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Car reviews - Mercedes-AMG - E53

Our Opinion

We like
EQ Boost is a master stroke, performs and sounds like an AMG, attractive looks, spacious interior, 4Matic+’s grip
Room for improvement
Steering could be more communicative, firm ride on country roads, some low-quality cabin plastics

Mercedes-AMG E53 shows that its performance future is bright with mild hybridisation

Mercedes-AMG logo18 Oct 2018

Overview

 

IT IS a sign of the times: electrification is coming – but, in some cases, it’s already here. Mercedes-AMG is not immune from this seemingly inevitable trend either, with its high-performance future dictated by stricter fuel consumption and emissions standards being introduced the world over.

 

With the traditional internal-combustion engine clinging on for life, it must be all doom and gloom, right? Not if Affalterbach has anything to say about it. Enter the mild-hybrid E53: a three-body style range that combines a ‘twin-turbocharged’ inline six-cylinder petrol unit with an electric motor.

 

Yes, we know that the idea of an electrified AMG model is outrageous, but it might not be such a bad thing. After all, the E53’s set-up promises improved efficiency and performance, which is a combination rarely seen. So, is the future brighter than most purists believe? Read on to find out.

 

Drive impressions

 

The preceding E43 wasn’t long for this world, with it entering the Australian market in March 2017 only to be ousted just 19 months later. Given it featured a 285kW/530Nm 3.0-litre V6 with two turbochargers, and was only offered in Sedan form, the E53 mixes things up to a significant degree.

 

With the additional availability of Coupe and Cabriolet, the E53 gives buyers three body styles to pick from – but that’s not the real story here. The bent six is out, replaced by an inline six-cylinder engine boosted by two turbos of its own … well, kind of. And don’t forget its electric motor!

 

Let’s backtrack for a moment. The E53’s 3.0-litre unit feature one traditional turbo and an electric auxiliary compressor, or e-turbo that is available at engine speeds up to 3000rpm and can spool up to 70,000rpm in just 0.3 seconds. If instantaneous boost is what you’re after, it’s got you covered.

 

Want even more electrified performance? Mercedes-Benz’s mild-hybrid set-up, dubbed EQ Boost, provides the goods with its starter-alternator electric motor delivering 16kW and 250Nm at engine speeds up to 2500rpm. This helps to fill the void before the exhaust-gas-fed turbo kicks in.

 

Stick the boot in and the E53 responds with a level of enthusiasm that only electrification can provide. EQ Boost provides timely thrust while the e-turbo helps the straight six reach its maximum torque (520Nm) from 1800 to 5800rpm, but peak power (320kW) doesn’t arrive until 6100rpm.

 

Despite the addition of EQ Boost and an e-turbo, the E53 still feels like an AMG. It stays true to the high-performance mantra but offers a different approach. All the drama is there, with it charging towards the horizon with intent as the nine-speed Speedshift automatic transmission swaps gears.

 

The two-pedal set-up provides quick downshifts and double-declutching when required, making for an exciting drive, but the E53’s switchable AMG Performance exhaust system is likely to command all the attention with its crackles, pops and overall booming soundtrack. A true AMG, indeed.

 

This is all very well and good, but efficiency is also very important here. As such, EQ Boost powers the E53’s 48V on-board electrical system as well as the usual 12V set-up that still keeps the lights, infotainment system and controls ticking over via a lithium-ion battery pack charged via braking.

 

So, what’s the great advantage of having an extra 48 volts to play with? Well, it enables a coasting function that switches the engine off when cruising in the Eco driving mode, and extends the speeds at which the idle-stop system operates. All of this results in lower fuel consumption and emissions.

 

In reality, the integration of this set-up is flawless. If you drove the E53 and didn’t know beforehand it had mild-hybrid technology, you’re unlikely to know afterwards. Coasting and idle-stop are very effective, with the Coupe averaging 10.5 litres per 100 kilometres after a good thumping.

 

The E53 also employs Mercedes-AMG’s rear-biased 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system with fully variable torque distribution to good effect, with plenty on offer when required. Up to 50 per cent of torque can be sent to the front axle, meaning the rear end can step out briefly when cornering hard.

 

A multi-chamber, self-levelling air suspension, dubbed AMG Ride Control+, is paired with adaptive dampers in the E53, while its electric power steering is speed-sensitive and features a variable ratio. This combination results in surprisingly good handling, despite the E53’s large-size dimensions.

 

Nonetheless, the suspension set-up proves to be firm on country roads, with most bumps and lumps felt by occupants. Nonetheless, high-quality highway and city roads are met with suitable levels of smoothness, proving the E53 can be a comfortable cruiser. Either way, it’s an occupational hazard.

 

Similarly, the steering system is a bit of a disappointment, with the level of communication on offer lacking for a performance car. Conversely, it is pretty direct and feels meaty in hand – two traits that are necessary for success in this segment – while the wheel itself is a delight to hold, too.

 

We are yet to sample the Sedan ($167,129 before on-road costs), but we have spent some time in the Coupe ($172,729) and Cabriolet ($181,329). Other than the obvious, the key difference between the two is the latter’s extra heft, which dulls dynamics ever so slightly, but it’s not a bad trade off.

 

What they do share, however, is an exterior design that is both sporty and stylish. We particularly enjoy the low, wide rear end that now has round quad exhaust tailpipes – a nod to its E53 badge. The front’s twin-louvre front grille is also a highlight, with it previously reserved for V8 models.

 

Inside, the E53 puts its best foot forward with a technological tour de force. Two 12.3-inch displays sit side by side as part of the Comand infotainment system, while a windshield-projected head-up display helps keep eyes on the road, and the Burmester surround-sound system pleases audiophiles.

 

Advanced driver-assist systems are numerous, with autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep and steering assist, and adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality stealing all the headlines. Rest assured, the E53 rivals the S-Class in the safety stakes. It is truly a step ahead of most.

 

However, it is the amount of space on offer that really impresses. While the front sports seats are comfortable, the two rear passengers are in for the bigger treat. Legroom in the Coupe and Cabriolet is plentiful, mercifully ending the argument of who gets stuck with the uncomfortable back pews.

 

This generosity carries over to the boot, which is wide and deep, if not tall. However, a significant portion of the cargo capacity is lost when the Carbiolet’s soft-top is stowed.

 

Downsides? The luxurious of the interior’s Nappa leather upholstery and open-pore wood trim is at odds with the hard, shiny plastics that adorn the lower doors and seat bases. Given that cow hide adorns most cabin surfaces, it’s unusual that Mercedes-AMG didn’t go the whole way here.

 

So, is the E53 a good thing? You bet! Is it a true AMG? Absolutely – even if it doesn’t stick to the V8 script. After all, this isn’t the first time Affalterbach has moved its game on. It wasn’t that long ago that a four-cylinder model broke the Internet, and now it’s one of the brand’s best sellers…


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