The new Mercedes-AMG E 53 is no doubt a great looking luxury sedan, but the 435 horses raging under its shapely hood gives the car an added dimension
Extreme performance is nothing new for the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Enthusiasts of a certain age still remember the legendary early-1990s 500E, which was actually assembled by Porsche at the latter’s plant in Zuffenhausen, in Germany. With its square-jawed Teutonic countenance and slab-sided bodywork, the 500E didn’t look hugely different from a regular W124-era E-Class, though its slightly wider, more muscular haunches did provide a hint of its ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ intent. With a 5.0-litre, 326bhp V8 under its hood, the 500E was a heavy hitter, capable of going from zero to 100kph in less than six seconds, and hitting a top speed of around 260kph. Clearly, a ‘family sedan’ fit for the Senna, Mansell, and Prost families then.
Thirty years on, the Mercedes-Benz recipe for high-performance four-door sedans is still spot-on. Take a regular E-Class sedan, shove an insanely powerful 6- or 8-cylinder AMG-built engine under the hood, upgrade the brakes and suspension so they can keep up with the engine and, these days, add a host of performance-focused electronics that not only help average drivers go faster, but also keep them out of trouble when ambition exceeds talent. And all this, without compromising on any of the luxury accoutrements that the E-Class is known for. Get it right — as Mercedes-Benz mostly does — and you have a high-performance luxury sedan that’s equally at home, crossing continents as it is burning rubber around a racetrack.
Until a few years ago, luxury car buyers in India only bought the E-Class to wallow in chauffeur-driven comfort. Now, however, there is an increasing demand for performance as well, and Mercedes-AMG is ready with its tyre-smoking, stopwatch-demolishing line-up of cars. One of the latest entrants in the arena is the new AMG E 53 4Matic+ that’s recently arrived in India. Its claim to fame is its turbocharged 3.0-litre inline-six, which produces an impressive 435bhp and 520Nm of torque. It’s an electrified unit, with an integrated starter-alternator that feeds the car’s 48V electrical system and, with an electric compressor, provides an additional 16kW and 250Nm that helps with hard acceleration.
While we get the long-wheelbase (3,079mm) E-Class here in India, the E 53 gets the regular-size 2,939mm wheelbase, which means a little less legroom for rear-seat passengers. Apart from that, the AMG E 53 looks pretty much like a regular E-Class, but with the addition of 19-inch AMG alloys and an angrier-looking front grille, with vertical slats. When seen from the front, the E 53 — because of that AMG front grille — definitely looks way more aggressive than non-AMG E-Class cars, with a hard-edged, ‘don’t mess with me’ vibe that’s subtly menacing. And, oh, it’s not all mouth and no trousers; that AMG-fettled six-cylinder engine is more than capable of backing up the car’s aggressive front end. Get to an empty stretch of highway and floor the throttle, and the engine roars and bellows as it whips up a furious pace; the E 53 weighs around 2,500 kilos but that engine still rockets it from zero to 100kph in just 4.5 seconds, and on to an electronically-limited top speed of 250kph. That engine though. It’s the embodiment of Hollywood’s depiction of a hard-boiled US Army drill sergeant who’s always bellowing his lungs out. No letting up, ever. Just go, go, GO! Thoroughly entertaining and perhaps the best thing about the E 53.
Mated to that engine is Mercedes-Benz’s ‘Speedshift’ TCT 9-speed automatic transmission, which does its job silently, swiftly, and efficiently. If the engine is a screaming drill sergeant, the transmission is a covert operative, getting things done without ever taking centre stage. Depending on the driving mode selected by the driver, the transmission varies its responses, providing a relatively relaxed experience in comfort mode, and holding on to each gear for longer in sport and sport+ modes for maximum acceleration. It works very well and is best left to its own devices, though manual shifting is also possible via the paddle shifters mounted behind the steering wheel. The other thing is, the E 53 is fitted with AMG 4Matic+ fully variable all-wheel-drive, with dynamic torque allocation between the front and rear axles for maximum traction in all road and weather conditions. When the system detects wheel slip at the rear, it immediately transfers an optimum amount of power from the rear to the front wheels, thereby adding a layer of safety in tricky conditions.
The other notable thing about the E 53 AMG is its multi-chamber air suspension system, with an adaptive damping system. With this, according to the drive mode selected (comfort, sport or sport+), spring and damper settings are optimised for either ride comfort or sportier, high-speed handling. Like with all other high-performance German super-sedans, the E 53’s comfort levels can be hampered due to very low-profile (275/35 ZR19) tyres, mounted on large wheels. With there being hardly any tyre sidewall to provide cushioning against impact from ridges, potholes, and absurdly high/sharp speed bumps, ride quality can suffer a bit. However, on smooth tarmac, the car handles beautifully, with very little body roll during high-speed lane changes or under hard cornering. It’s taut and balanced, thoroughly enjoyable.
We can’t only talk about handling and performance here, because the E 53 is still an E-Class luxury sedan after all. And we don’t think buyers who want a bit of cosseting will be complaining too much; the E 53 gets plus-sized seats draped in high-quality leather, classy metal trim, 13-speaker Burmester surround-sound system, full smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (along with Alexa and Google Home integration), vehicle monitoring via a smartphone app, voice commands for select functions, and a fully digital instrument panel and infotainment touchscreen, comprising two full-colour 12.3-inch displays. Positioned across the dashboard in one integrated, horizontally laid-out stretch, the twin screens dominate the E 53’s cabin — they look impressive and provide an easy, intuitive way to control all of the car’s settings and functions. In addition to the touchscreen, there are also physical control buttons for the AC, driving mode selection, traction control, and a few other settings, which is useful. And despite this being a regular wheelbase car (as compared to non-AMG cars in the E-Class range, which are long wheelbase models), the E 53 has adequate amounts of space in the back seat, which is perfectly comfortable for two full-size adults.
To sum up, the Mercedes-AMG E 53 4Matic+ is a dynamic, all-around competent luxury sedan that offers very high levels of performance. It’s an exciting car to drive, with a powerful engine that’s thoroughly entertaining — flooring the throttle in this car never fails to put a smile on your face. It’s also a unique proposition, since neither BMW nor Audi have a direct competitor to the E 53. At an ex-showroom price of Rs 1.02 crore, this is the AMG to have if you want an unmatched combination of luxury, power, and performance.