Car Review: 2019 Mercedes-AMG E53 4Matic Coupe2019 Mercedes-AMG E53 4Matic CoupeJil McIntosh
OVERVIEWA sleek-looking coupe with performance to match PROSSuperb engine and transmission, sharp handling CONSOdd brake pedal feel, and some awkward controls VALUE FOR MONEYLots of performance for the price WHAT TO CHANGE?Give it a simpler, touch-activated infotainment system HOW TO SPEC IT?Add the Premium Pack
Heres the scoop on the Mercedes-AMG E53 Coupe, the first E-Class coupe to wear the brands performance badge: If youre expecting the same fire-breathing, bat-out-of-hell brawn that usually comes out of an AMG, youre going to be disappointed. But if you like smooth yet thrilling acceleration, served with a large side of luxury and some fuel efficiency to boot, youre definitely going to want this car.
Its the first E-Class Coupe to come under the AMG designation, which usually means eight cylinders have been stuffed under the hood. Instead, the E53 gets a new, turbocharged 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine that uses both an exhaust gas turbocharger and an auxiliary electric compressor. Theres also an electric starter-alternator unit sandwiched between the engine and the nine-speed automatic transmission, and a 48-volt mild-hybrid electrical system (that doesnt need to be plugged in).
The engine makes 429 horsepower and 384 lb.-ft. of torque. When you want extra acceleration, that electric unit, dubbed EQ Boost, can briefly kick in an additional 21 horses and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. Power goes to all four wheels, with torque distributed between the front or rear axle, depending on driving conditions.
The E53 starts at $86,000, but theres a lot that can be added on top of that. My tester had a full score, adding a very long list of options including a premium sound system, active safety assists, a head-up display, and even a perfume scent dispenser, all for $102,250 before freight and taxes.
Hybridization originally arrived in mainstream vehicles to cut back on fuel and emissions. Many premium automakers are now joining gas and electricity together to significantly increase power without going to a bigger engine. For all its grunt, the E53 is rated at a very decent 10.6 L/100 kilometres in combined driving, and in a week of having fun with it, I came in at 10.8.
The beauty of this powerplant is evident as soon as you put your foot down. The electric compressor boosts the engine right away without any lag, while the EQ Boost tosses in its extra strength. By then, the exhaust gas turbo is on board, and its just torque, torque, and more torque all the way up the tach but even then, its smooth as silk. The electric motor starts the engine, including the auto-stop at idle, which is unobtrusive but can be turned off if you prefer.
In Comfort mode, the E53 is a grand tourer with a pliable ride that will take you across the country, but keep you relaxed and refreshed. Switch to the Sport modes and you can feel the car tighten up, with quicker throttle response, sharper steering, and stiffer shocks that keep the car tight in the corners. The sport exhaust rumbles beautifully and it blips when the transmission shifts, and it just adds to the fun. You can sequentially shift between gears using the wheel-mounted paddles, which are cheekily labelled up and down.
This coupe is a good-looking car, especially with its pillarless styling that turns it into a hardtop when all the windows are down. The interior is equally lovely, especially with my testers optional woven-metal trim. The metal switchgear feels substantial, the dash is leather-wrapped, and its all put together flawlessly as it should be, of course, at this price.
The configurable instrument cluster and infotainment system are combined into a single glass panel. Its not a touchscreen and Ive never been fond of Mercedes control system for it, which uses a joystick and trackpad to wade through menus that arent always intuitive. That said, I did like the tiny touchpad on the steering wheel that lets you switch between functions, screens and radio stations when you swipe it. As well, the voice control has been expanded and now includes some vehicle functions such as the climate settings.
Taking the luxury a step beyond, my car had mood settings for relaxing or energizing. Select one and it automatically changes the ventilation flow, turns on the massage, selects a scent, and even turns on either soothing or upbeat music although you can switch back to your preferred station while everything else continues to coddle you.
Typically for a coupe, the front seats are spacious, while the two rear seats let your friends know you didnt buy this car to cart their butts around. Even so, its relatively easy to get into those rear chairs, since the front ones slide forward and back electrically. The trunk is also fairly tight in keeping with the cars configuration, but theres a bin under the cargo floor, along with a very handy pop-up tote box.
A lot of automakers are doing performance and luxury these days, but the E53 is a powerful reminder that Mercedes-Benz has been doing this for a long time and still has the chops for it. This is among the better engines Ive driven in a while, and the chassis and steering are every bit its match. With this gas-battery beauty, AMG proves you dont always need to hit drivers over the head with raw power to make an impression.