Mercedes-Benz E-Class VS Infiniti Q60
- Numb steering
- Rear headroom in coupe/cabrio
- So-so warranty
- Great looks
- AEB even on this base spec Q60
- Grunty engine
- Not as engaging to drive as the Red Sport
- Restricted head and legroom in back seat
- Confusing double decker screens and media system
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But the boffins at AMG’s Affalterbach HQ can’t seem to help themselves because the E 43 has been replaced by, you guessed it, the gruntier E 53.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|
One day Nissan's luxury sub-brand Infiniti could grow up to be as popular as Toyota's Lexus, but it'll take more than just time and brand awareness to get there – it will have to build outstanding cars that impress us, as well.
When I drove the top-of-the-range Q60 Red Sport at its launch a few months ago I called it the breakthrough car for Infiniti. Now we're testing the entry point into the line-up – the GT, which likes to imagine itself as keeping the BMW 420i and Mercedes-Benz C200 Coupe awake at night, but really rivals the Lexus RC 200t.
So, is the Q60 GT outstanding or should you ignore it and go straight to the Red Sport with its bigger engine and Sport + driving mode if you want to be impressed? And what is it like to live with when you've taken your race face off and need to pick up the toddler from day care, then do a load of shopping on the way home?
We found out pretty quickly when we lived with the Q60 GT for a week.
|Engine Type||2.0L 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.
Beautiful looks, good handling, but the driving experience of the Q60 GT is let down by a numbness and disconnection relative to what's happening under you. Refinement isn't on the same level as its BMW and Benz rivals, but the GT is a perfect match for the RC 200t, while remaining good value for money. If you have your heart set on an Infiniti Q60 then I'd skip straight to the top and opt for the Red Sport.
Would you buy a Q60 GT or pay a few thousand more for a Mercedes-Benz C200 Coupe? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
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.
The Q60 GT is a head turner – literally. Whenever I was driving slow enough to notice, people were rubbernecking to look at the long, low-slung coupe. I'm sure most had no idea what brand of car it was, but in its 'Iridium Blue' paint the Q60 looked amazing with its curvy, sleek profile.
There's only one small issue – the RC 200t and Q60 GT are way too similar looking, right down to their 'signature' shaped c-pillars. I prefer the grille of the Lexus but the rear of the Q60. While there might be a bit of copy-catting going on, both are prettier than their BMW or Benz rivals.
The Q60 GT feels fairly large to drive and the dimensions don't lie – 4690mm end-to-end, 2052mm across with the wing mirrors unfurled, but low at 1395mm.
The cabin treatment is just as emotional as the exterior, with its dual screens, swoopy dashboard and sectioned off driver and passenger cells.
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.
The short answer is not very practical - but then no two-door sports car really is. So while the front two seats are roomy (although the optional sunroof restricts headroom) the same can't be said for the back seats – at 191cm tall, not only can I not sit up straight (because of the sloping roofline), I can't fit my legs in behind my driving position.
While those large doors open wide the roofline and the lack of rear doors means trying to insert a toddler into his car seat was painful and involved kneeling in the street, there were days we took our much less fancy SUV just because it was easier.
This is a four seater – with two cupholders in between the rear seats and two more cupholders up front. Storage elsewhere is limited, with tiny pockets in the front doors and a small centre console bin to hide your phone and wallet.
The boot is also on the small side at 341 litres – don't compare this to the 423 litre of cargo capacity in the RC 200t which is measured in VDA litres. That said, there was more than enough room for our weekly shop which fitted in snugly, although you have to hoist your shopping bags high to clear that boot lip.
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.
The Q60 GT has a list price of $62,900, undercutting the Lexus RC 200t by $2000, but what you might find surprising is that the Benz C200 Coupe is only $3500 more than the Infiniti, while the BMW 420i in the Luxury grade lists for $69,900. Depending on how you look at it, either the Germans are affordable or the Japanese are expensive. Perhaps a bit of both.
What's for sure is that the Q60 GT's standard features list is substantial. There's 8.0-inch and 7.0-inch 'double-decker' screens, sat nav, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, six-speaker stereo, LED head- and fog lights, proximity unlocking, heated and power adjustable front seats and leather upholstery.
The Q60 Sport Premium is the next grade up from the GT and lists for $70,900, while the Red Sport is $88,900.
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.
The Q60 GT has a 155kW/350Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine with drive being sent to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission. The same engine is also in the Q60 Sport Premium, while the Red Sport packs a twin-turbo V6.
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.
An official combined fuel consumption figure of 7.7L/100km is fairly optimistic and our combination of urban, city and highway running saw the trip computer reporting back to us with 9.1L/100km. Still, that's not too bad considering how much time was spent in city traffic.
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.
I had a feeling this would happen - the GT was disappointing to drive after the Red Sport with the latter's twin-turbo V6, sports suspension, better steering and excellent Sport + drive mode. There's lots to like about the GT, though – the grip is great from the wide Dunlop SP rubber (235 40 R19 front and 255 40 R19 rear), the chassis feels taught, acceleration is good and it's a gorgeous looking car.
But there's a sense of disconnection from the driving experience I couldn't get past, such as the numb feeling in the steering which needed constant re-adjustment. I also think the suspension felt over sprung and lacked composure over small bumps in the road.
The GT and all Q60s don't have the same level of refinement as the C200 Coupe or 420i, evident from the clunky feel of the door handles to the road noise intruding into the cabin.
I'm not a fan of the cockpit. Sure it's brave and expressively designed, but the double-deck screens are confusing, there's one for nav, while the other's for media... I think. Then there are things you don't need, such as a digital compass – actually there are two, one on the display and another in the instrument cluster, but there's no digital speedo.
That 2.0-litre engine is great, but the transmission is a mood killer with it wanting to change up gears quickly to save fuel, even in 'Sport' mode.
Here's a curve ball call for you – I've just stepped out of a, Alfa Giulia Super. Close in price to the Infiniti, same sized engine, but infinitely more rewarding and fun to drive – plus you get an extra two doors.
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 Q60 is yet to be rated by ANCAP, although it's good to see AEB with pedestrian detection is standard, even on the base grade GT. That said, it would be good to see blind spot warning and lane keeping assistance fitted as standard (as you'll find on the Benz C200 Coupe). It's not a lot to ask considering these comes standard on higher grades of the Nissan X-Trail.
There are two ISOFIX mounts in the back and two top tether anchor points.
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.