Mercedes-AMG E53 takes a lifestyle tack with hybrid boost
AMG isn't known for doing things by halves - yet that's exactly what the Mercedes-Benz performance tuners have done to the latest arrivals in the E-Class range.
The E53 is effectively half-a-hybrid, packing an electric motor without the extra mass of a lithium-ion battery pack. In sedan, coupe or convertible guise, the motor augments initial acceleration until the six-cylinder engine has reached boost.
The motor also powers the 48V electrical sub-system - there's still a regular 12V wiring loom - and contributes to one of the most impressive take-offs you can hope for.
AMG boss Tobias Moers says the new variants are the first step towards a hybridised future. "We are providing an additional lifestyle-oriented customer group with a further attractive offering," he says.
Translating the marketing talk: AMG has identified there are plenty of people who want to be seen in an AMG-badged vehicle without wanting the licence-losing lethality of a hand-built V8-propelled supercar such as the E63.
The 48V approach is far cheaper than engineering and building a full hybrid set-up. It combines snappy acceleration - think 4.4 seconds for the 0-100km/h dash - with fuel use you just don't expect to see from an AMG-badged vehicle.
The coupe's claimed consumption is 8.8L/100km and we returned 11.0L on a representative mix of highway, urban and back-road driving.
A starting price of $167,129 for the sedan makes the E53 about $23,000 dearer than an E450 and $43,000 cheaper than the E63. That sort of saving will come close to putting an
A-Class in the garage as a second car.
Aspiring coupe and cabrio owners looking for an AMG-enhanced experience will pay $172,729 and $181,329 respectively.
The interior is as special as you'd expect at this price, from the pair of 12.3-inch screens dominating the dash to the leather upholstered seats and Mercedes' latest "comfort and convenience" additions such as air fragrancing, wireless phone charging and panoramic sunroof.
Beyond the AMG badges, logos and flat-bottom steering wheel, the E53 doesn't advertise its performance potential until you slip into the sportier driving modes or manually activate the exhaust flap to transform the sonic signature into a burbling, over-run crackling soundtrack that will have the neighbourhood dogs barking, if not the neighbours themselves.
ON THE ROAD
Tenacious is the most apt description of the E53, be that accelerating or cornering. Power is shunted to the rear wheels until the software detects imminent wheelspin when it seamlessly shifts some drive to the front rubber.
By any definition, the E53 is quick, be that off the line or powering out of a corner. Quick is a relative term given the E63 is a full second faster to highway pace but the E53 has more than enough mumbo to satisfy its "lifestyle-oriented" target audience.
In keeping with that lower expectation, this isn't a vehicle where you adjust cornering angle with the brake or accelerator. It's a point-and-squirt exercise where the car travels precisely where it is directed until physics dictates the front-end will start to push wide. That threshold is well above what most sane drivers will encounter on public roads.
Accurate enough to satisfy surveyors, the steering lacks a little feedback by AMG standards, especially if you've been in a C-Class tweaked by the Affalterbach engineers.
The air suspension is notably firmer than a regular E-Class but is still more than capable of cosseting the occupants in the "comfort" drive mode. The seats are superb and reinforce the E53's remit as a long-distance luxury cruiser.
In coupe guise - the sedan wasn't available at launch - access to the rear pews isn't particularly elegant and legroom is tight for taller adults, though fine for my 175cm frame.
Active driving aids are another asset. Set the adaptive cruise control to the posted speed and the cameras will read signs ahead and adjust the pace accordingly. It may not be simple but it is unobtrusive.
The self-steering is also steadily improving, even if it isn't something to which I'll entrust the occupants' safety when it can't see a line on either side.
The E53 headlines the engineering evolution needed to balance emissions with excitement. It's still an AMG, if unlike any that's come before … and it still isn't half-bad.
MERCEDES-AMG E53 4MATIC COUPE
PRICE $172,729 plus on-roads (hefty)
WARRANTY/SERVICE 3 years/unlimited km (basic); pricing TBA
ENGINE 3.0-litre 6-cyl turbo, 320kW/520Nm (impressive)
SAFETY 5 stars, 9 airbags, AEB, lane-keep, blind-spot, traffic sign recognition (reassuring)
THIRST 8.8L/100km (98RON)
SPARE Repair kit (typical)
CARGO 435L (average)