Vehicle: 2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53 4Matic+ Coupe
Listed Price: $79,990 (MSRP approx. $100,600 when new)
Specs: 3.0L Inline-Six with EQ Boost paired with an AMG Speedshift TCT 9-speed
Power Figures: 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft torque (+21 hp and +184 lb-ft EQ Boost)
0-100km/h: 4.4 seconds
Slotting between the luxurious E450 Coupe and the hardcore but unforgiving AMG V8 products, the E53 AMG Coupe manages to strike a good balance between fine luxury and AMG drama. As a grand tourer at heart, this big luxury coupe shines brightest during a long highway cruise, but still manages to put a big smile on your face when you’re feeling a little frisky, delivering instant thrust, sharp weighty handling, and firing off cracks and pops from its smooth inline-six. It may not be the traditional AMG hardcore enthusiasts are used to, but for the average Benz buyer, the E53 is more than enough performance and probably a better buy for some, simply because of its ability to still deliver massive fun without punishing you at every pothole.
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For an AMG-badged product, the E53 Coupe is surprisingly comfortable to cruise around in. The softly sprung suspension smooths out road imperfections, and cabin noise isolation rivals that of the best GT cars, especially at highway speeds. In comfort mode the silky smooth inline-six purrs softly in the background, complemented by a cutting-edge EQ Boost mild-hybrid system that not only makes it more efficient than any large 400+ horsepower luxury coupe has any right to be (8.5L/100km highway and 12.3L city), but also gives it a bit of instant torque to eliminate turbo lag. This electric assist also means the start/stop system is far less intrusive than in your traditional Benz, making it a welcome efficiency feature rather than an annoyance that most owners disable every time they start up their car.
Pop it into Sport+ mode however, and this cushy coupe shows its playful side. Immediately the exhaust opens up to let the wonderful throaty sound of the inline-six to shine, with burbles on every upshift and a ton of crackles and pops for added flair. Floor the E53 AMG and you’re met with a wave of immediate and relentless torque thanks to the electrically-boosted turbochargers, and with 9 tightly-spaced gears to play with, you’ll be tempted to fire through them using the paddle shifters every chance you get. There’s even a Track Pace menu to play around with track settings and measurement tools, though I suspect these won’t get much use form its owners. It’s not quite the explosive thrust and thunderous roar of the E63’s V8, but it does feel a lot more refined and civilized, which is perfect for what this is; an AMG-ified grand touring coupe.
Although I had limited time behind the wheel of the E53 Coupe, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in similar Benz products, including the E450 coupe and the CLS 53, with an identical powertrain. The car feels quite heavy and supremely stable in all conditions (traits you'd want in a large luxury coupe), and steering mostly remains luxuriously numb with a tiny bit more feedback in Sport+, but excellent weighting and all-wheel-drive grip make it confidence inspiring in the corners. And despite its softer-sprung suspension and 4429 lb curb weight (which interestingly is more than the sedan version), AMG’s tuning help it feel lighter on its feet than you'd think around some twisty roads.
This cabin will be familiar to anyone who’s been in an E-Class, but that doesn’t make it any less of a stunner. Flashy yet classy, high-tech, and visually breathtaking, its no wonder that Mercedes is so well-known for their gorgeous interiors. The Coupe gets a few more special design elements, including the fancier air vents that glow blue or red as you change the temperature (taken with the CLS), the automatic seatbelt delivery system, and of course, the retractable B-pillar + rear window, which might seem like a minor design feature but is actually quite noticeable from the inside, and also further accentuates its sleek flowing roofline + side-profile. The E53’s standard ‘metal weave’ trim is also a treat for the eyes, but best of all, it doesn’t creak loudly when touched (unlike the wood trims in some Benz models...).
Its beauty isn't just skin deep either; all models come with extremely comfortable Nappa leather seats and nearly all surfaces covered in plush materials or solid aluminium. The 12.3 inch fully digital instrument cluster feels high-tech and is surprisingly easy to read even in direct sunlight, all buttons and knobs feel satisfyingly premium, and a ton of tech and amenities are available (i.e. massage seats, soft-close doors, interior fragrance system), provided you're willing to pay for them. Little touches such as the heated arm rests, machined metal Burmester speaker grilles, and the ultra-HD camera system (still the most crisp 360 camera in the industry), really add to making this coupe's interior feel a cut above the rest.
If there’s one flaw, it’s the infotainment system. The 2020 E Class Coupe still comes with Mercedes's old COMAND infotainment system, which lacks a few features found in the latest MBUX system and can be a little hard to use with its cluttered UI and lack of a touchpad/touchscreen; though to be fair this will be remedied very soon with the 2021 refresh. With the abundance of available options, things can get very pricey real fast if you're not careful, though thankfully most essential options are included in the E53's higher base price. Still, as an overall package the E53’s interior manages to look and feel more premium than many pricer coupes, even when specced modestly.
Space and Practicality:
The E Class Coupe can fit 4 adults without too much hassle; chalk that up to its sheer size and some smart packaging. The long doors make it a little easier to hop in and out of the back, and once you get back there, there is an adequate amount of head and leg room for 2 moderately-sized adults, provided the front passengers aren’t ridiculously tall. It's definitely cozy back there, but at least the retractable rear windows and missing B-Pillar help to make it feel less claustrophobic. Although the above-average rear seats eat up a bit of trunk room (10 cubic feet of it), a wide opening and folding rear seats allow you to store larger items in a pinch, and should be adequate for large coupe shoppers.
Truth be told, this isn't the sportiest or most aggressive-looking AMG product out there, but that's not to say it isn't attractive and command a ton of presence. Instead, the designers decided to go with an elegant and classy approach, using smooth body lines and subtle muscular bulges rather than sharp creases and big flared fenders. The rear angle is arguably where the majority of its 'AMG-looks' resides, with quad tail pipes, a subtle spoiler, a more aggressive diffuser, and AMG badging to differentiate it from its tamer E450 brother. In person, its sheer size is something to behold too, giving it a much more substantial presence when parked next to other smaller coupes.
While not a traditional AMG product, there's a lot to love about the E53 AMG Coupe. Its cutting edge EQ Boost system makes it both smooth and a solid performer, with the added bonus of being quite efficient. The cabin is one of Mercedes's best, the car is stylish and full of luxurious features and tech, and it's one of the few AMG-badged products that don't compromise comfort and ride quality for hardcore performance. I guess you could say the E53 is more of an entertainer than an all-out performer, but while I'll always love a big burly V8, muscle might not be for everyone and the E53 is one of the few cars that truly lets you choose between civility and rambunctiousness.