At this point, if you can’t find just the right model among Mercedes-Benz’s line-up, you’re probably not trying hard enough. The German automaker has embraced the niche, and little epitomizes that as conclusively – and compellingly – as the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GT 43 4-Door Coupe, a fast and handsome car amid what’s already a range packed full of fast and handsome cars.
Once a rarity, AMG’s badge now graces the rumps (and grilles, and fenders, and steering wheels, and seat backs, and… well, you get the idea) of over twenty different models. You can have an AMG SUV to get the kids to school in double-time, or an AMG GT Convertible to pretend you’re a race car driver. That’s before you get to true exotics, like the AMG Project ONE.
Somewhere in the middle is the 2021 GT 43 4-Door Coupe. As the name suggests, it’s of the swoopy-sedan family that Mercedes put on the map with the original CLS, but unlike most other AMG models it doesn’t have a counterpart in the ‘Benz line-up. Initially you could choose between a GT 53, a GT 63, and the most fearsome GT 63 S, but last year AMG added this more affordable version to the range.
By “affordable” I mean it still starts at $89,900 (plus $1,050 destination) and my well-equipped review car nudged that up to just shy of six-figures. The biggest compromise is under the hood, with AMG dropping in the 3.0-liter Inline-6 Turbo with 362 horsepower, 369 lb-ft of torque, and its EQ Boost 48V mild-hybrid system.
You don’t get the V8 of the GT 63, nor for that matter the maximum performance wrung out of this turbo-six as in the GT 53. Still, 0-62 mph in 4.9 seconds and a 168 mph top speed aren’t to be sniffed at. Neither is the roughly $10k price difference between this and the 429 hp GT 53, which trims just 0.4 seconds from that car’s 0-62 dash.
AMG arguably created a two-tier hierarchy a few years back, when it began offering slightly less beastly, slightly more affordable models. Their four- and six-cylinder “AMG-Enhanced” engines may not have had the handcrafted attention of the V8 models, but that combination of extra performance, more aggressive styling, and badge cachet has nonetheless helped propel the division’s sales skyward.
What the 2021 AMG GT 43 doesn’t sacrifice is styling. The curvaceous roofline is present and correct, the frameless doors and pop-out rear wing keeping the sense of sporting melodrama from the more expensive versions. AMG’s wide, sneering grille with its pinstripe strakes, flanked with angular headlamps and atop sizable air intakes give the car some attitude that the hotter C-Class and E-Class models don’t quite match.
You trade some practicality for that. Cabin space front and rear isn’t actually that tight, but the lowered roof means entry and exit can be a little less than graceful if you’re on the tall side yourself. Once in, however, the dashboard is perhaps the biggest departure from what’s in most other Mercedes models right now.
The big, silver-trimmed center console dominates – and also accommodates the 4MATIC+ all-wheel drive shaft – with LCD buttons for things like suspension and tailpipe ferocity. In the middle is an oddly fiddly transmission shifter which doubles as a wrist-rest for when you’re noodling on the MBUX touchpad. Ahead of you are the familiar twin LCD panels, behind a single sheet of glass, and an AMG Performance steering wheel with leather trim and control clusters like metal billets.
Some of it I love, like those hefty button-pods and the crisp graphics, and some of it is truly user-friendly, like the customizable shortcut switches on the lower left of the wheel and the display-toting drive mode knob on the lower right. Other parts are a little less successful, like that gear shifter and the faintly over-complex drive mode options, which spread a lot of potential adjustment over a number of different buttons.
Better, perhaps, to just notch the main knob on the steering wheel to Sport+ mode and count on the go-faster settings following along too. This may be the entry-level GT 4-Door but it’s no slouch, surging ahead eagerly with a bray of the quad tailpipes. No, you don’t get the same did-someone-just-carve-out-my-organs viscerality of the most potent V8 versions, but this is definitely not slow and definitely capable of a whole lot of fun.
The EQ Boost system plays a decent role in that, an electric motor that can add up to 21 hp and 184 lb-ft for brief periods. It’s a welcome jolt of impetus for overtaking or just because a clear stretch of road has opened up, helping fill in any gap while the gas engine spools up. The AMG Speedshift TCT 9-speed transmission can’t be faulted, slurring seamlessly in Comfort mode, but more than eager to play along in the more punchy drive modes.
19-inch AMG wheels are standard, though the unusual double-rim design on my review car leaves them looking smaller than they are. 20-inch and 21-inch versions are optional, but then you’d start sacrificing ride quality, and that’s something the GT 43 really does get right.
You can credit the AMG Ride Control Sport Suspension for that, in part at least, with its adjustable damping across the different drive modes. Or, you can tweak it independently, if you still want the most raucous engine settings but a softer ride. The GT 43 isn’t going to compete with, say, a similarly-sized E-Class on air suspension when it comes to soaking up surly asphalt, but it’s a lot more planted and dare I say even compliant than I expected.
I like it in the corners, too. The 4MATIC+ all-wheel drive system strikes a cunning balance between traction, stability, and still letting you feel a little playful at the rear, but there’s overall a definite sense that everything here is very usable. I have a soft spot for sports cars that don’t go overboard with power, because you actually get to wring them out a little more on public roads without instantly being arrested; while the GT 43 can obviously crank up to license-losing pace there are japes to be had well before that point, too.
There are good reasons, meanwhile, why Mercedes’ more traditional sedans would be the first pick for people-carrying. The GT 43’s 22 mpg combined fuel economy, for example – the 2021 E450 uses the same engine with the same power, but is EPA-rated for 26 mpg combined – and the fact that things do feel a little dark in the rear with that high shoulder-line.
All the same, Mercedes’ sports seats are comfortable and supportive, the standard Burmester surround sound audio system is a melodic beast, and you get niceties like ambient lighting, Qi phone charging, a power liftgate, and heated front seats as standard too. MBUX offers the responsive “Hey Mercedes” voice control, and there’s Android Auto and Apple CarPlay – albeit wired, not wireless, which is a shame. $500 adds a much-needed 360-degree camera, while $1,950 adds the Driver Assistance Package with DISTRONIC adaptive cruise and lane-keeping, blind spot assistance, and more.
I’d check off that box, and the $1,850 AMG Performance Exhaust, but I could probably safely skip the $350 MBUX Augmented Video navigation and the $500 red seatbelts. The $750 AMG Night Package blacks out the mirror covers, front splitter, tailpipe trim, and some other exterior parts, but I honestly think they’d probably look better chromed, certainly with this Jupiter Red paintwork.
2021 Mercedes-AMG GT 43 4-Door Coupe Verdict
A little restraint is most worth it because, otherwise, you very quickly hit the $99,950 (plus destination) of the AMG GT 53. Were it my money, too, I’d also be looking a little curiously over at the AMG E 53 Sedan: less glamorous than a GT, yes, but more practical, $16k cheaper, and more powerful to boot.
For Mercedes-AMG, though, that surfeit of choice is a strategy not an accident. I really like the 2021 AMG GT 43 4-Door Coupe, but even if I didn’t there’s a fair chance that Mercedes has something GT-adjacent to scratch my particular itch. Sure, you could accuse the automaker of playing mix’n’match with engines, platforms, and the rest, but maybe that doesn’t really matter when the constituent parts are all generally so good.