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This S$752k Mercedes-AMG is aimed at those who 'win at life'

Mercedes-Benz and BMW are rolling out bold new designs.

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Philipp Hagenburger, president and CEO, Mercedes-Benz Singapore, at the launch of the Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door Coupe at Ritz-Carlton hotel.

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The BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe makes its world debut in Munich next week.

Singapore

MERCEDES-BENZ has a car for the highly successful, and it's called the S-Class. The sumptuous, stately sedan has been the brand's flagship since 1972. But plush limousines are no longer top dog at Mercedes, nor at arch-rival BMW.

Instead, the world's top two premium carmakers by sales volume are rolling out bold new designs that emphasise sleekness and performance over size and comfort. That's one takeaway from the launch of the Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door Coupe here last Friday. The powerful, cigar-shaped car may not be particularly large, but it is now one of the most expensive models on the Mercedes price list, costing up to S$751,888 (with Certificate Of Entitlement).

That money buys the GT 63 S 4Matic+ version, which is capable of sprinting way past the speed limit in the time it takes you to say its full name.

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It has a snarling eight-cylinder engine with two turbochargers. Each one of those engines is hand-built by a single person at Mercedes's high performance AMG division, and each produces 639 horsepower - more oomph than any four-door Mercedes has ever had.

With all that muscle under the bonnet, the GT 4-Door Coupe slingshots to 100km/h in just 3.2 seconds and can accelerate all the way to 315km/h, which should give its owner plenty to brag about.

With this car, performance was obviously the top priority. All four wheels steer the car, to make it more agile through corners yet more stable at high speed. It has all-wheel drive, without which it would likely be undriveable in slippery conditions.

Philipp Hagenburger, President and CEO, Mercedes-Benz Singapore, describes the new car as being one for "those who obsess over performance while possessing a keen sense of style and youthful dynamism".

"The Mercedes-AMG GT 4-door Coupe is for the driven and ambitious," he told The Business Times. "It appeals to the individual who shares the pursuit of every adventure with those closest and dearest to them."

It might go like a well-tuned sports car, in other words, but with five seats and four doors it has the practicality for its owner to take friends and family along for the high-speed ride.

That recipe is so compelling that BMW is about to launch its own take on such a car, in the form of the 8 Series Gran Coupe.

The first such model to bear that model number and name, the new BMW is uncannily similar to Mercedes-AMG's GT 4-Door; it's roughly the same size, comes with all-wheel drive and four wheel steering, has a silhouette sporty enough to turn heads, and offers practical features such as four doors and five seats (although the BMW is really more of a 4+1 seater).

The 8 Series Gran Coupe makes its world debut at an event in BMW's hometown of Munich next week (BT got a sneak preview of the car in March), and it's expected to sit at the high end of the brand's price range - BT estimates a price tag of more than S$620,000 for the 530 horsepower M850i xDrive model. BMW is working on the M8 Gran Coupe, an even more powerful, costly version with up to 625 horsepower. When launched it will be, you guessed it, BMW's most powerful production car ever.

It will hit 100km/h in 3.2 seconds, the same time as the Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4-Door, which puts the two cars neck-and-neck.

Uwe Greiner, the 8 Series product manager, told BT that fast four-door coupes are gaining popularity around the world. "This idea works everywhere," he said. BMW also produces two-door versions of the 8 Series (a Coupe and a Convertible), but Mr Greiner expects the Gran Coupe to outsell both of those cars combined.

Nevertheless, BMW is building the 8 Series Gran coupe not to compete with itself, but with Mercedes-AMG and, very likely, Porsche.

The sports car specialist launched its own grand tourer in 2009, the Panamera. A large car with four seats and a fastback shape, it provided an alternative to the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series. A stretched Executive model, in particular, signaled Porsche's desire to munch from the chauffeur-driven pie.

While it's impossible to say whether buyers switched from BMW or Mercedes to Porsche, the Panamera sold 235,000 units in its first 10 years, a significant number at the top end of the market. In comparison, BMW sold 56,000 7 Series cars last year, down 12.9 per cent from 2017, while Mercedes sold 83,800 of the S-Class (up 6 per cent).

Whether the sporty new Mercedes and BMW models are designed to hit back at Porsche's Panamera, both cars will likely sell at their best when cheaper, less powerful versions come onto the market next year: a GT 43 4-Door Coupe for Mercedes-AMG, and an 840i Gran Coupe for BMW. Those would likely cost less than half a million dollars here, but that would still make them more expensive than the S-Class and 7 Series, the two brands' traditional flagships.

"Quite simply, the Mercedes-AMG GT 4-door Coupe is for those who win at the race called life," says Daimler Singapore's Mr Hagenberger.

In any case, the exclusive pricing didn't stop some 400 guests from turning up at the Mercedes-AMG's launch at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. To round up that many prospective customers for the car, Mercedes dealer Cycle & Carriage raided a telling database: it invited S-Class owners.