2021 Mercedes-AMG E 53 Coupe review (video)

If you’re in the market for a suave, comfortable and properly swift luxury coupe, you need to check out the 2021 Mercedes-AMG E 53. It does all of these things supremely well, and adds a level of refinement and very clever eco-conscious technology that is currently unrivalled in this market.

You can get it in coupe and cabriolet form, and even as a sedan. But you can’t get the mental E 63 S V8 as a coupe, which means right now the E 53 is the premier badge for the E-Class two-door.

Prices start at a rather northerly $172,253 (excluding on-road costs). We don’t really need to remind you, as you’ll probably already know, but for that money you can get yourself into some very fine machinery. For loyal buyers though, there is nothing else.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E 53 Coupe – THE SPECS

Engine: 3.0-litre turbo (& e-turbo) inline-six
Output: 320kW@6100rpm / 520Nm@1800-5800rpm
Transmission: Nine-speed auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive, fully variable torque distribution
Wheels: F: 20×8.0, 245/35  R: 20×9.0, 275/30
ANCAP: Not tested (E-Class 5 stars)
Tare weight: 2003kg
Power-to-weight: 6.25:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 9.3L/100km
Economy during test: 10.5L/100km

Fuel capacity/Type: 66L/98 RON
Power efficiency: 34.40kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 2.11 seconds*
0-100km/h: 4.36 seconds*
0-200km/h: 16.88 seconds*
60-110km/h: 2.94 seconds*
1/4 mile: 12.77 seconds at 178.3km/h*
Max acceleration: 1.145g
100-0km/h braking: 2.84 seconds at 36.91 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.159g
Decibel at idle: 50/58*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 85/93*
Priced from: $172,253

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2021 Mercedes-AMG E 53 Coupe – THE PACKAGE

It may surprise you just how much room is inside this, despite being a sporty coupe. The body style rarely offers useable rear seat accommodation, for example. Headroom is quite good though, and so long as the front passengers are not part of the national basketball squad you should be right for legroom, too.

Mercedes hasn’t skimped on amenities in the back, either. You’ve got your own climate vents, mimicking the same exquisite aviation-style vents in the front, and a centre console with cup holders. Following tradition, you can wind down the rear windows. It’s pillarless; the ultimate expression of motoring elegance. Having this ability helps to open up a general sense of airiness and space as well.

The overall decor is quite calm and there is very little clutter around the console and dash. But then up higher you’ll see why. Everything is packed into two massive screens. These present some of the finest graphics we’ve seen in a motor vehicle. The colour combinations and the attention to detail are incredible.

Navigating these does take some getting used to. As a driver you can use the little touch/wipe pads on the steering wheel, left and right. These also take some getting used to but there is no doubting the innovation involved. You can also change up the display theme and view various functions on the right screen via these pads.

We’re not a big fan of the main touch-pad controller on the console, which can also be used to navigate the screens. It can be fiddly to operate when driving, hence the touch pads on the steering wheel. It’s also easy to bump when reaching for the cup holders – we accidentally skipped tracks on a few occasions without intending to.

The attention to detail throughout the cabin is brilliant. From the high quality, precision-cut metal trimmings, to the fine wood veneers, it becomes immediately apparent you are in a special kind of vehicle. If we could change anything though we’d probably go for a different colour theme to this test car, as it is a bit mono-tone black.

Bordering on being a grand tourer, albeit technically a ‘sports car’ according to the FCAI in Australia, the E 53 coupe offers a big boot. Measuring 425 litres, it is accommodating enough to support a decent trip away and it can certainly take on the weekly shopping.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E 53 Coupe – THE DRIVE

Under the bonnet is a new 3.0-litre inline-six turbo-petrol engine, codenamed the M256. It produces a mighty 320kW at 6100rpm, and a wide-spreading 520Nm between 1800-5800rpm. There aren’t many 3.0-litre engines out there that can better these figures, not this side of a very serious super sports car or supercar, anyway.

There is a complex 48-volt electric system involved as well, what’s known as ‘mild hybrid’. This includes an EQ Boost starter-alternator which can supply up to 16kW and 250Nm of additional energy for the engine. What does this mean? Well, it can almost run on electric power alone, and kind of does for a second. The system recuperates energy during braking, harnesses it, and then it can be used to help start off.

You can witness it all in action via a gauge within the digital cluster. And, yes, watching it tends to encourage you to be more proactive in your eco driving efforts. Overall though we didn’t find huge economical benefits. And we weren’t just giving it the beans everywhere we went. During our week of testing, including lots of highway cruising, and performance testing, we returned an average consumption of 10.5L/100km.

That’s not particularly fantastic considering we have experienced similar figures in some modern twin-turbo V8 these days. However, over extended use, and employing more of the eco driving behaviours and even engaging the eco mode more of the time, we think a longer-term owner could expect to see figures quite close to the official average of 9.3L/100km.

Traditionally, not many experts would recommend an AMG model if your top priority is fuel economy anyway. AMG stands for performance (not literally), above all else. And that’s what this machine does best. It might only be 3.0 litres of combustion, but boy can this thing get up and boogey when you put your boot in.

Using a private road and a Racelogic Vbox Sport we saw some impressive numbers. Firstly, the best 0-100km/h we saw (consistently repeatable) was 4.36 seconds; bang on Mercedes’s claim of 4.4 seconds. We also recorded a wet run in 4.64 seconds. That’s amazing and a real testament to the clever workings of the fully variable 4Matic+ all-wheel drive system. Further in, the quarter mile came up in 12.77 seconds, with soaring top end finding a 0-200km/h time of 16.88 seconds.

The E 53 coupe is heavy, weighing 2003kg (tare), according to Redbook data. So, around corners it does feel planted and immensely sturdy. When you start tossing it between faster switchbacks and tighter corners you might begin to feel the mass, as momentum tries to fit against the laws of physics. However, this is far from discouraging. We think it simply performs better through longer sweepers and blasting up or down a curvy mountain road.

In our opinion, the steering is not immediately intuitive or communicative. Instead, it seems to focus on removing noise and ‘negative’ messages, obviously for luxury and relaxation purposes. But for us, we’d like it to be more engaging by providing all feedback, even if it means bringing through some of the road’s imperfections. On the other hand, it does glide wonderfully around corners when you’re simply cruising.

As is the case during acceleration, the 4Matic+ all-wheel drive system works seamlessly in the corners, transitioning between rear-wheel drive most of the time to all-wheel drive when it is needed. We had a chance to test this in wet weather as well. And, seriously, the amount of grip and confidence you’ll find is purely astonishing. You can come hot into a corner, pretty much nail the throttle at the apex and it physically rips you around with no slip or hesitation whatsoever.

So, yes, while rear-wheel drive could be a bit more fun and exciting, the all-wheel grip really boosts this car’s overall dynamics and all-conditions ability. This is not a fragile or sensitive sports car that you’ll be too frighten to take out on a rainy day. In fact, quite the contrary. You’ll look forward to those dark and stormy days.

With air suspension as standard there is a high expectation on the ride quality. However, there is a noticeable choppiness experienced on some surfaces. It can crash and shudder as well if you’re on a country road that features a lot of changing surfaces. Even in comfort mode. In saying that, this is an AMG and thus it is a sports car. We also notice these tyres are very thinly wrapped around those drool-inducing wheels (245/35 front, 275/30 back). For us, the ride is ideal but some traditional buyers shopping in this segment might want a smoother setup.

Air suspension does provide a wide variety of modes, so that’s definitely a big benefit. And all modes feel quite different, which helps to increase the car’s overall versatility as well. You can also select the high-tempo Sport+ mode for the powertrain and then revert back to the comfort suspension mode. In other words, you can chop and change various parameters to suit your desires.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E 53 Coupe – THE VIDEO

2021 Mercedes-AMG E 53 Coupe – THE VERDICT

Looks can be deceiving. Here, this appears to be calm, reserved and highly refined. But this has turned out to be a much more versatile and significantly quicker vehicle than we were expecting. Largely thanks to the extremely competent all-wheel drive system. In that sense it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. We simply adore this inline-six engine, too. It sounds so good and it’s capable of unleashing V8-like performance.

Our main concern here is simply the price. Do you fork out almost $200k on one of these, or keep saving and get the mack daddy E 63 S V8? Mind you, that’s another $100k away. And it comes in sedan form only.

PROS:
– Phenomenal all-weather grip and performance
– Seductive inline-six engine and sound
– Spacious and elegant cabin
– The wow factor of those huge screens inside
– Love the suave design, stunning wheels too

CONS:
– Fiddly track pad and steering touch pads
– Somewhat choppy ride, despite air suspension

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