With the Mercedes-AMG E53 – and before that the E43 – the three-pointed star has bridged the gap between the Benz-badged E-Class range and the flagship AMG E63 V8.
In fact, the two-door E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet don’t offer an AMG E63 variant at all, with the six-cylinder E53 model serving as the flagship.
While not quite the Affalterbach skunkworks job the AMG 63 models are, do the E53 Coupe and Cabriolet earn the hallowed AMG badge?
We attended the Australian media launch of the facelifted two-door models in Victoria to find out.
Available in sedan, coupe and cabriolet versions, pricing for the AMG E53 4Matic is as follows:
- 2021 Mercedes-AMG E53 4Matic+ Sedan: $162,300
- 2021 Mercedes-AMG E53 4Matic+ Coupe: $164,800
- 2021 Mercedes-AMG E53 4Matic+ Cabriolet: $170,900
All prices exclude on-road costs
Interestingly, direct competitors for the E53 Coupe and Cabriolet are few and far between. BMW no longer has the 6 Series, and the 8 Series starts closer to $208,000 for the entry-level 840i Coupe.
From Audi there’s the RS5 Coupe, though technically a class size smaller, with better straight-line performance from $150,900 before on-roads, but there’s no convertible option.
The following equipment is standard on the AMG E53:
- Nappa leather upholstery
- Front sports seats
- Sports steering wheel with flat bottom
- Head-up display with virtual windscreen projection
- AMG sports pedals
- 13-speaker Burmester surround sound system
- Panoramic glass sunroof
- Sports brake system with perforated front discs
- Speed-sensitive sports steering
- AMG Performance exhaust
- Bootlid spoiler lip
- 20-inch, five twin-spoke alloy wheels
Features carried over from lower-spec E-Class models includes:
- Leather upholstery
- Air Body Control air suspension
- Multibeam LED headlights
- Metallic paint
- 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster
- 12.3-inch MBUX touchscreen infotainment system
- Satellite navigation
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Parktronic Active Park Assist
- Surround-view camera
- Mercedes me Connect app integration
- Wireless smartphone charging
- 64-colour ambient lighting
- Electrically-adjustable front seats with heating and three-position memory
- Keyless entry/start
- Handsfree boot access
You’re not really wanting for much in terms of spec, though there are still a handful of options for what are the flagship E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet.
An upgraded MBUX infotainment system with augmented reality navigation forms part of the $1300 Innovation Package for the E53 Coupe (adds MBUX Interior Assistant) while it’s a $900 standalone option for the E53 Cabriolet.
You can also option soft-close doors ($700) for both models, as well as AMG Track Pace performance monitors ($600).
The core range of metallic paints are no-cost options, though there’s a handful of designo premium paints for between $1800 and $4900 depending on finish and model variant. One of the E53 Coupes on test was in designo Patagonia Red metallic – absolutely stunning.
Different colour roofs can be optioned on the E53 Cabriolet (Dark Brown, Dark Blue and Dark Red) for no extra charge, and a choice of several nappa leather interiors are available for no charge as well.
Unfortunately, there’s only one wheel design offered in two colours (black/silver) and there’s no option for carbon-fibre inlays – just black open-pore wood is offered which doesn’t really feel very ‘AMG’.
Being a facelift rather than a generational overhaul, the updated E-Class Sedan carries the outgoing model’s five-star safety rating, achieved in 2016.
The rating applies to all ‘W213’ sedan versions of the E-Class, based on scores of 95 per cent for adult occupant protection, 90 per cent for child occupants, 77 per cent for pedestrian detection and 62 per cent for safety assist. Coupe and Cabriolet versions are currently unrated.
All models received the Driving Assistance Package Plus as standard for 2021, including adaptive cruise control with stop/go, autonomous emergency braking with cross-traffic assist, lane change assist, active blind spot assist, evasive steering assist and route-based speed adaptation.
Dual frontal, side chest and side head airbags (curtains) and a driver knee airbag are standard on the pre-facelift E-Class.
If you’re expecting major changes inside, don’t get your hopes up. The overall look and layout is very much the same.
Key differences are the new MBUX infotainment interface across both 12.3-inch displays, the latest Mercedes-Benz steering wheel design with ‘double-decker’ spokes, and the coupe gets the new flat, square mousepad-style infotainment control – the Cabriolet retains the old one due to the engineering of the folding roof switchgear.
As with the pre-facelift model, the E-Class looks and feels expensive from the driver’s seat.
The dash and door tops are finished in artificial ‘Artico’ leather-look trim, which isn’t as nice as the extended nappa hide you can get in other AMG models, though the pops of red are a nice contrast from the swathes of black.
You sit nice and low in the cabin, lending that old-school coupe, sports car feel. If you’re familiar with Mercedes interiors you’ll feel at home in the E53 – or any E-Class for that matter.
All of the main controls fall easily within reach, the switchgear operates with nice weighting, and all the touch points feel of a high quality. The MBUX infotainment system offers quick load times, high resolution, and wired smartphone mirroring. Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto would be nice, but no deal-breaker.
We’re not so sure about the double-decker steering wheel. There are so many touch-capacitive controls that are fidgety and at times annoying to use.
Everything looks good, though, and it’s completely touch-capacitive so you won’t get those annoying “put your hands on the wheel” notifications on the freeway because the wheel actually senses hands on the wheel, not only steering inputs.
Space and storage up front is pretty good too, with a deep centre armrest cubby, cupholders and a wireless phone charger under the centre stack, and decent-sized door pockets with bottle holders.
Though technically a 2+2, the E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet have enough room for average-sized adults in the rear – of course the Cabriolet with the roof down affords limitless headroom.
Under the electrically-operated tailgate, there’s 425L of luggage capacity in the E53 Coupe and up to 385L in the E53 Cabriolet.
You won’t find a space-saver spare under the boot floor, instead both E53 Coupe and Cabriolet offer tyre repair kits for their 245/35 R20 front and 275/30 R20 rear Yokohama Advan performance tyres.
The AMG E53 gets a 3.0-litre turbocharged inline six with 48V mild-hybrid assistance, pumping out 320kW at 6100rpm and 520Nm at 1800-5800rpm. The 48V ‘EQ Boost’ system contributes an additional 16kW and 250Nm for short bursts just off idle .
4Matic+ variable all-wheel drive is standard, as is an AMG Speedshift nine-speed automatic with paddles.
Mercedes-AMG claims the E53 Coupe will hit 100km/h from a standstill in just 4.4 seconds, while the Cabriolet is slightly slower at 4.6 seconds. The E53 Sedan splits the difference with a 4.5-second claim. All versions have an electronically-limited top speed of 250km/h.
Fuel consumption is rated at a respectable 9.3L/100km for the E53 Coupe and 9.4L/100km for the E53 Cabriolet, both on the combined cycle, and the 66-litre fuel tank requires 98 RON premium unleaded.
Our launch drive wasn’t indicative of mixed real-world commuting, more focused on high-speed dynamic country driving, so a real-world fuel figure will need to wait until we get one through the CarExpert garage.
Make no mistake, just because the E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet don’t offer a V8-powered AMG 63 variant doesn’t mean you can’t have a hoot in the 53.
The media launch of the AMG E53 Coupe and Cabriolet coincided with the launch drive of the AMG GLE63 S, and let me tell you I came away from the event with a surprising favourite.
My first drive leg was undertaken with the E53 Coupe, finished in the stunning designo Patagonia Red metallic. It looks fast even when standing still.
Firing up the E53 may disappoint, there’s no flaring of revs on a cold start and the standard exhaust setting is pretty quiet and tame. My tip, flick it into Sport+ and get rolling.
Riding on air suspension, the E53 Coupe and Convertible are impressively comfortable even in the firmest setting, meaning you can enjoy the most aggressive powertrain, exhaust and steering settings without really sacrificing comfort should you wish to do so.
It’s only in Sport+ that the exhaust really comes to life, and lets out what is probably my favourite aspect of the E53 – the engine note.
For years enthusiasts have frothed about inline sixes from the likes of BMW, and this extended drive program with both the E53 Coupe and Cabriolet helped me realise why such configuration has long been an enthusiast’s choice.
The sonorous, trumpety tone of the 3.0-litre at full noise is addictive. If you really punt it too, you’ll get some aggressive pops and cracks on overrun.
I’d go as far to say it’s a more engaging note than that of the current crop of bi-turbo V8 AMG models, as the current bent-eight can sound a little muted even at higher revs.
The E53 isn’t just a singer, either, it’s properly quick in a straight line, handles corners with finesse, and eats up highway miles for breakfast. If you’re feeling a little racy, you can use the steering-mounted paddle shifters, which also offer a full manual mode, with the nine-speed auto snappy on upshifts and downshifts.
As noted earlier, the E53 comes as standard with Airmatic adaptive air suspension. In its sportiest setting it firms up and lowers the ride height, and does the opposite in comfort.
Keeping in mind both the coupe and convertible weigh a touch over 2.0 tonnes, the two-door AMG E53 models are fairly agile handlers, aided by the grip of the 4Matic+ variable all-wheel drive system, though you can feel their heft.
The assisted steering feel and cushy air suspension also are more comfort-focused than all-out corner carver, but for the target demographic the E53 fits the Bahn-storming GT brief very well.
Opting for the E53 Cabriolet adds another dimension to the driving experience, too.
I spent the trip from Nagambie to Melbourne in the drop-top, and it was by far my favourite car of the entire trip.
Not only does it look way cooler with the top down, the AMG E53 Cabriolet gives you even more of that inline six bark, plus a more immersive driving environment. There’s also a minimal 64kg weight penalty, so the dynamics are hardly impacted.
If you’re worried about the wind messing up your hair or being able to hold a normal conversation via Bluetooth or smartphone mirroring, you can use the cool wind deflectors (one atop the windscreen and one behind the rear seats) to keep rushing air at bay, and winding all the windows up makes it feel like you have a massive sunroof. In winter the Airscarf neck heaters work a treat, too.
Even with the fabric roof and all windows down, the Burmester 15-speaker 590-watt premium audio system has enough juice to keep the tunes pumping at 100km/h, and when you don’t want to listen to music you can just take in that glorious six-cylinder engine note.
The on-board driver tech makes long-distance cruising a cinch, too. All-speed adaptive cruise control with stop/go, lane-keep and lane-change assists essentially allow the E53 to drive itself.
In short, the AMG E53 is a fantastic grand tourer.
The AMG E53 is covered by Mercedes-Benz’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Maintenance is required every 12 months or 25,000 kilometres, whichever comes first, with Mercedes offering pre-paid service packages or pay-as-you-go capped-price servicing.
Pricing for the E53’s service packs are as follows:
- Three years: $2500
- Four years: $3400
- Five years: $5100
Compared to paying per visit, you’re saving up to $600 over the life of the service plan.
I’m still left scratching my head as to why Mercedes-AMG just won’t do an eight-cylinder E-Class Coupe or Cabriolet. But the E53 is a fine flagship for the two-door E-Class range.
With elegant design, muscular straight-line performance, engaging dynamics, a singing exhaust note and all-round practicality, the AMG E53 Coupe is a fine luxury GT that goes as good as it looks without making a huge song and dance. It’s a true sleeper.
The AMG E53 Cabriolet brings the added flexibility of a folding fabric roof, which somewhat amplifies the sensory experience without significantly dulling the dynamics.
It’s also worth noting these twins virtually have no direct competitors, so there’s nothing offering a similar package at this price point. A Cabriolet in Emerald Green Metallic with Dark Brown roof over Saddle Brown/Black nappa leather for me, please.
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