The E-Class is my favourite platform within the broad portfolio that now comprises the complete Mercedes-Benz and Mercedes-AMG range. And budget permitting, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG E53 4Matic+ Coupe might be the smartest choice of the whole lot.
I write 'budget permitting' because the – let’s call it E53 Coupe – starts from $164,800 before on-road costs. So, it’s not exactly cheap. You could argue that an E350 Coupe (starting from $128,200) is the thinking buyer’s choice given the ‘luxury cruiser’ nature of the E Coupe itself. Then again, the E53 Coupe is a whole hell of a lot cheaper than an E-Class with a 63 in the badge.
And, after our spirited drive into country Victoria for the local launch, I can tell you that you’d have to drive an E63 Sedan very, very rapidly to outrun its baby sibling (and in the case of the coupe, there is no 63 version, the 53 is the two-door flagship). It’s mightily impressive when you open the taps.
The E53 Coupe is powered by the familiar 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine, which features both a conventional turbocharger and an electric compressor. The engine makes 320kW and 520Nm, and is mated to a nine-speed automatic tuned by AMG sending drive to all four wheels.
The EQ Boost 48-volt hybrid system adds 16kW and 250Nm in short bursts to improve throttle response and efficiency. Those extra power and torque figures don’t get added to the overall output; it’s a little more complex than that. But suffice to say, there are no perceptible flat spots or lag that you’ll feel when you’re pushing the E53 Coupe.
Sprinting from 0–100km/h in just 4.4 seconds, it is a rapid sports coupe, even though it doesn’t get the same attention as an AMG with a 63 in the name. We write 4.4 seconds now rather flippantly given how fast just about every new car is, but that time is properly fast and the E53 Coupe feels it. On the combined cycle, it uses a claimed 9.3L/100km.
|2021 Mercedes-AMG E53 4Matic+ Coupe|
|Engine||3.0-litre turbocharged petrol six-cylinder|
|Power and torque||320kW @ 6100rpm, 520Nm @ 1800-5800rpm|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||9.3L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating (year tested)||Five stars (2016)|
|Warranty||5 years/unlimited kilometres|
|Main competitors||Lexus RC, Audi S6|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$164,800|
Standard-inclusion highlights are 20-inch twin-spoke alloy wheels, the AMG Night Package, a 13-speaker Burmester surround-sound system, nappa upholstery and a panoramic glass sunroof. There are also the impressive twin 12.3-inch screens covering infotainment and the driver’s display, a head-up display with virtual-image windscreen projection, and tyre pressure monitoring. We loved the head-up display, which remained visible even when viewed through polarised sunglasses.
The cabin is sumptuous and befitting the E-Class legacy. It feels stately, high-quality, beautifully designed and appointed, and is a comfortable place to while away a long drive. We spent a couple of three-hour stints at the wheel, with short breaks in between, and didn’t need any chiropractic work at any point. The long front doors need a modicum of care, though, when you’re getting into and out of the coupe in tight spaces.
As has been the case for some time now, the two screens work beautifully. While I was a sceptic initially, they actually look right at home now in a ’Benz cabin, and somewhat hypocritically, I reckon the experience would be lacking now without them. The infotainment screen is responsive, fast and accurate, and the way in which you can customise the driver’s display is a quality addition to an already impressive interior.
The second-row seating is best seen as occasional, as space is tight with tall occupants up front. There’s no surprise there, because while the E-Class isn’t as compact as the C, it’s still not a massive car by any means in two-door coupe form. For the intended buyer, though, the cabin ergonomics and comfort, driving dynamics and boot space are near perfect. You’d picture the buyer of this car rarely, if ever, using the second row.
On that subject, the E-Class buyer is an interesting profile. According to ’Benz, they are loyal to the brand, quite dedicated to the E-Class platform specifically, and a large proportion of buyers are existing E-Class owners coming back for more. Leads you to believe that the car does exactly what they want, doesn’t it?
Further, design is tagged as the strongest motivating factor to buy the coupe, followed closely by safety. As such, the E53 Coupe gets the full suite of available safety inclusions, as you’d expect from Mercedes-AMG at this price point.
Where the ‘regular’ E-Class doesn’t quite tickle a buyer’s fancy, then, they can rest assured that Mercedes-AMG has come up with a solution in the form of this car. The edgy, performance-hinting styling, and the mere fact that it’s a two-door, tick all the right styling boxes before you even open the door.
What I think will most surprise you about the E53 Coupe is just how fast it really is out in the real world. It’s not thundering V8 fast, but if you go in expecting that, you’re test-driving the wrong car. It’s sharp, though, both in terms of throttle response and translating that to grip at all four tyres. The engine is punchy and willing, and it never seems caught out, bogged down, or off kilter.
Nail the throttle at any time, from any speed, in any gear, and there’s a surge of intoxicating acceleration. The six-cylinder loves to rev, too, asking you to tease the redline should you dare, never feeling like it’s running out of puff.
With a bias toward rear-driven, it’s fun and engaging, too. Like the best AWD platforms, understeer is only found out at the very outer edges of tomfoolery, and that point will be well beyond the ability of most of us. Certainly on the road, anyway, where it’s way too fast to truly find the edges of its performance envelope.
The E53 isn’t a lightweight, and you’re conscious of that, but in a sure-footed, stable kind of way, rather than a slovenly, slow to move kind of way. We liked the steering's precision and accuracy, and the way it stayed on the line you asked it to, rarely ever getting unsettled. The ride is likewise excellent, balancing nicely between comfort and precision, even with 20-inch wheels and tyres. As ever, working your way through the drive modes sharpens the driving experience incrementally.
The nine-speed is seriously smooth at just about any speed, and our only ask is that it could be a little sharper and snappier to respond when the red mist really descends. Aside from that (minor) grievance, it's as good as an automatic gets. And to think not so long ago, a four-speed auto was the latest and greatest.
Our drive out into the country is where the whole experience really comes into its own and makes sense. This is a Frankfurt to Berlin autobahn stormer in a Boss suit. It doesn’t look anywhere near as formidable as it really is, and for mine that’s the whole point.
The question we’re left to answer is twofold. Is the E53 Coupe a proper E-Class? And is the E53 Coupe a proper AMG? Despite what you might be thinking, the answer to both is yes.
It’s comfortable, beautifully executed and premium. In that sense, it is befitting of what we expect from an E-Class. It’s also bloody fast, and good at it, too. Way faster than you ever need, in fact. And isn’t that the point of the whole AMG experience? So that's a yes there too.
Damn good thing that it is, I’m left wondering why you’d ever need any more car than the E53 Coupe?