Mercedes-Benz E-Class VS Lamborghini Huracan
- Numb steering
- Rear headroom in coupe/cabrio
- So-so warranty
- Soaring V10
- Seven-speed gearbox
- Even more fun than all-wheel-drive Huracan
- Lack of second screen makes dash a bit crowded
- Not much storage
- Can't see the engine
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But the boffins at AMG’s Affalterbach HQ can’t seem to help themselves because the E 43 has been replaced by, you guessed it, the gruntier E 53.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|
Lamborghini's Huracan is the howling and fiery follow-up to Sant' Agata's best-selling model ever, the vicious, V10-powered Gallardo.
The first clean-sheet design since Audi's takeover of Lambo in the late 1990s, the new car has picked up where the Gallardo left off, selling like crazy. Since its launch a couple of years back, the new variants have come thick and fast, with the rear-wheel-drive 580-2 joining the LP610-4 as well as Spyder variants of both. Last month Lambo dropped the madcap and much waffled over Performante (or "totally bonkers" version).
Lamborghini's local arm made a canny decision to ensure we could kill two birds with one stone, letting us loose in a Huracan Spyder 580-2. Less power, less roof, fewer driven wheels, more weight. Does it mean less fun, though?
|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.
The rear-wheel-drive Spyder couldn't be more fun if it put on a silly wig or sprouted a jet engine and wings.
Yes, it's heavier and slower than the Coupe but the Huracan loses almost none of its feel with the roof whipped off, plus you get all the fun and fresh air of a Spyder. The extra weight doesn't mean much on the road and the added bonus of the rear-wheel drive's more responsive steering and even sharper turn-in evens things out.
The V10 is the last of its type, with Ferrari and McLaren both employing forced induction V8s for their smaller sports cars - in McLaren's case, all of them. The Huracan Spyder is everything that's good about Lamborghini - nutty looks, crackpot engine, head-turning theatrics - with all of the bad stuff booted out by parent company Audi. The 580-2 loses none of the fun of the circus and with the roof off it's even louder music to your ears.
Are you roofless in intent or do your sports cars need a lid?
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 roof is a fabric job and folds away in a tidy 15 seconds, more than quick enough to save you from a drenching in all but the most sudden of rain showers. It looks pretty good when up, doing a decent impression of the coupe's roofline, but roof down with the cool speedster-style humps, the Huracan looks epic.
It's not a shy and retiring car (no Lambo is), not by a long shot and if you enjoy the attention of the local constabulary, the bright yellow (Giallo Tenerife) is the colour for you. One particularly nice touch is the Huracan Spyder script engraved on the windscreen header rail.
Frustratingly, there's only a small cover to gain access to the oil filler - unlike the coupe you can't see the engine through the cover. The rear section of the Spyder is quite different, with a huge composite clamshell that lifts out of the way to allow the roof to stow itself. It's a necessary compromise but a shame as well.
The cabin is standard Huracan, with switchgear handed down from Audi and that brilliant red starter button cover that looks like it should have 'Bombs Away' written on it. There are a lot of fighter-jet influences, and it's a more convincing space than the more expensive Aventador.
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.
Yes, well, the usual mumbling explanation about how you have to take into account what this car is for and that there isn't the room for everyday luxuries will have to suffice. You do get a cupholder that pops out of the passenger-side dash garnish and the front boot will hold 70 litres. There's not a lot else you can squeeze in, although you can probably slip slim items behind the front seat backs. You'll be golfing on your own.
It's a more comfortable interior than the Aventador, with more head and shoulder room and a better overall position for driver and passenger.
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.
As always, value for money isn't one of your top priorities if you're looking for a high-end sports car dripping with standard features. The stereo has just four speakers but really, who's going to be listening to Kyle when you ears can reap the Huracan?
You also score dual-zone climate control, remote central locking (the flush fitted handles pop out endearingly as you draw closer), LED headlights, running lights and taillights, (very cool) digital dashboard, electric seats, sat nav, leather trim and a hydraulic lifter to help keep the front splitter pristine over kerbs.
Naturally the option list is long. Our car was specced by a restrained hand, with 20-inch black Giamo alloys ($9110), front and rear parking sensors with reversing camera ($5700 - ahem), black painted brake calipers ($1800) and $2400 worth of Lamborghini logos and stitching. Very nice stitching, obviously.
You can go completely mad if you want to, spending up to $20,000 on matte paint colours, $10,000 on bucket seats, carbon fibre bits can mount up and then of course you can commission stuff to suit your personal taste for even more cash. If you're prepared to drop well north of $400,000 on a car, what's a few more thousand, I guess.
As far as value goes, the Spyder is about right for its segment, coming in around the same price as an admittedly less focused Ferrari California and a bit more than the less-powerful R8 Spyder range.
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.
As the name suggests, the 580-2 is 30 metric horsepower down on the 610-4. In our language, that means Automobili Lamborghini's 5.2-litre naturally-aspirated V10 (yes, like many parts, shared with the Audi R8) developing 426kW/540Nm. Those figures are down 23kW and 20Nm on the AWD car.
The official 0-100km/h figure is 3.6 seconds, although it's unlikely it's that slow(!), Lambo's figures are regularly bettered by other publications with little effort.
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.
The amazing thing about this car is that despite being handed a regular thrashing, its fuel consumption is little worse than a large Toyota SUV's. When cruising along it will sip fuel, with cylinder deactivation helping further ease its thirst. The claimed combined cycle figure is a reasonable (and almost achievable) 11.9L/100km. I got a calculated 15.2L/100km and did not spare the rod, Nosirreebob. And nothing like the terrifying, guzzling consumption of the Aventador's V12.
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.
The Huracan's V10 is a glorious thing. It revs to the redline like a demon and does it all day every day. It feels utterly unburstable and delivers its power with such joy and abandon it gets under your skin.
With the roof off and Sport mode engaged on the Anime switch, the mix of induction and exhaust noise is utterly addictive. It's a theatrical machine, popping and banging and the metallic scream under power all combine to blow away the cobwebs in double quick time. Its sound is symphonic and pulling the gearshift instantly changes the note. It's breathtaking.
A big part of this particular car's charm is the switch to rear-wheel drive. The engineers didn't just forget to bolt in the propshafts and front-wheel-drive gear, but the steering had a going-over to compensate for the changes and to improve feel and responsiveness. It worked.
Where the all-wheel drive is prone to mild understeer, the front end of the dash-two is a little more planted. The Spyder might be heavier than the Coupe, but the rear-wheel-drive car feels that tiny bit more agile, with a lightning change of direction and a livelier rear-end. It's more delicate than -4 and doesn't feel appreciably slower.
One side note about the -4's understeer: it simply isn't a big deal. The internet will tell you it "understeers like a pig". The internet is completely wrong, but you already knew that; the internet loves cat videos. Nobody accuses the Ferrari California of the same vice, and yet it, too, understeers mildly in standard spec (as opposed to HS) - it's deliberate, safer and user-friendly. It is not, however, a pig.
Anyway. On with the show.
In an effort to lower the cost of the 580-2, it also comes with steel brakes - the expensive carbon ceramics are an option. On the road, you're not really going to notice too much difference apart from slightly different pedal feel. It probably renders the Huracan a less effective track car, but the reality is, not that many owners are going to care, particularly Spyder buyers.
I spent most of my time in Sport mode - it's where the most fun is to be found, with the electronics taking a more relaxed approach to the car's attitude. The drive-by-wire throttle is lovely and sharp, the steering a bit weightier and the seven-speed twin-clutch (or, as I prefer to say at every opportunity, doppio frizione). Corsa is certainly fast but it's far more interested in getting the car straight and slinging it out of the exit of a corner. Don't bother with Strada mode - it's far too soft, and deeply unappealing.
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 Huracan has four airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls and brake force distribution. A super strong carbon fibre and aluminium spaceframe does the heavy lifting in a crash.
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.
The Huracan is supplied with a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Given the usual mileage of a car like this, that's ample. There's three-year roadside assist into the bargain and the option to extend the warranty - $6900 for one year and $13,400 for two, which seems okay given what can go wrong in such a sophisticated car.
Servicing intervals are an absurdly reasonable 15,000km although you're expected to visit the dealer once a year (mainly so you can order your next Lambo).