Mercedes-Benz E-Class VS BMW M2
- Numb steering
- Rear headroom in coupe/cabrio
- So-so warranty
- Blistering performance
- Dynamic prowess
- Attention-grabbing looks
- Spartan equipment list
- Very pricey
- Rubber pedals
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.
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But the boffins at AMG’s Affalterbach HQ can’t seem to help themselves because the E 43 has been replaced by, you guessed it, the gruntier E 53.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?
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
When BMW’s M2 first landed on Australian shores in 2016, one of the biggest criticisms levelled at it was a lack of grunt, which must have hurt its feelings.
With 272kW and 465Nm from the 3.0-litre single-turbo ‘N55’ six-cylinder engine, it was hardly tame, but the question it raised was whether it was special enough to be christened a full-fat M car? And the answer from enthusiasts was "perhaps not".
Fast forward to 2018 and BMW had rectified that criticism with the M2 Competition, powered by a 3.0-litre twin-turbo ‘S55’ engine from the M3 and M4 to punch out a more exciting and appropriate 302kW/550Nm.
For anyone crazed enough to think that was still not enough, the M2 CS is now available in showrooms, and turns the wick up to 331kW and 550Nm, thanks to some tweaks to the engine. It's now available with a six-speed manual gearbox, too. That sound you hear is purists rejoicing.
So, does this now make the 2021 M2 CS the ultimate BMW for the enthusiast driver?
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
As the ultimate form of the current M2, the CS distils the best aspects of what everyone loves about BMW into one tidy little package.
The driving experience is nothing short of divine, even if the manual gearbox shifts could be better, while the firecracker engine kicks things up to a whole new level.
If only BMW offered more equipment and safety to round out the $140,000 pricetag, or maybe they should have leaned harder into the lightweight aspect and ditched the rear seats to make the M2 CS even more special.
At the end of the day though, the M2 CS is still an unbelievably appealing driver’s car, and I can’t wait to see what BMW has in store for the next one.
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.
We’re already big fans of the way the M2 looks, it’s just the right size and has the perfect proportions for a sporty coupe, and the CS just takes things to another level.
From the outside, the M2 CS scores a noticeably bigger bonnet bulge, as well as a vented hood to improve airflow.
The front splitter, side mirrors, skirts, bootlid spoiler and rear diffuser are also finished in carbon, and add to the car’s aggressive demeanour.
Filling the wheelarches are 19-inch wheels finished in black, but tucked behind those are massive drilled brake rotors and large calipers painted in red.
To call the M2 CS exterior design sporty would be an understatement, but we do have to point out that the Alpine White of our test car did look a little boring, despite the extra bling.
If we were buying one? We’d option the stunning Misano Blue hero colour with gold-coloured wheels to really turn heads around town and at the racetrack, although they will add another $1700 and $1000 respectively to the already dizzying price.
Inside, the M2 CS is let down a little by a spartan interior, which looks like it’s been lifted from the cheapest 2 Series coupe, due to the lack of climate-control screen.
However, BMW does try its best to spice things up with very tight-fitting bucket seats, an Alcantara steering wheel, CS-branded dashboard and that carbon-fibre transmission tunnel.
It’s definitely a case of function over form , but the lack of interior flare means you focus more on the road ahead than anything else, which is no bad thing when you have 331kW and 550Nm being sent to the rear wheels.
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.
Measuring 4461mm long, 1871mm wide, 1414mm tall and with a 2698mm wheelbase, and just two doors, the M2 CS isn’t exactly the last word in practicality.
Of course, front passengers are afforded plenty of space, and the electronically adjustable bucket seats allow you to get into the right position to row through the gears and eat up the road.
Storage is limited, however, with average-sized door bins, two cupholders, a small wallet/phone tray, and that’s it.
BMW is generous enough to include a single USB port to charge your device, but its location, where the armrest should be, means you’ll have to get creative with cable management to make it really work if you want to keep your phone in the tray under the climate controls.
Predictably, the two rear seats are less than ideal for anyone tall, but there is plenty of leg and shoulder-room.
A small centre-storage tray is fitted back there, as well as Isofix points for the seats, but there isn’t a whole lot to keep rear occupants entertained. They'll probably be too frightened to care.
Opening the boot reveals a small aperture that will swallow 390 litres, and is shaped in such a way that a set of golf clubs or some overnight bags will fit in nicely.
There are some luggage tie-down points and netting to keep your belongings from rolling around, and the rear seats fold down to accommodate longer items.
Price and features
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.
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.
Pricing for the 2021 BMW M2 CS starts at $139,900 before on-road costs for the six-speed manual, with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic bumping up to $147,400.
Let’s not mince words here, the BMW M2 CS is not cheap.
Compared to the M2 Competition , the CS adds about $37,000 to the bottom line – the equivalent of a well-specced small SUV – and sits perilously close to the new-generation M3 and M4 ($144,900 and $149,900 respectively).
For the price , buyers are getting exclusivity, with just 86 examples available in Australia out of a total global production run of 2220 units.
The engine is also tuned for a higher power output, but more on that below.
Standard equipment in the M2 CS also eschews luxury for sportiness, with carbon-fibre exterior highlights, a new exhaust, lightweight 19-inch wheels and Alcantara steering wheel.
The front seats are borrowed from the M4 CS, and trimmed in Alcantara and leather, but that’s about all you get for equipment.
The multimedia system shares the same dimensions as the rest of the M2 line-up, measuring 8.8 inches and including satellite navigation, digital radio and Apple CarPlay (no love for Android owners, sorry).
The climate controls do differ slightly, with the slender screen replaced with basic buttons and knobs.
Seat heating? Nope. Rear air vents? Sorry. How about keyless entry? Not here.
Also noticeably absent is a wireless smartphone charger, and centre armrest, as the usual transmission tunnel has been swapped out for a carbon-fibre piece.
To be fair, you do get a premium Harman Kardon sound system, push-button start and single USB port, so at least BMW does offer a way to charge your phone on the go.
Perhaps most egregious of all though – at least to me – were the rubber pedals fitted to our manual test car.
For $140,00 you’d expect a bit more in terms of convenience features, and before you make the argument that ‘it’s all about saving weight’, don’t bother, because the M2 CS and M2 Competition both tip the scales at an identical 1550kg.
Engine & trans
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.
Powering the BMW M2 CS is a 3.0-litre twin-turbo ‘S55’ six-cylinder engine, developing 331kW/550Nm.
With drive sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the M2 CS can accelerate from zero to 100km/h in 4.2 or 4.0 seconds respectively.
Peak power is available at a heady 6250rpm, while maximum torque comes on stream from 2350-5500rpm.
The M2 CS actually put out as much grunt as the outgoing M3/M4 Competition, because it uses the same engine, and to say the amount of performance on tap is explosive would be to talk up explosions. This is a serious amount of bang for your buck.
The M2 CS easily outclasses the likes of the 280kW/460Nm Jaguar F-Type V6, 306kW/410Nm Lotus Evora GT410 and 294kW/420Nm Porsche Cayman GTS 4.0.
I do have to draw attention to the manual gearbox of our test car, though, which was great, but not excellent.
With such engaging shifters fitted to the Honda Civic Type R, Toyota 86 and Mazda MX-5, I expected rowing through the gears would be nirvana, but it was merely OK.
The throws are a little too long for my liking, and it takes just a bit too much effort to slot it into the right ratio. Still, we should all be glad to see a manual offered here, and I'm betting it is still a better option for purists than the auto.
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.
Official fuel-consumption figures for the M2 CS are pegged at 10.3 litres per 100km, while our week with the car yielded a more realistic figure of 11.8L/100km.
Engine start/stop technology is included to keep fuel consumption down, but our week with the car was spent mainly in Melbourne’s inner-city streets, with three trips out of town looking for some winding country roads.
No doubt if we were more restrained with our throttle application, we could have kept that fuel consumption figure down, but a sub-12L/100km result is still great for a performance car.
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.
Let me be clear; driving the M2 CS is a simply sublime experience.
The M2 was always close to the top of the best modern M cars, and the CS simply cements its position as the king.
Step inside and the bucket seats and Alcantara steering wheel make sure you know you are in something special.
Push the red starter button and the engine comes to life, with a racy growl from the new exhaust system that immediately brings a smile to your face.
Out on the open road, the adaptive dampers fitted to the M2 CS do a good job at soaking up bumps and road imperfections, but don’t expect it to suddenly become a comfortable and cosseting cruiser.
The ride is firm in all settings, but dial it up to ‘Sport Plus’ and comfort really takes a hit, especially on the uneven inner-city roads of Melbourne, with its criss-crossing tram tracks.
Escape the unkempt roads of the city for the smooth blacktop of the country, though, and the M2 CS really flexes its handling prowess.
The Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres fitted as standard also help in this regard, and while the rear end will step out with 331kW pushed through them, if you want to stick to the racing line and clip that apex, the M2 CS is a more than willing participant.
The suspension isn’t the only thing that can be changed, however, with steering and engine adjustments also available.
We found the best setting to be maximum-attack mode for the engine and suspension, while keeping the steering in its lightest setting, and even with the steering weight turned way down, the feedback and feel from the road is enough to communicate exactly what the M2 CS wants to do.
BMW has definitely nailed the feel of the M2 CS, which almost eggs you on to go faster and faster.
When things get a bit too furious, it is also comforting to know that the massive 400mm front discs and 380mm rear discs with six- and four-piston callipers respectively are more than up to the task of scrubbing speed.
I only wish I could have explored the capabilities of the M2 CS in the more controlled environment of a racetrack, because out on the open road, the M2 CS definitely still feels like it has so much more to give. And everything about this car just screams Race Track Time. Loudly.
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.
The BMW M2 CS has not been tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP and as such does not have a crash rating.
The car it is based on, the 2 Series, is also unrated, although the M2 CS differs wildly from the rest of the small coupe range.
Safety systems include front and rear parking sensors, automatic headlights, a reversing camera and cruise control.
Sure, the M2 CS is a track-focused special, but its also lacking some crucial safety features you’d expect out of any new car, and particularly one at this price point.
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.
Like all new BMWs, the M2 CS comes with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which falls short of Mercedes’ benchmark five-year/unlimited-kilometre offering.
Scheduled service intervals are every 12 months or 16,000 kilometres, whichever comes first.
Buyers can opt for a ‘Basic’ or ‘Plus’ service plan that covers the car’s first five years, priced at $2995 and $8805 respectively.
The ‘Basic’ plan covers oil changes, air filters, brake fluids and spark plugs, while the ‘Plus’ service adds replacement brake pads and discs, wiper blades and clutch.
With an annual cost of $599 or $1761 for maintenance, the M2 CS is actually pretty affordable to service.