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2021 Mercedes-AMG E53 4MATIC+ coupe review

By Louis Cordony, 26 Mar 2021 Reviews

2021 Mercedes-AMG E 53 coupe review

AMG's slicked-back E53 returns with a stronger price and updated tech. But is it still the sweet spot?

It might be self-defeating to disclose this so early on, but the most dramatic change on the new 2021 Mercedes-AMG E53 Coupe is the price.

At $164,800, the new E53 Coupe offers a $14,900 discount on the previous version. Why? As we understand it, the new E53 has to cover the yawning price gap the E450 Coupe has left in its wake after leaving the range.

Luckily, from what we can see, the E53 has not lost anything important in the process. Standard equipment remains as healthy as before, like the Vision package that includes a heads-up display, Burmester sound and a panoramic sunroof with heated glass. Nappa upholstery features as well.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E 53 coupe reviewThere are no dive planes or spoilers, either. The E53 exterior is careful to preserve the understated elegance expected from an E-Class while balancing the need to deliver styling worthy of its AMG badge. Cue a 20-inch wheel design with a new aero blade between each spoke. The wheels come in black, but you can also spec them in grey with machined spokes.

The E53 makes do with the same updated bumper and headlights from lesser variants but fits vertical Panamerica-style slats into the radiator grille. Black mirrors also set it apart. The rear bumper carries over the same quad-exhaust-tip arrangement for extra menace, while you can spot its rear differential cooler fins from floor height.

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Inside, an MBUX infotainment system replaces the old rotary dial in the centre console with a trackpad. It teams up with a new steering wheel, also found in the new S-Class, as access points to the dual 10.25-inch dash widescreens that come with the AMG Track Pace app.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E 53 coupe reviewThe steering wheel is smaller in diameter than the previous design and replaces the D-shaped traditional shift paddles with a new C-shape. But the real value is in the capacitive sensors on the spokes that replace fiddly keypads and their switches, buttons and dials.

Engine-wise, the E53-spec inline six-cylinder engine carries over and now features in other models since it debuted with the Coupe in 2018. The GLE, CLS and four-door GT now have 53 versions that have displaced the twin-turbo V6-powered 43 variants.

While you might hear their engine described as twin-turbocharged, the second turbocharger is an electrically powered compressor. It is plugged into the 48-volt electrical system and helps instantaneously produce boost to aid torque down low.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E 53 coupe reviewThe rest of the powertrain setup remains unchanged and impressively complex. The engine offers 320kW and 520Nm, but an electric motor wedged between it and transmission can deploy an extra 16kW and 250Nm. It also powers ancillaries and aids fuel-saving functions like engine-off sailing.

A nine-speed automatic transmission still features downstream and is coupled with an all-wheel-drive system. Mercedes says its electro-mechanically controlled centre clutch allows for fully variable torque distribution.

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Surprisingly, it is hard to place the E53 among its peers. For instance, a BMW 840i fits the bill as a two-door coupe with four seats and presents a rear-drive point of difference.

But the 840i is priced well beyond the E53 at $202,900. It justifies this with extra stuff like laser headlights and wireless smartphone mirroring. And the BMW also uses a more advanced semi carbonfibre reinforced chassis, so it is significantly lighter than the E53.

Audi, meanwhile, has no equivalent-sized two-door coupe for the E53. Instead, the RS5 presents a closely matched alternative on price at $150,900. Although we should mention that while the RS5 scores turbocharged six-cylinder all-wheel-drive performance, it is a more serious proposition. Being smaller than the E53 it also loses out on boot space.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E 53 coupe reviewThe Mercedes-Benz website says an E53 will cost $185,455 driveaway in Victoria. That includes a Mercedes-Benz five-year unlimited-kilometre warranty. It also offers capped pricing servicing for three years for $3100.

As for weekly expenses Mercedes-Benz also claims the E53 can muster 9.3L/100km on an ADR-approved combined driving cycle, which means you can expect around 700km worth of driving range from its 66-litre tank.

Or, if driving-range is not so important, unleashing the E53 remains a delight. A heavy kerb weight figure labours the e-motor and petrol engine down low, but it at least sounds good. Even with a particulate filter, it develops into a dense howl as the revs unfurl towards a 6500rpm redline.

We have no reason to doubt the claim that this E53 can run to 100km/h from rest in 4.4 seconds. It feels fast and has loads of grip. In corners, though, it never threatens to indulge in the claimed ability of rear-wheel-drive.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E 53 coupe reviewWhether the introduction of AMG Dynamics to its arsenal of electronics will loosen a tight rein on wheel spin remains to be seen. We did not get enough time in the new E53 Coupe to feel comfortable enough to nudge its limits.

You struggle to wind up commitment beyond seven-tenths as broken surfaces and mid-corner bumps upset its hold on the road to remind us the E53 is not a backroad carver.

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AMG tuned air dampers and springs equal a sweet ride over low-speed compressions that underscore its purpose as a grand tourer on steroids. Yet the low profile tyres still do a terrible job of insulating the cabin from aggressive deflections. But they do contribute to some much-needed steering feel.

It is a delight to use the shift paddles, their larger surface area making them easy to find. And you sometimes stay in manual mode only to enjoy their cool, metal touch.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E 53 coupe reviewThe E53 is a nice day-to-day device. The excellent driving position, frameless glasshouse and torque converter automatic transmission mean it responds well to part-throttle inputs, boasts excellent over-shoulder visibility and offers a cosseting ride on smoother roads.

The new E53 cockpit also offers a refreshing break from other AMGs. The steering wheel controls, minimalist centre console and steering-column gear-lever equal a pared-back workstation that sets a new standard for simplicity.

The steering wheel segments functions across each pad on the double-stacked spokes on its horizontal plane, which goes a long way to helping you remember each button and simplifying control of both the MBUX and digital driving cluster on the fly.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E 53 coupe reviewOtherwise, the cabin is spacious in the rear and features ISOFIX tethers on either seat. However, regularly loading kids will become a pain because the front seats take an eternity to fold forward. The boot is also generous, offering 425 litres of cargo space.

In essence, the E53 ticks all the boxes it should. Between the gorgeous styling, sumptuous luxury and driver-centric cabin, it feels special while parked. Everything else on top of that is a bonus.

But the E53 can fall victim to its success. While its straight-six engine is smooth, sonorous and tuned to work with its hybrid system and an electric compressor to perfection, there are times it can struggle to get moving under is own weight. We must remember, as well, that its engine has more power and almost as much grunt as the first turbo M3.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E 53 coupe reviewOf course, we knew its flaws going in, and what we should ask is if the facelift has done anything to compromise it as a performance grand tourer. It hasn't. If anything, the steering wheel has unlocked extra functionality while freshening the cabin. And the paddles make using its powertrain even more enjoyable. Add in the fact it's almost $15K cheaper and it's clear the E-Class sweet spot is now even sweeter.

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Verdict 8.0/10

Likes: Great noise, smooth powertrain, high-end styling, sumptuous cabin, good primary ride

Dislikes: Shoddy secondary ride, porky weight

Specifications

BODY: 2-door, 4-seat coupe
DRIVE: all-wheel
ENGINE: 2996cc inline-6, DOHC, 24v, turbo, s/c, e-motor
BORE/STROKE: 88.0mm x 82.1mm
COMPRESSION: 10.5:1
POWER: 320kW @ 6100rpm
TORQUE: 520Nm @ 1800-5700rpm
WEIGHT: 1946kg
POWER-TO-WEIGHT: 168kW/tonne
TRANSMISSION: 9-speed automatic
SUSPENSION (front): multi-links, air suspension, adaptive dampers
SUSPENSION (rear): 
multi-links, air suspension, adaptive dampers
L/W/h: 4964/1852/1449mm
WHEELBASE: 28mm
TRACKS: 1628/1598mm (f/r)
STEERING: electrically assisted rack-and-pinion
BRAKES (front): 370mm ventilated discs, four-piston calipers
BRAKES (rear): 360mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers
WHEELS: 20.0 x 8.0-inch (f); 20.0 x 9.0-inch (r)
TYRES: 245/35 R20 (f); 275/30 R20 (r)
Price: $164,800 ($185,455 driveaway)