The Mercedes-AMG E 53 4MATIC+ Coupe offers something rather special. Jonathan Crouch drives it.
The Mercedes-AMG E 53 4MATIC+ Coupe is a rare kind of performance sporting car. Not only can it sprint to 62mph in under 4.5s to the accompaniment of an emotive soundtrack but it also has a relatively efficient mild hybrid engine and can properly seat four people. It all delivers a pretty special and rather different Grand Touring experience. There's a sense of class, quality and style here that makes this car unique at its price point.
It's been a long time since we've had a Mercedes E-Class that was a proper AMG-fettled serious driver's car but this, we're told, might be it, the Mercedes-AMG E 53 4MATIC+ Coupe. It's not the first Mercedes-AMG version of the current generation E-Class Coupe; this '53' variant directly replaces an E 43 4MATIC version of this model. That had a V6 engine and 367hp. Here though, you sense that Mercedes' Afalterbach luxury division has got a lot more serious about developing this car. There's a change to inline six cylinder power and a power hike to 435hp. At the same time as this E-Class variant future-proofs itself with a switch to mild hybrid technology. Let's take a look.
Previously, there was quite a gulf between the two engines that the Mercedes-AMG sub-brand uses for larger cars made by the Three-Pointed Star. These being the V6 '43' unit and the 'blood and thunder' 4.0-litre V8 of the ballistic '63'-series cars. You still can't have an E-class Coupe (or for that matter, an E-Class cabriolet) with the V8 engine, but this E 53 model's in-line six cylinder 435hp unit delivers a lot of the performance that unit might provide for this body style. Together with a vastly more acceptable set of running costs thanks to the newly integrated mild hybrid tech. But you don't want to know about all that - not in this section anyway. You want to know how fast this E 53 Coupe goes and whether it's just a bit of a boat that goes very fast in a straight line but can't do a lot else. As has been the case with AMG-engined E-Class Coupes of the past. Well it isn't that. Come to this car and expect it to have the scalpel-sharp handling responses of a similarly priced but slightly smaller C 63 Coupe and you'll be disappointed. But it's more everyday-usable than one of those thanks to an AMG DYNAMIC SELECT driving modes system and the addition of AMG RIDE CONTROL version of the Mercedes AIR BODY CONTROL air suspension system. Plus there's 4MATIC+ AWD, a 9-speed AMG Speedshift TCT paddleshift auto gearbox and an AMG Performance exhaust for an authentic sportscar soundtrack. It all makes this car certainly quite dynamic enough to take on a direct class rival like a BMW M850i Coupe. Rest to 62mph takes just 4.4s and the top speed has to be artificially restricted at 155mph. It's also a more rewarding thing than the other car in this category that uses hybrid technology (albeit in full-hybrid rather than, as in this case, mild hybrid form), the Lexus LC 500h.
Visually, the 53-series model has a unique look. AMG-specific side sill panels deliver a more dynamic silhouette and there's a twin-blade radiator grille finished in silver chrome, previously a feature reserved only for the V8 Performance models. The front apron, which has an A-wing design, is equipped with black flics and a front splitter in silver chrome. The outer air intakes have two horizontal fins in silver chrome. At the rear, the classic round twin tailpipes are finished in high-gloss chrome and there's a body coloured spoiler on the boot lid, optionally available in carbon-fibre. Inside, there's AMG-specific seat upholstery and red seat belts, plus trim elements in carbon fibre or a glass fibre and matt silver combination. The interior is rounded off with the new, standard-fit AMG Performance steering wheel in nappa leather with individualisation options such as wood inserts in piano lacquer or DINAMICA microfibre in the grip area. As with an ordinary E-Class Coupe, you get a Widescreen Cockpit (two high-resolution 12.3-inch displays are merged under a single lens). But here, this set-up also includes a specific AMG menu. In the back, there's just about space for two adults to be reasonably comfortable - certainly far more than you'd get in a C-Class Coupe - or indeed a Lexus LC. As for the boot, well that's 425-litres in size. Should you want to carry longer items, the split-folding rear seat has two larger outer sections and a narrower middle portion that's ideal for pushing through skis or golf clubs.
The E 53 4MATIC+ Coupe comes in two levels of trim, with prices that at the time of this test in early 2020 were pitched at around £65,000 for the standard 'Premium' version and around £69,000 for the plusher 'Premium Plus' variant. You can also get a Cabriolet version of this car at a premium of just under £5,000 more. As you'd expect for that kind of money, equipment levels are generous. As well as AMG Body styling, you get 19-inch AMG alloy wheels, AMG Ride Control damping with AIR BODY CONTROL air suspension and an AMG Performance exhaust system Inside, the nappa leather sports seats are power-operated and fitted out with red belts and a memory package. There's also the Mercedes 'Widescreen Cockpit' screen package that bonds together a 12.3-inch COMAND Online centre-dash infotainment screen with a digital instrument cluster layout of the same size. In addition, there's a wireless charging mat and black open-pore ash wood trim. Stretch to 'Premium Plus' trim and Mercedes will give you larger 20-inch 5-twin-spoke AMG alloy wheels, a panoramic glass sunroof, rear privacy glass and a 13-speaker 590-watt 9-channel Burmester surround sound system.
The E 53's engine is embellished with a bit of mild hybrid tech based which sees an EQ Boost starter-alternator motor mounted between the engine and the 9-speed gearbox. It's a key component of the 48-Volt on-board electrical system. The mild hybrid system adds another 16kW (or around 20hp) of boost to the total power output and 250Nm of extra torque and has been designed for maximum energy recuperation and the virtually imperceptible restarting of the engine with the start/stop function. There's also a gliding mode that disconnects the engine from the gearbox at a cruise. This powertrain also incorporates an exhaust gas after-treatment system mounted near the engine and a standard-fit particulate filter, the only part of the exhaust system that's under the floor. You shouldn't get your hopes up to much for the difference all this will make; the WLTP combined cycle fuel reading is 31.4mpg and the NEDC-rated CO2 return is 202g/km. To put that into perspective, the full-hybrid model in this segment, the Lexus LC 500h, manages 42.8mpg and 150g/km. But it's considerably better than the readings you'd get from a V8-powered C 63 Coupe model that wouldn't actually take you very much faster; that car can only manage 28.0mpg and 230g/km.
Do you really need a faster, more luxurious performance coupe than this? Probably not. That won't prevent this E 53 Coupe from being a super-rare sight on our roads though. But if you're fortunate enough to be considering one, that'll be all part of the appeal. It's practical and reasonably spacious in the way a C 63 Coupe isn't. It's sharper to drive and much more affordable than a Lexus LC or a BMW 8 Series Coupe. And, thanks to 4MATIC AWD, AMG Ride Control and the AMG Speedshift gearbox, it feels more dynamic than any AMG-fettled E-Class Coupe before it. There's even a Cabriolet version if you want a more exclusive feel. You could spend twice as much as Mercedes is asking here and not really better what this car can offer in terms of performance, dynamic ability, luxury and even exclusivity. If you don't feel the need to and find yourself in the market for a very quick, very plush four-seat luxury coupe, then this one might be hard to ignore.