its centre of gravity feels about a foot lower. It is unequivocally the more cohesive car here to drive. But it’s never playful or boisterous; while it elevates itself above the one-dimensional dynamic window a lot of EVs possess, it can’t help but linger closer to them than the AMG ever will.
The dying embers of internal combustion were only ever going to be an amusing distraction today, and retracing the Taycan’s steps with renewed vigour – and a little exploration of the GT 63’s racier modes – reveal enough rear-led balance to suppress any desire to go exploring the 483 pages of its user manual to work out how to activate its RWD-only Drift Mode. The AMG simply doesn’t need any more goading at road speeds, its bombast already barely contained. I doubt it offers much extra dynamically over the purely petrol-based car, but the chirrups, whistles and whines of its overly complex powertrain bring amusement at all speeds. The synthesised soundtrack of the Porsche sounds even more cynical alongside it.
In truth, neither of these is a classic driver’s car. The Merc is too big and bullying, and while the Porsche is a more precise tool, the logistical repercussions of wringing the neck of an EV will undoubtedly limit how often you detour from the simplest route to your destination. Not least because great driving roads are rarely punctuated by charging facilities.
Nevertheless, it’s the better car, sharper in every respect and a more convincing electrified sports saloon for its full commitment to the cause. It’s a confident leap into the future when measured against the AMG’s slightly clumsy stride. The GT 63 feels like a rolling test lab in the Taycan’s company, its driver often frustrated at not being able to exploit its prodigious performance – or simply anxious about which combination of drive modes they should be using to experience it all at its best. And yet I’m delighted it’s the Merc I’m driving home, keen to keep exploring its deep reserves of technology now safe in the knowledge there’s a decent sense of humour coded into it all. Who doesn’t want to try a space-age pen?
Specification | Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S E Performance
Engine: 3,982cc twin-turbo V8, rear-mounted electric motor
Transmission: nine-speed DCT, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 843 (639 @ 5,500-6,500rpm)
Torque (lb ft): 1,084 (664 @ 2,500-4,500rpm)
Top speed: 196mph
MPG: 35.8 (WLTP)
CO2: 180g/km (WLTP)
Specification | Porsche Taycan Turbo S
Engine: Permanently excited electric motor, one per axle
Transmission: Single-speed (front) twin-speed (rear), all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 761 (launch control overboost, otherwise 625)
Torque (lb ft): 774 (launch control maximum)
Top speed: 161mph
Weight: 2,295kg (DIN)
Range: 257 miles
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