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Mercedes-Benz E-Class


Audi RS6

Summary

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

To say Mercedes-AMG is popular in Australia is like saying the young people are fond of Drake, or that football fans seem to appreciate Ronaldo’s skills.

Per head of population we buy more of the three-pointed star’s go-fast specials than any other country on the globe. Typically, between 15 and 20 per cent of all Mercs sold here are of the AMG variety. 

In recent years Mercedes-AMG has broadened its offering to include options slightly less insane that the full-fat, twin-turbo ’63-series’ V8 models sitting at the top of its large car range.

The ‘43’ suffix appeared on C and E Class variants, meaning a 3.0-litre, twin-turbo V6 had been slotted under the bonnet, providing enough grunt for day-to-day enjoyment without the hardcore edge of a big-banger V8.

But the boffins at AMG’s Affalterbach HQ can’t seem to help themselves because the E 43 has been replaced by, you guessed it, the gruntier E 53.

Powered by a 3.0-litre, in-line six-cylinder turbo engine, the 53-series delivers close to 15 per cent more power and a huge dollop of extra torque courtesy of its tricky ‘EQ Boost’ starter/alternator system. 

So, has the civility and relative efficiency of Merc-AMG’s only slightly psycho E Class models been maintained, or has another beast been released? 

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypeHybrid with Premium Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency8.8L/100km
Seating4 seats

Audi RS6

The Audi RS 6 Avant is sacred ground for car geeks. See, we might barely agree on much in terms of what the ultimate driver's cars are but there are certain vehicles that are so awe inspiring they’re almost a protected species in our world, and the Audi RS Avant is one of them.

If you’re new to this idea and have only just stumbled onto the RS 6 Avant, then welcome. You’re just in time because the new-generation RS 6 Avant has arrived.

You only need to know three things at this point. The first is, an RS 6 is a high-performance version of the A6. The second is, Avant is Audi speak for wagon. And the third is, no you can’t get it in a sedan. The next best thing though is the RS 7 Sportback which shares the RS 6 Avant's engineering and features.

If this isn’t your first RS 6 Avant rodeo, then you’ll want to know what’s new and if this new one lives up to the legendary reputation.

Let’s go.

Safety rating
Engine Type4.0L turbo
Fuel TypeHybrid with Premium Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency11L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Mercedes-Benz E-Class8/10

The Mercedes-AMG E53 is a supremely refined and satisfying performance/luxury package. For those who want the practicality and style of a high-spec E-Class, with an extra performance boost (but not the full-fat V8 drama) it’s got to be an appealing option. Plus, the high-tech hybrid drivetrain is brilliantly executed and seamless in operation.

Does the E 53 AMG do enough to warrant the hallowed Affalterbach seal of approval? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.


Audi RS68/10

The new generation RS 6 Avant is every bit as special as the previous version. The sharper, creased styling may take a little getting used to but underneath this superwagon is every bit as angry, plush, comfortable, superbly dynamic and practical.

Design

Mercedes-Benz E-Class8/10

Keen car-spotters will pick the E 53 courtesy of its ‘twin-blade’ radiator grille (in silver chrome) with black mesh insert in place of the standard E-Class ‘diamond’ version, and a distinctive ‘A-wing’ front apron design.

AMG-specific side sill panels link the front fascia to a rear treatment including a high-set diffuser panel and quad exhaust tailpipes finished in high-gloss (black) chrome.

The interior doesn’t vary dramatically from other high-end E-Class variants, the biggest differences being grippier, leather-trimmed sports seats, dark ash wood trim on the dash, console and doors, plus an ‘AMG Performance’ steering wheel trimmed in nappa leather.

A twin (12.3-inch) screen ‘Widescreen Cockpit’ media and instrument array includes the ability to scroll through an AMG-specific digital display, scrollable through ‘Classic’, ‘Sporty’ and ‘Progressive’ configurations.

Via the AMG menu it’s also possible to call up read-outs including engine and transmission oil temp, acceleration (longitudinal and lateral), engine outputs, turbo boost pressure, tyre temps and pressures, as well the current vehicle set-up.


Audi RS68/10

There’s something beautiful about the design of fast wagons, regardless of the brand. It’s that performance meets practicality combination, but Audi really is the master of it. 

Audi doesn’t just take an A6, add big wheels and then shout, “let’s hit the showers!” Well, the wheels are definitely large, but there are only four body panels shared between the A6 Avant and RS 6 Avant – the roof, front doors and the tailgate. The rest of the panels are unique to the RS 6.

Look at those flared wheel guards – they extend out 20mm more than a regular A6’s.

This new-generation RS 6 Avant shares the same face as the RS 7 Sportback with the broad black mesh grille, narrow headlights, gigantic side air intakes and a thin upper air inlet which is a hat tip to early racing Audis.

All those sharp edges match its body which is more angular and ‘shredded’ than the previous generation’s curvy shape. Add the 22-inch alloys, plus the huge oval tailpipes (set into that chunky diffuser framed by the aluminum trim) and this RS 6 Avant is verging on Hot Wheels territory.

While the eight-year old kid in me thinks that’s awesome, the grown up me reckons it’s a bit too much. Historically, part of the appeal of the RS 6 Avant was its restrained styling – the thug in a suit.

While RS 6 Avant’s exterior is different to a regular A6’s their interior designs are almost identical. It’s a stunning cabin dominated by a dash which protrudes back towards the passengers and houses the media screen.

Anther display for climate is set into the big centre console which divides the driver and co-pilot into almost cocooned cells.

The cabin isn’t without its RS touches though. There’s the sports seats with honeycomb stitching, fully digital instrument cluster with RS specific meters, the RS steering wheel, aluminium inlays, plus Nappa leather on the dashboard and doors. The level of fit and finish is up there with the best that I’ve seen on any production car.

The RS 6 Avant is 4995mm long, 1487mm tall and 1951mm across, for a wide planted stance.    

Practicality

Mercedes-Benz E-Class7/10

Despite availability in sedan, coupe and cabriolet form, the E 53 launch drive program focused exclusively on the coupe and cabrio.

Like all E-Class models the E53 offers plenty of space up front, as well as a generous, lidded console box incorporating multiple USB ports.

A second flip-top section in front of the media controller houses a pair of cupholders, oddments space and a 12-volt power outlet, plus there’s a medium-size glove box, and the doors feature long bins including big bottle holders.

Rear room in the sedan is typically E-Class generous, with three adults across the back seat a genuine option on shorter journeys. 

Adjustable air vents are welcome, and a fold-down armrest houses two cupholders and a lidded bin, with another two USB ports provided. Door pockets incorporate bottle holders and there are map pockets on the front seatbacks.

The sedan’s boot capacity is 540 litres, more than enough to swallow a pram and accompanying baby ‘stuff’, or our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres). And the 40/20/40 split-folding seat back liberates yet more space.

Backseaters (two only) in the coupe and cabrio are well catered for. Legroom is surprisingly substantial, although with the roof up, at 183cm, headroom for me was just adequate. With the cabrio’s roof down however, that improved considerably. Worth noting that sensors in the front seats’ adjustment system stop them from hitting a rear passenger’s knees. Nice.

In terms of storage and convenience, there’s a pair of cupholders between the seats, adjustable air vents, map pockets, and some oddments space near the outside armrests.

Boot capacity in the coupe is 425L and 385L in the cabrio, with the rear seat splitting and folding to offer through-loading space. An electrically controlled, retractable separator in the soft-top’s boot defines the space filled by the roof when folded (which still leaves 310L).

Tyres are run-flat on all variants, so don’t bother looking for a spare of any description.


Audi RS68/10

Sure, the RS 6 has supercar acceleration but it’s also a large station wagon. So, it’s super practical, too, right?

Well not as much as you might think. See it’s not the most spacious of wagons. Up front the stepped dash protrudes into the passenger’s space, the door pockets are thin and the centre console storage under the armrest is small.

Legroom in the back could also be better – at 191cm (6'3") tall I can only just fit behind my driving position, although headroom is good. The door pockets in the rear are larger and there are two cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest (another two up front).

The boot’s 565-litre cargo capacity isn’t bad and almost matches the Alpina B5 Touring’s 570 litres.

For phones there’s a wireless charger and two USB ports in the centre console storage box, while back seat passengers have two USB ports and a 12V outlet. There are also directional air vents and dual-zone climate control in the rear, too.

While the RS 6 seats five, the middle passenger in the second row will have to straddle the hump over the drive shaft.

While wagons have lower load lips to their boots making them easier to fill with luggage or shopping bags, SUVs are easier on the back when it comes to loading children into car seats.

Price and features

Mercedes-Benz E-Class8/10

Pricing for the Mercedes-AMG E 53 ranges from $167,129 (plus on-road costs) for the sedan, through $172,729 for the coupe, and $181,329 for the cabriolet.

Competitors for the sedan are relatively thick on the ground, with the Audi S6 ($172,600), Lexus GS F ($155,940) and Maserati Ghibli GranSport ($163,990) the most directly aligned on spec and price.

The Coupe is trickier, with the smaller but faster BMW M4 Competition ($154,615), latest-gen Audi RS5 ($156,600), and V8-powered Lexus RC F ($151,929) all undercutting the E 53 by about $20k. 

Then the cabrio is something of an outlier, with the BMW M4 Competition ($165,615) again a smaller but faster and cheaper option. In the hunt for other performance-focused 2+2 convertibles, you’re into the entry-point of Porsche’s 911 line-up with the Carrera Cabriolet ($248,350) representing a close to $70k premium. 

All variants are suitably well equipped. On top of the standard performance and safety tech detailed in later sections, the E 53 is fitted with dual-zone climate control, 13-speaker Burmester audio (including digital radio and Apple CarPlay compatibility), keyless entry and start, nappa leather trim, sports seats, ‘AMG Performance’ (flat bottom) sports steering wheel (also trimmed in nappa leather), adaptive LED headlights (plus active high beam), and 20-inch alloy wheels.

Also included are the Widescreen Cockpit display (twin 12.3-inch screens covering multimedia and instruments as well as ‘Linguatronic’ voice control), sat nav, ambient interior lighting (64 colour options), active cruise, a configurable head-up display, electric front seats (heated with memory), wireless phone charging, wood grain interior trim, electric steering column adjust, rain-sensing wipers, and a panoramic sunroof.

All that stacks up well for a contender in this part of the market. You pay the big bucks, you get all the fruit.


Audi RS68/10

The Audi RS 6 Avant lists for $216,000. That might sound like a lot of money but to put it in perspective, when the RS 6 Avant was first introduced to Australia in 2003 it was $220K.

Coming standard are the enormous 22-inch alloy wheels, matrix LED headlights with laser lights, metallic paint, a panoramic glass sunroof (which is new to the model), privacy glass, a head-up display, soft-close doors and red brake calipers.

Inside there’s the Bang & Olufsen 16-speaker sound system (that's new, too), sat nav, the 12.3-inch 'virtual instrument cluster', wireless Apple CarPlay (new, as well), wireless charging, full leather upholstery with RS sport front seats that are heated and now come with ventilation as standard, and four-zone climate control.

I’ve left off all the standard RS mechanical equipment, but I’ll cover that in the driving section below.

Is it good value? Well, its direct rival is the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S Estate, but that’s not sold in Australia, the nearest to this is the C 63 S Estate for $170K. And while BMW hasn’t made an M5 Touring since 2010 there is the Alpina B5 Touring which lists for $217,000. I’ve tested the sedan version and it’s astonishingly quick and super comfortable. Alternatively, there’s the Porsche Panamera 4 Sport Turismo for $236,300.

Engine & trans

Mercedes-Benz E-Class9/10

Already used in other AMG models, including the entry-level version of the just-released flagship GT 4-Door, the E 53’s (M256) in-line six is a 3.0-litre all-alloy unit featuring direct-injection and a single turbo, supplemented by an electric compressor (turbo if you prefer) which builds up charge pressure prior to the main turbo coming on song. Turbo lag, be gone!

The EQ Boost starter-alternator is housed in an electric motor fitted between the engine and transmission, driving a 48-volt electrical system to support the additional compressor as well as the car’s traditional 12-volt functions (lights, cockpit, multimedia and other control units) through a DC/DC converter.

Maximum torque (520Nm) is available from just 1800rpm all the way to 5800rpm, with peak power (320kW) taking over at 6100rpm. But the EQ Boost’s hybrid party trick is the ability to drop in a brief full-throttle burst of 16kW/250Nm. Whoosh.

Drive goes to all four wheels via a nine-speed dual-clutch auto transmission and an AMG Performance turned version of Merc’s ‘4Matic’ all-wheel drive system, using an electro-mechanical clutch to distribute torque between the permanently driven rear axle and variably driven front axle.


Audi RS610/10

Remember this moment in human existence: a time when you can buy a family car with a 441kW/800Nm twin-turbo petrol 4.0-litre V8. Yup, the electric future is coming and it’ll be great from what I’ve experience so far, but it’s clear engines like the V8 in the RS 6 Avant won’t be around forever so you should enjoy it while you can.

And you will enjoy it – this engine with almost 600 horsepower is glorious. There’s the seemingly never-ending acceleration with 0-100km/h coming in 3.6 seconds. That’s a tenth of a second faster than the Audi R8 V10 RWD supercar, and this is a large, family wagon.

Compared to the previous generation model the power is down by 4.0kW but torque is up by a whopping 100Nm. Give me torque over power any day.

Shifting gears is an eight-speed automatic transmission, sending the drive to all four wheels.

Fuel consumption

Mercedes-Benz E-Class8/10

Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is line-ball for sedan (8.7L/100km), coupe (8.8L/100km), and cabriolet (9.0L/100km) variants, emitting 199, 200, and 204g/km of CO2 respectively in the process.

Start-stop is standard, minimum fuel requirement is 95RON premium unleaded, and you’ll need 66 litres of it to fill the tank.


Audi RS66/10

This is a large, all-wheel drive car with a 441kW V8, but it also has a mild hybrid system in this new generation which will switch the engine off and let the car coast down hills, or at speeds under 22km/h.

Audi says this can save up to 0.8L/100km in real-life driving. That’s great news, but consumption is still fairly high with Audi claiming that after a combination of open and urban roads the RS 6 Avant will have used 11.7L/100km.

Driving

Mercedes-Benz E-Class8/10

It only takes a few kilometres behind the wheel of the Mercedes-AMG E 53 to recognise that it fulfils its job description pretty well.

With claimed 0-100km/h acceleration sitting in the mid-4.0sec zone (coupe 4.4sec, sedan/cabrio 4.5sec) it’s fast, but not brutal. It growls without rising to the full-blown roar that’s become the aural signature of the current 63-series AMG V8s.

But don’t take that to mean meek and mild. It’s properly rapid and the sports exhaust, particularly with the drivetrain mapped to the ‘Dynamic Select’ system’s ‘Sport+’ mode leaves you (and everyone in a 200-metre radius) in no doubt that you’re driving something special.

Dynamic Select allows individual calibration of the engine, transmission, suspension and steering. Around town with everything dialled in to ‘Comfort’ the E 53 is as refined and compliant as any other high-spec E-Class. 

Despite the standard 20-inch rims shod with low-profile run-flat rubber (245/35 front, 275/30 rear) the ‘AMG Ride Control’ adaptive damping combines with the overall air suspension system to provide excellent ride comfort.

Find a twisting B-road and push into ‘Sport’ or Sport+’ mode and the car’s character changes distinctly. All 520Nm of maximum torque is available from just 1800rpm right up to 5800rpm. And while that’s plenty, pin the throttle and an additional 250Nm (and 16kW), courtesy of the EQ Boost hybrid system joins the party.

Press on and as peak power (320kW) takes over at 6100rpm you’ll notice the horizon is approaching rapidly. The additional electric compressor means power delivery is beautifully linear, and the hybrid boost is undetectable.

The nine-speed dual-clutch auto is as smooth at parking speeds as it is at maximum attack. Manual changes (up and down) are rapid and positive, accompanied by entertaining blips and bangs from the exhaust in the more aggressive drive modes. 

The coupe is the lightweight of the trio, weighing in at 1895kg, with the sedan and cabrio sending the needle roughly 100kg further to the right. But despite that not insubstantial kerb weight, and the all-wheel drive set-up, all feel light and nimble for their size.

While the variable steering adjusts seamlessly as lateral forces increase, no matter which mode is selected, road feel is modest at best. But the AWD system shuffles drive to the right wheel without fuss and power down out of quick corners is satisfyingly solid.

With all this performance, on-tap braking is critical, and the standard set-up is perforated and internally ventilated discs all around (370mm front, 360mm rear) clamped by four piston calipers at the front and single piston floating calipers at the rear. After an ‘enthusiastic’ session on the launch drive they remained progressive and strong.

The multi-adjustable sports front seats are comfy when they need to be, and with the side bolsters adjusted inwards, secure and grippy as G-force builds. Top-notch ergonomics complement this satisfying and well resolved dynamic package.


Audi RS69/10

I’ve never driven the bullet train before, but it probably feels (almost) as good as this.

Eight hundred newton metres lay curled up under that accelerator pedal ready to push the planet backwards. And waiting to catch you at the other end are enormous anchors in the form of 420mm discs at the front with 10 piston calipers and 370mm discs at the rear.

The optional carbon ceramic brakes are the largest ever to be fitted to a production vehicle at 440mm at the front and 370mm at the rear, saving 34kg in mass over the steel brakes.

Now standard for the first time is Audi’s 'Dynamic Package' which adds dynamic steering (variable ratio) paired with all-wheel steering, a sport differential, and a 280km/h top speed.

Coming standard is adaptive air suspension and for $2850 you can option the 'Dynamic Ride Control' suspension which is a hydraulically activated adaptive damper system.

Explore the virtual Audi RS6

At the Australian launch Audi supplied two RS 6 Avants – one with the air suspension and the other with the dynamic ride control system. I’m probably supposed to say that the optional hydraulic dampers are the pick, but the air suspension suits this luxury freight train so much better.

I’d already driven the car with the dynamic ride control, and while it felt sharper and firmer, it’s ride was a tad uncomposed, almost as though the car was oversprung.

The RS 6 Avant with the standard air suspension on the other hand was not only far more comfortable and settled, but was still superbly dynamically, for a five-metre long car.

Unless you were planning on attending regular track days, in which case the Dynamic Ride Control is the way to go, I’d stick with the standard air suspension which is far more comfortable over Australia’s less-than perfect roads.

Another thing I can say is that this RS 6 Avant is quieter than the previous generation. Even with the windows down and with Dynamic drive mode selected its exhaust note, while still glorious and deep, isn’t raucous and loud. Sound aside, this superwagon is as much a hi-po monster as ever.

Safety

Mercedes-Benz E-Class9/10

You’d expect any current passenger model wearing the three-pointed star to be on the leading edge in terms of active and passive safety, and the E Class range scored a maximum five ANCAP stars when it was assessed in late 2016.

The E 53’s crash avoidance tech includes ABS, EBD, brake assist, AEB, ESC, traction control, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, fatigue detection, a surround camera system, tyre pressure monitoring, and traffic sign recognition.

And if a crash is unavoidable all models feature dual front and dual front side airbags, a knee airbag for the driver, plus full-length curtain airbags… even a first-aid kit.

The sedan features three top tether points and two ISOFIX child restraint anchor positions across the back seat, with a two-and-two count in the coupe and cabrio.


Audi RS69/10

ANCAP tested the A6 in 2019 and gave it the maximum five-star score, however, this rating does not apply to the RS 6 Avant high performance model.

That said, the RS 6 Avant comes fortified with nearly every piece of advanced safety tech there is in Audi’s cupboard. There's AEB which can detect and brake for cyclists and pedestrians at speeds between five-85km/h and vehicles up to 250km/h.

There’s also rear cross traffic alert and intersection crossing assistance with braking, lane departure warning and corrective steering to keep you in your lane, and blind spot warning.

Not a fan of parking, the RS 6 can do it by itself or there’s a 360-degree camera that’ll help you do it yourself. There’s an exit warning system which will warn you if a vehicle is approaching as you go to get out, too.

And if the RS 6 Avant detects that it will be hit from behind it will prepare the cabin by tensioning the seatbelts and closing the windows, as well as the sunroof.

Along with all that there are Audi’s new Matrix LED headlights with laser lights, rain-sensing wipers and adaptive cruise control.

For child seats you’ll find three top tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.

There’s no spare wheel – instead, there’s a tyre repair kit.

Ownership

Mercedes-Benz E-Class7/10

Mercedes-Benz offers a three-year/unlimited km warranty, with 24-hour roadside assist included for the duration. Not exactly leading edge when you think about Kia at seven years/unlimited km and Tesla’s eight-year/160,000km cover.

Scheduled maintenance for the E 53 is set at 12 months/25,000km, and service plans are offered at silver and platinum levels for up to five years/100,000km.


Audi RS66/10

The RS 6 Avant is covered by Audi’s three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty which not only falls behind in duration compared to mainstream brands but also its direct rival Mercedes-Benz which now has five-year, unlimited kilometre coverage. 

Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km with a three-year plan costing $2380 and a five-year plan for $3910.