Mercedes-Benz E-Class VS Jaguar F-Type
- Numb steering
- Rear headroom in coupe/cabrio
- So-so warranty
- Tarmac-tearing performance
- Surprising comfort
- Just look at it
- Short on active safety tech
- Tight entry/egress
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But the boffins at AMG’s Affalterbach HQ can’t seem to help themselves because the E 43 has been replaced by, you guessed it, the gruntier E 53.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|
After a long gestation period where a variety of Jaguar corporate overlords toyed with the idea of a successor to the all-time iconic E-Type, the F-Type finally emerged in late 2013 to a global intake of breath.
Over time the formula has become more complex, with the arrival of a coupe version, powerhouse R and full-fat SVR variants, special editions including the exotic Project 7, and more recently, 2.0-litre, turbo four-cylinder models to make this stunning two-seater more accessible.
A late 2019 update added some extra catnip, including a redesigned nose and this is the flagship F-Type R, complete with supercharged V8 power and performance-focused underpinnings. Time to dive into this latest chapter of the Jaguar F-Type story.
|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.
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.
Although it kicked off as a roadster, a coupe version of the F-Type was always part of the plan. In fact, Jaguar's C-X16 concept, that in 2011 previewed the eventual production car, was a hardtop.
Following the Coupe's public reveal at the 2013 Los Angeles motor show, I asked Jaguar's then head of design, Ian Callum, if the bean counters had vetoed the concept's ultra-cool side-opening hatch door; one of many styling hat tips to the E-Type. His response was a wry smile and slow nod of the head.
It's a shame that door didn't make it to the showroom floor, but the E-Type is still a strong design influence on its successor.
At close to 4.5m long, around 1.9m wide, and a fraction over 1.3m tall, the F-Type R looks more compact in the metal than it does in photographs, arguably the hallmark of a successful sports car design.
A long, flowing (front-hinged) bonnet (Jaguar calls its shape 'liquid metal' sculpture) projects forward from a rear-set cabin, with broad but tightly wrapped haunches behind it. The 20-inch, 10-spoke rims (in 'Gloss Black' with diamond-turned finish) fill the wheel arches perfectly.
I'm a huge fan of the tail-light cluster design, subtly reprofiled in the late 2019 update, which echoes the shape of the Series 1 E-Type and other classic Jags, but found it harder to warm to the outgoing F-Type's squarish headlight treatment.
Always a subjective call, but to my eyes this car's slimmer, more feline (LED) eyes and ever-so-slightly larger grille deliver a better front to rear balance. And slender, flush-fitting pop-out exterior door handles remain sub-zero cool.
Our 'Santorini Black' test car had been optioned with the 'Exterior Black Design Pack' ($1820) for an extra hint of menace. It applies body-colour to the front splitter, side sills, and rear diffuser, at the same time blacking out the grille surround, side vents, side window surrounds, rear valance, Jaguar script, F-Type badge and 'Leaper' emblem.
Jaguar describes this two-seater as a '1+1', confirming the F-Type's focus on the driver, and our test car's tan leather interior emphasises the fact.
Tan dash on the passenger side, complete with flying buttress-style grab handle for extra support when g-force starts to build. Contrasted by all black and all business on the driver's side.
A broad centre stack houses the 10-inch multimedia touchscreen, with easy-to-use dials for the climate control system below. And the 12.3-inch reconfigurable hi-def instrument cluster (with graphics unique to the F-type) is a model of clarity and simplicity.
The latter offers a choice of display themes, including full nav map, but the default mode highlights a large central tachometer. Nice.
An impressive design feature carried over from the previous model is deployable front air vents. The dashtop remains flat until a given climate control temperature setting causes an upper section, housing a pair of adjustable vents, to gently rise. Very cool (no pun intended).
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.
If you're intending to daily drive your F-Type R, make sure your yoga fees are up to date, because entry and egress are for the fleet of foot and flexible of limb.
Once inside, though, within the bounds of its two-door coupe format, the F-Type offers an array of storage options, including a decent glove box, centre storage box/armrest, small door bins, a netted pocket on the top of the bulkhead between the seats, and a pair of console cupholders.
Power and connectivity runs to a 12V socket in the dash, with another in the central storage bin, alongside two USB-A ports, and a micro SIM slot.
Notwithstanding the (alloy) space saver plonked on the boot floor, the F-Type Coupe delivers worthwhile cargo space, with 310 litres on offer, rising to 408 with the load cover removed.
That's enough to swallow small (36-litre) and large (95-litre) suitcases together, and there are two (nicely chromed) tie-down anchor, as well as elasticised retaining straps at either end of a small ledge on the bulkhead.
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.
It's hard to pin down direct competitors for the $262,936 F-Type R, except one; Porsche's 911 Carrera S, a clear price and performance rival at $274,000.
With a 3.0-litre, twin-turbo 'flat' six producing 331kW/530Nm the 911 is capable of accelerating from 0-100km/h in just 3.7sec, which (surprise, surprise) exactly matches the Jag's claimed performance number.
Cast the net a little wider and you'll snag the likes of Nissan's GT-R Track Edition on the low side ($235,000), and the Mercedes-Benz S 560 Coupe ($326,635) for around $50K above the F-Type's asking price. So, the standard features list needs to be impressive, and long story short, it is.
Drilling down to the depths of detail on this car's equipment spec would need a review of its own, so here's the highlights package.
The 10-inch 'Touch Pro' multimedia screen manages a 380-watt Meridian audio system featuring 10 speakers (including subwoofer), digital radio, dynamic volume control and a 10-channel amp, as well as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth connectivity.
It's also the gateway to the car's configurable dynamic set-up, 'Navigation Pro', phone connection, ambient lighting, reversing camera, and a lot more.
Full-grain 'Windsor' leather is applied to the 12-way, electrically-adjustable (plus memory) performance seats. There's also a 12.3-inch customisable digital instrument cluster, cruise control (and speed limiter), keyless entry and start, auto rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming and power folding heated door mirrors (with memory), a switchable active exhaust, LED headlights, DRLs and tail-lights, as well as an electrically adjustable steering column (with memory), climate control, powered boot lid, 20-inch alloy wheels, racy red brake calipers, and specific 'R' branding on the leather-trimmed sports steering wheel, door tread plates, and centre console.
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 F-Type R is powered by Jaguar's all-alloy (AJ133) 5.0-litre supercharged V8 engine, featuring direct-injection, variable (intake) cam timing, and an Eaton (Roots-type) blower to produce 423kW (567hp) at 6500rpm, and 700Nm from 3500-5000rpm.
The AWD system is based on an electro-hydraulic multi-plate (wet) clutch, controlled by a centrifugal electro-hydraulic actuator. Default front/rear drive balance is 10/90, although Jaguar claims even a full shift of power from 100 per cent rear to 100 per cent front takes just 165 milliseconds.
The IDD system continuously monitors each wheel's speed and traction, suspension compression, steering angle and braking force, as well as the car's rotational state.
It then uses an algorithm to determine which wheel(s) are likely to lose traction, and before grip is lost, transfer drive to the wheels that can make best use of it.
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.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 11.3L/100km, the F-Type R emitting 269g/km of CO2 in the process.
Despite the standard auto stop/start function, over close to 350km of city, suburban, and freeway running we recorded a (dash-indicated) average of 16.1L/100km.
That's a solid drinking habit, but it kind of goes with this performance territory, and we did lean into the throttle on a regular basis.
Recommended fuel is 95 RON premium unleaded, and you'll need 70 litres of it to fill the tank. That equates to a range of 619km in line with the factory claim, and 434km using our real-world number as a guide.
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.
Yep, no surprise, the 2021 Jaguar F-Type R is a proper, rip-snorting, beast of a machine. Weighing in at just over 1.7 tonnes, with 423kW/700Nm to propel it forward, in terms of straight line acceleration, it's every bit the scalded cat.
Bury the right foot and it will storm from 0-100km/h in just 3.7 seconds, with furious aural accompaniment courtesy of the 4.0-litre supercharged V8 and sports exhaust system. Electrically-actuated bypass valves in the latter's rear silencer remain closed until they automatically open under load, and boy, do they open up.
Prospective F-Type R owners wishing to remain on good terms with their neighbours will be pleased to know there's a 'Quiet Start function', but once you're a few blocks clear the engine is capable of alerting the entire suburb to you presence, complete with raucous crackles and pops on the overrun.
All 700Nm of maximum torque is available from 3500rpm through to 5000rpm, and mid-range thrust is ferocious. If you have access to a long enough private road Jaguar claims this car will storm on to a (electronically-limited!) maximum velocity of 300km/h.
The eight-speed auto transmission has picked up several tweaks courtesy of the XE-based SV Project 8, and it's brilliant. A conventional torque-converter based unit, rather than a dual-clutch, it's dubbed 'Quickshift', and that it does. Manual flicks between ratios, using the wheel-mounted paddles, are rapid and positive.
Head for your favourite B-road, and it's the F-Type R's ability to put every bit of its power down, without fuss, that impresses next. Push into a series of tight corners and the car grips, settles, and simply surges from one bend to the next, the tricky AWD system seamlessly shuffling torque between the axles and individual wheels.
The standard electronic active diff, and torque vectoring (by braking) also help keep everything under control, turning backroad tryhards into apex hunting virtuosos.
Suspension is by (aluminium) double wishbones front and rear, with revised springs and anti-roll bars added in the 2019 upgrade. Continuously-variable dampers underpin the 'Adaptive Dynamics' system, learning your style and adjusting accordingly.
The electrically-assisted power steering combines great road feel with satisfying accuracy, and the car feels balanced yet agile and responsive in enthusiastic driving.
In a more relaxed mode the adaptive set-up detects rough road conditions and adjusts the suspension settings for greater ride comfort. According to Jaguar, the damper valves and control algorithms have been recalibrated to improve low-speed comfort and high-speed control, and I can vouch for their effectiveness.
Not long after steering this F-Type R I spent some time in the supercharged V6 F-Type P380 R-Dynamic, and this R is far more compliant.
Rubber is a specially-developed Pirelli P Zero (265/35 fr - 305/30 rr), and the supremely efficient brakes are ventilated 380mm at the front, and 376mm rear.
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 F-Type hasn't been assessed by ANCAP, but as well as the usual active safety suspects like ABS, EBD, traction and dynamic stability controls, the R features an AEB system operating at speeds above five km/h, Vehicle detection is in place at speeds of up to 80km/h, and pedestrian detection up to 60km/h.
The AWD system facilitates specific 'Rain', 'Ice', and 'Snow' modes, plus there's active high-beam, lane keep assist, a reversing camera, as well as front and rear parking sensors, and a 'Driver Condition Monitor.'
But cross-traffic alert (front or rear) is missing-in-action, blind spot assist is an option ($900), as is park assist ($700), and tyre pressure monitoring ($700). Any car that's crested the $250K barrier should have all of these as standard.
If an impact's unavoidable there are six airbags (front, side, and curtain). But remember, the front passenger seat is a no-go zone for a rear-facing child restraint. And Jaguar says, "A child should only travel in the front passenger seat if it is essential and national or state legislation permits it."
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.
Jaguar covers its Australian new car range with a three-year/100,000km warranty, which looks particularly stingy next to the mainstream market norm of five years/unlimited km, and lags other premium players like Mercedes-Benz and Genesis, both sitting at five years/unlimited km.
On the plus side, paint and corrosion (perforation) are warranted for three years, and roadside assistance is complimentary for 12 months.
And on the big plus side, scheduled servicing for the F-Type (determined by an on-board service interval indicator) is free-of-charge for five years/130,000km.