Mercedes-Benz E-Class VS Mercedes-Benz E63
- Numb steering
- Rear headroom in coupe/cabrio
- So-so warranty
- Superb dynamics
- Ballistic acceleration
- Fiddly steering wheel controllers
- Tight rear door apertures
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But the boffins at AMG’s Affalterbach HQ can’t seem to help themselves because the E 43 has been replaced by, you guessed it, the gruntier E 53.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|
Feels like lately all the Mercedes-AMG buzz has been at the smaller end of the scale.
But here, we're doubling the cylinder count to eight, arranging them in a vee, and lighting the wick on AMG's powerhouse mid-size sedan, the recently upgraded E 63 S.
While the ferocious twin-turbo V8 and the rest of this beast's powertrain are unchanged, the car has been brought up to speed with some aero-focused styling tweaks, Merc's latest 'Widescreen' digital cockpit, as well as the MBUX multimedia system, and a tricky new multi-function sports steering wheel.
|Engine Type||4.0L 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.
The E 63 S fills its niche in AMG's Australian line-up perfectly. More mature than the brand's four-cylinder hatches and SUVs, but not as overbearing as some of its bigger sedan, GT and SUV stablemates. And its ability to seamlessly switch between serene comfort and dynamic performance has nailed the objective for this 2021 update.
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 E 63 S has been massaged for 2021 starting with flatter headlights, AMG's now signature 'Panamericana' grille, and a high gloss black flap across the top of the curved 'Jet Wing' section defining the lower part of the nose.
At the same time, the vents on either end of it are larger and feature twin transverse louvers to guide cooling air to wherever it's needed.
It's all about what AMG calls 'optimised aerobalance' but the form is just as appealing as the function. The characteristic 'Power Domes' in the bonnet dial up the muscle, as do the fat wheel arches (+27mm each side), and 20-inch rims with distinctive aero inserts.
This car's optional exterior carbon package consists of a front splitter, side sills, a flash near the fender badges, the exterior mirror covers, the boot lid lip spoiler, as well as the lower apron around the redesigned diffuser and quad tailpipes.
New, intricately styled LED tail-lights are also flatter, but there's even more going on inside.
A new AMG sports steering wheel features three rounded twin-spokes with new switches on the bottom to control the car's dynamic set-up.
It also picks up a new take on the small touch-sensitive controllers used to adjust the instrumentation and manage other functions like phone calls, audio and the cruise control.
Not sure I'm in love with them at this stage. In fact, the words fiddly, imprecise, and frustrating come to mind.
Nappa leather covering the superb AMG sports seats, upper dash, and door beltlines remains standard, but the show-stopper is the 'Widescreen Cockpit' - twin 12.25-inch digital screens for the MBUX multimedia interface on the left and instruments on the right.
The instrument cluster can be set to 'Modern Classic', 'Sport' and 'Supersport' displays, with specific AMG read-outs such as engine data, gear speed indicator, warm-up status, car set-up, as well as a G-meter and 'RaceTimer.'
To borrow an official automotive design term, it looks schmick. Overall, with touches like open-pore black ash wood trim, and brushed metal highlights, the interior looks efficient but classy, with an obvious attention to detail in the layout and its execution.
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.
At just under 5.0m end-to-end the E-Class sits in the upper range of the mid-size luxury spectrum. And almost 3.0m of that is accounted for by the distance between the axles, so there's plenty of space inside.
The driver and front passenger are provided with heaps of room to breathe, and there's a surprising amount of space for those in the back as well.
Sitting behind the driver's seat set for my 183cm (6'0”) position I had more than adequate head and legroom. But access to and from the back is a struggle for full-size adults.
The rear doors open out a long way, but the limiting factor is the size of the aperture, necessitating excessive contortion of the head and limbs to fold in and out of the car.
Connectivity runs to two (power-only) USB-C sockets in the front centre storage bin, as well as another USB-C (for power and multimedia) and 12-volt power outlet in the centre console.
Speaking of the front centre storage bin, it's a decent size and has a padded split lid so it can double as an armrest. There are two cupholders in the front console, a generous glove box, as well as long door compartments with recesses for large bottles provided.
There's a pair of USB-Cs along with another 12-volt socket in the back, sitting under the climate control panel with adjustable vents in the rear of the front centre console. Nice.
The fold down centre armrest incorporates a lidded (and lined) storage box as well as two pop-out cupholders. Again, there are bins in the doors with room for smaller bottles.
The boot offers 540 litres (VDA) of volume, and is able to swallow our three-piece hard suitcase set (124L, 95L, 36L) with room to spare, or the substantial CarsGuide pram, or the largest suitcase and pram combined! There are tie-down hooks to help secure loads, too.
Don't bother looking for a spare of any description, a repair/inflator kit is your only option. And the E 63 S is a no-tow zone.
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.
So, first of all, let's get the price out of the way. At $253,900, before on-road costs, this car's competitive set is a bruising, all-German trio comprising the Audi RS 7 Sportback ($224,000), BMW M5 Competition ($244,900), and Porsche Panamera GTS ($309,500).
And no surprise, it's loaded with all the luxury features you'd expect in this part of the market. Here are the highlights.
On top of the standard performance tech and safety equipment fitted to the E 63 S (covered later in this review), you'll also find: Nappa leather trim (seats, upper dash, upper door cards, and steering wheel), MBUX multimedia (with touchscreen, touchpad, and 'Hey Mercedes' voice control), 20-inch alloys, three-zone climate-control, interior ambient lighting, auto LED headlights (with 'Active High Beam Assist Plus'), eight “energising comfort programs” (with 'Energising Coach'), an 'Active Multicontour' front seat package, the 'Air Balance' package (including ionisation), and keyless entry and start.
Also included are the the 'Widescreen' digital cockpit (twin 12.25-inch digital screens), 13-speaker Burmester audio with digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, a head-up display, augmented reality satellite navigation, 'Parktronic' self-parking, electric front seats, seat cooling and heating front (heated rear), heated front centre armrest, a power-adjustable steering column, auto rain-sensing wipers, a wireless device charger, illuminated door sills, as well Amazon Alexa, etc, etc, etc.
And our test car also featured a couple of tasty options. An exterior carbon package ($7500), and AMG's professional grade ceramic composite brakes ($15,900), for an as-tested price of $277,300.
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.
Thanks in no small part to direct injection and a pair of twin-scroll turbos (located in the engine's 'hot vee' to optimise throttle response), this all-alloy unit produces 450kW (that's 612hp) from 5750-6500rpm, and 850Nm from 2500-4500rpm.
And as per standard AMG practice for its Vee engines, this car's powerplant was built from scratch by a single engineer in Affalterbach. Thank you Robin Jäger.
AMG calls the nine-speed transmission used in the E 63 S an MCT, which stands for Multi-Clutch Technology. But it's not a dual-clutch, rather a normal auto transmission using a wet clutch as opposed to a conventional torque converter, to connect it to the engine on take-off.
Drive goes to all four wheels via Merc's '4Matic+' AWD system, built around an electromechanically controlled clutch connecting the permanently driven rear axle (with locking diff) variably to the front axle.
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 12.3L/100km, the E 63 S emitting 280g/km of CO2 in the process.
That's a pretty hefty number, but in line with this car's proportions and performance potential.
And Merc-AMG has gone to great lengths to minimise fuel use. As well as the standard 'Eco' stop-start function, in the 'Comfort' drive program cylinder deactivation becomes active, the system able to drop four cylinders anywhere between 1000 to 3250rpm.
There's no physical hint of half the cylinders leaving the party. The only clue is a blue icon on the dash indicating a temporary shift to V4 operation.
Despite all that effort, however, we saw a dash-indicated 17.9L/100km over a mix of urban trundling, highway cruising, and some spirited dynamic assessment.
Recommended fuel is 98 RON premium unleaded (although it'll run on 95 at a pinch), and you'll need 80 litres of it to fill the tank. That capacity translates to a range of 650km according to the factory claim, and 447km using our real world result.
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.
AMG's major goal with this upgrade of the E 63 S was to maintain its dynamic response and ferocious performance, but dial in the extra comfort customers had said they wanted.
So, the 4Matic+ AWD system has been fine-tuned for more smoothness as has the Comfort option in the dynamic set-up. But we'll investigate that shortly.
First, that 4.0-litre turbo V8 in the nose is claimed to slingshot this roughly 2.0-tonne sedan from 0-100km/h in just 3.4 seconds, and it feels every bit that fast.
With 850Nm available from 2500-4500rpm and nine gear ratios to help keep you operating in that Goldilocks band, mid-range thrust is monumental. And thanks to the bi-modal sports exhaust it sounds beautifully brutal.
The nine-speed auto's wet clutch, as opposed to a conventional torque converter, is designed to save weight and optimise response. And while some will tell you an auto with one input shaft is never going to be as fast as a dual-clutch with two, shifts are rapid and direct. The wheel-mounted shift paddles are larger and set lower, as well.
The AMG 'Ride Control+' suspension with multi-chamber air suspension and adaptive damping is amazingly good. The underlying set-up is by multi-links front and rear, and despite riding on big 20-inch rims wrapped with low-profile, high-performance Pirelli P Zero rubber (265/35 fr - 295/30 rr) the Comfort setting is incredibly... comfortable.
Slip into 'Sport' or 'Sport+' and the car immediately feels tauter but far less compliant and forgiving. An impression reinforced by the engine, transmission, and steering shifting to a more buttoned-down mode at the same time.
The standard dynamic engine mounts play a big part here. Able to make a soft connection for maximum comfort, but switch to a rigid link when required.
But no matter which mode you're in, the car is well damped and feels beautifully balanced in quick cornering. And the E 63 S's electro-mechanically-assisted variable-rate steering is progressive, feelsome, and accurate.
The 4Matic+ AWD system is built around an electromechanically controlled clutch connecting the permanently driven rear axle (with locking diff) variably to the front axle.
Torque distribution happens imperceptibly, the big V8 putting its power down emphatically, with various electronic systems tieing up the loose ends as you aim up for the next corner.
There's even a 100 per cent RWD Drift mode available in the Race setting, but without a race circuit at our disposal this time around that'll have to wait for another time.
The optional ceramic brakes feature huge rotors and six-piston front calipers, and stopping power is immense. And the good news is they operate quickly but progressively at normal pottering around town speeds. No warming up required to get them in an optimal temperature zone (as can be the case with other ceramic set-ups).
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 three-pointed star's white-coated boffins have gone to town on the E 63 S, and the car is as good as it currently gets in terms of active and passive safety technology.
You could argue this car's dynamic ability is its strongest contributor to crash-avoidance. But a broad suite of features, specifically designed to keep you out of trouble includes, forward and reverse AEB (with pedestrian, cyclist, and cross-traffic detection), traffic sign recognition, 'Attention Assist', 'Active Blind Spot Assist', 'Active Distance Assist', 'Active High Beam Assist Plus', 'Active Lane Change Assist', 'Active Lane Keeping Assist', and 'Evasive Steering Assist.' That's a lot of assists.
There's also a tyre pressure monitoring and pressure loss warning system, as well as a brake priming function (monitors release speed on the accelerator pedal, moving pads factionally closer to the discs when required), and brake drying (when the windscreen wipers are active the system periodically applies just enough brake pressure to wipe water off the brake rotors to optimise wet weather efficiency).
But if an impact is unavoidable the 'Pre-Safe Plus' system is able to recognise an imminent rear-end collision and fire up the rear hazard lights (at high frequency) to warn following traffic. It will also firmly apply the brakes once the vehicle is stationary to minimise the risk of whiplash injuries if the car's then hit from behind.
If the potential crash is coming from the side, 'Pre-Safe Impulse' inflates air chambers in the side bolsters of the front seat backrest (within a fraction of a second) moving the occupant to the side towards the centre of the car, away from the impact area. Amazing.
As well as that, there's an active bonnet to minimise pedestrian injuries, an auto emergency call function, 'Crash Response Emergency Lighting', even a first aid kit and hi-vis vests for all occupants.
For the record, the current E-Class received a maximum five-star ANCAP assessment in 2016.
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.
All AMG models sold in Australia are covered by Mercedes-Benz's five year/unlimited km warranty, with 24-hour roadside and accident assistance included for the duration.
Recommended service interval is 12 months or 20,000km, with pricing for a three-year (pre-paid) plan set at $4300, a $950 saving overall relative to its three year, pay-as-you-go 'Service Solutions' capped price program.
And if you're happy to fork over a little more up-front, there's a four-year service deal at $6300, and five years coming in at $7050.