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The improved Mercedes-AMG E 53 4MATIC+ Saloon and Estate models offer something rather special. Jonathan Crouch gets behind the wheel.
The Mercedes-AMG E 53 4MATIC+ Saloon and Estate models offer the full-sized Executive segment a rare kind of performance sporting confection. Not only can either body shape sprint to 62mph in 4.5s to the accompaniment of an emotive soundtrack, but the E 53 package also gives you a relatively efficient mild hybrid engine and there's all the usual E-Class quality and practicality. The result is a pretty special and rather different sporting executive drive experience, especially in this smarter, lightly updated guise. There's a sense of class, quality and style here that makes these E 53 variants almost unique at their price point.
The Mercedes-AMG E 53 4MATIC+ Saloon and Estate models were first launched in 2019, then lightly updated a year later to create the cars we're going to look at here. The E 53 wasn't the first relatively affordable Mercedes-AMG version of the current generation E-Class Saloon and Estate; these '53' variants directly replace E 43 4MATIC versions of these models, which had a V6 engine and 367hp. Here though, you sense that Mercedes' Afalterbach luxury division got itself a lot more serious about developing this car. The switch to 'E 53' status saw a change to inline six cylinder power and a power hike to 435hp at the same time as this E-Class variant future-proofed itself with a switch to mild hybrid technology. Add in the smarter exterior look and higher quality cabin that came with this model's mid-2020 upgrade and potentially, you've got quick a desirable performance package. Let's take a look.
Before this E 53 model's mild hybrid in line six cylinder powerplant arrived in 2019, there was quite a gulf between the two engines that the Mercedes-AMG sub-brand used for its larger cars. These being the V6 '43' unit and the 'blood and thunder' 4.0-litre V8 of the ballistic '63'-series cars. Today, this E 53 model's in-line six cylinder 435hp unit delivers a lot of the performance that V8 unit might provide, together with a vastly more acceptable set of running costs thanks to the integrated mild hybrid tech. But you don't want to know about all that - not in this section anyway. You want to know how fast this E 53 goes and whether it's just a bit of a boat that goes very fast in a straight line but can't do a lot else. As has been the case with AMG-engined E-Class models of the past. Well it isn't that. Come to this car and expect it to have the scalpel-sharp handling responses of a similarly priced but slightly smaller Mercedes C 63 and you'll be disappointed. But it's more everyday-usable than one of those thanks to an AMG DYNAMIC SELECT driving modes system and the inclusion of an AMG RIDE CONTROL version of the Mercedes AIR BODY CONTROL air suspension system. Plus there's 4MATIC+ AWD, a 9-speed AMG Speedshift TCT paddleshift auto gearbox and an AMG Performance exhaust for an authentic sportscar soundtrack. It all makes this car certainly quite dynamic enough to take on a direct class rival like a BMW M850i Gran Coupe. Rest to 62mph takes just 4.5s and the top speed has to be artificially restricted at 155mph. And, via a provided display screen AMG menu, the driver can call up various special displays such as Engine Data, gear speed indicator, Warm-up, Set-up, G-Meter and RACETIMER.
The E 53 is marked out from humbler E-Class models by a bonnet with two distinctive powerdomes, plus there are large outer air inlets with two cross louvres and a smart front splitter in silver chrome. There are high-gloss black front flics to improve the aerodynamics too. In profile, there are restyled 19-inch light-alloy wheels in an aerodynamically optimised 5-twin-spoke design. The key identifying feature at the tail end is the round twin tailpipe trim, offered either in high-gloss chrome or high-gloss black (as part of the optional 'Night Edition' package). Inside, the E 53 gets a package of AMG-specific appointments, luxurious materials and the latest-generation MBUX infotainment system. There's a race-style AMG Performance steering wheel and sports seats in black ARTICO man-made leather, also trimmed with DINAMICA microfibre in an AMG design with red contrasting topstitching and an AMG badge. As with other E-Class models, the two displays for the instrument cluster and multimedia displays blend beneath a shared glass cover to form the Widescreen Cockpit. The customer can choose between the three AMG display styles "Modern Classic", "Sport" and "Supersport" for the instrument cluster. The "Supersport" mode is particularly striking with a central, round rev counter and additional information presented in the form of bars to the left and right of the rev counter. Practical issues are as with an ordinary E-Class of course. Rear seat space is generous. And the saloon model offers a 540-litre boot, with folding rear seat backs able to extend that further if need be. As before, the E-Class estate is the biggest station wagon in the full-sized Executive segment, offering up to 1,820-litres of total fresh air.
The E 53 4MATIC+ Saloon and Estate models come in two levels of trim, with prices that are pitched at around £65,500 for the standard 'Premium' version and around £69,000 for the plusher 'Night Edition Premium Plus' variant. You can also get Coupe and Cabriolet versions of this E 53 model for a few thousand more. As you'd expect for this kind of money, equipment levels are generous. As well as AMG Body styling, you get 19-inch AMG alloy wheels, AMG Ride Control damping with AIR BODY CONTROL air suspension and an AMG Performance exhaust system Inside, the nappa leather sports seats are power-operated and fitted out with red belts and a memory package. There's also the Mercedes 'Widescreen Cockpit' screen package that bonds together a 12.3-inch MBUX centre-dash infotainment screen with a digital instrument cluster layout of the same size. In addition, there's a wireless charging mat and black open-pore ash wood trim. Stretch to 'Night Edition Premium Plus' trim and Mercedes will give you larger 20-inch 5-twin-spoke AMG alloy wheels, a black-themed body kit, a panoramic glass sunroof, rear privacy glass and a 13-speaker 590-watt 9-channel Burmester surround sound system.
The E 53's engine is embellished with a bit of mild hybrid tech which sees an EQ Boost starter-alternator motor mounted between the engine and the 9-speed gearbox. It's a key component of the 48-Volt on-board electrical system. The mild hybrid system adds another 16kW (or around 20hp) of boost to the total power output and 250Nm of extra torque and has been designed for maximum energy recuperation and the virtually imperceptible restarting of the engine with the start/stop function. There's also a gliding mode that disconnects the engine from the gearbox at a cruise. This powertrain also incorporates an exhaust gas after-treatment system mounted near the engine and a standard-fit particulate filter, the only part of the exhaust system that's under the floor. You shouldn't get your hopes up to much for the difference all this will make; the WLTP combined cycle fuel reading is up to 30.4mpg for the saloon (up to 29.4mpg for the estate); and the WLTP-rated CO2 return is up to 212g/km for a 'Premium'-spec saloon (it's up to 216g/km for a 'Premium'-spec estate. For the 'Night Edition Premium Plus' saloon, it's 215g/km and for the equivalent estate, it's 219g/km. Insurance is group 43E.
Do you really need a faster, more luxurious full-Executive sector performance saloon or estate than this? Probably not. That won't prevent this E 53 4MATIC+ model from being a super-rare sight on our roads though. But if you're fortunate enough to be considering one, that'll be all part of the appeal. It's very, very fast and the estate version is significantly more practical than either an Audi S6 Avant or a BMW 540i Touring. There are even Coupe and Cabriolet versions if you want a more exclusive feel. Thanks to 4MATIC AWD, AMG Ride Control and the AMG Speedshift gearbox, this improved E 53 feels more dynamic than any AMG-fettled E-Class model before it bar the wild V8 E 63. You could spend twice as much as Mercedes is asking here and not really better what this car can offer in terms of performance, dynamic ability, luxury and even exclusivity. If you don't feel the need to and find yourself in the market for a very quick, very plush luxury saloon or estate, then this one might be hard to ignore.