The Mercedes-AMG E53 Coupe is kind of a standalone offering in the luxury space. Sure, other carmakers build compact and full-size premium coupes, but Mercedes is the only one that sells a two-door in the midsize segment.
Thankfully, the AMG E53 is appealing for much more than its just-right size.
The AMG E53 Coupe is powered by a velvety, yet racy-sounding 3.0-liter, turbocharged, inline-six-cylinder engine. Paired with Mercedes' EQ Boost mild-hybrid system -- which adds 21 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque to the party -- the powerplant's 429 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque feels like it's in a hurry to get to the wheels, forcefully shoving turbo lag out of the way.
Mercedes says the E53 scoots to 60 miles per hour in 4.3 seconds, with the help of 4Matic+ all-wheel drive that expertly doles all that thrust to the pavement. On the way up to high speeds, the nine-speed automatic transmission cracks off shifts in a flash, but is glass-smooth when you're just cruising.
Once the road starts to bend, the Benz continues to rise to the occasion. The steering is weighted just right, with appropriate heft befitting of a powerful car. That said, there isn't as much feedback through the wheel as you'd expect in a sports car, but for a big luxury coupe with sporty pretensions, I think the level of steering feel is just right.
The 4,000-plus-pound, 190.6-inch-long E53 is an imposing machine, but AMG gave it a proper regimen of dancing lessons. The coupe's suspension tuning makes the car eager to attack the twisties, with the AMG air suspension keeping body motions at a minimum when I want to chuck the E53 into a tight corner. At the same time, the Mercedes offers a ride that's always comfortable.
When bringing this big, German slab to a halt, the competency continues. Meaty 14.6-inch brake rotors up front and 14.2-inch units at the rear help the AMG stop with plenty of confidence matched with appropriate pedal modulation.
Even with all its sporty merits, the AMG E53, brings respectable efficiency to the table. According to EPA estimates, the E53 is good for 21 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg highway. After 419 miles of testing, I fell on the lower end of those figures, netting just 21.9 mpg. But I blame that thirstier figure on the mellifluous straight-six exhaust note that gets louder in the E53's sportier drive modes, and at the top end of the engine's rev range.
In da Club
Mercedes-Benz front fascias aren't my favorite -- to my eyes, they look like swept-back, blob-like headlights flanking an overtly erect grille pair as well as eating an orange after brushing your teeth. (Other Roadshow staffers agree, though it's worth noting that some think I'm crazy.) Aside from the nose, though, the E53 Coupe's overall design is handsome. My favorite bits are the graceful roofline arc, the simply sculpted coupe shape and the the rounded-off rear that proves simple taillight designs can still be striking. Despite this car's healthy stature, there's only 10 cubic feet of trunk space, but the rear seats are split-folding if you're looking to fill the extra-spacious rear row.
Step inside the AMG E53, and you'll be treated to one of the plushest interiors on the market. Two standard 12.3-inch displays -- one ahead of the driver and one atop of the center stack -- create a future-forward style, complemented by a leather-lined cabin that matches its sumptuous looks with lavish comfort.
The E53's seats, no matter which one of the four you choose, are endlessly supportive, looking especially fetching in the black-and-red Nappa leather of this test car. The $1,320 massaging front seats certainly aren't a necessity, but I relished the extra entertainment they offered my astern section during a traffic-riddled, Saturday afternoon drive back to LA from Santa Barbara.
My ears were plenty entertained, too, thanks to the E53's optional, 23-speaker Burmester 3D-Surround Sound. It's an impressive setup, for sure, but I'm not convinced it's worth an extra $4,550 over the standard, 13-speaker Burmester audio system that I'm willing to bet sounds just fine. Still, the upgraded audio is a nice way to fill the E53's otherwise-tranquil cabin, while also complementing its technology features.
With a starting price of $73,700 plus $995 for destination, the AMG E53 comes with a fair amount of standard tech such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, embedded navigation, HD radio and an SD card reader. Mercedes even throws in wireless device charging, NFC phone pairing and a free month of in-car Wi-Fi.
Standard driver-assistance tech includes car-to-X communication, pedestrian-detecting collision-mitigation braking, blind-spot monitoring, a driver attention monitor and rain-sensing wipers. The E53 also features optional forward cross-traffic collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic alert, evasive steering assist, blind-spot collision prevention, automated lane-changing, a 360-degree camera and automated parallel parking.
My $96,285 tester is pretty much fully loaded. It boasts adaptive cruise control that can pause up to 30 seconds in stopped traffic before canceling, rather than the more common three-second pause. The adaptive cruise control can also adjust its set velocity according to local speed limits and even in anticipation of curves in the road ahead, but my example's lane-centering tech doesn't feel as advanced. In fact, I rarely ever keep steering assistance engaged because rather than helping me track clean lines on gently curving highways, the steering assist has a tendency to want to fight me so that it can ping-pong in the lane instead.
How I'd spec it
I'd start by upgrading from the standard 19-inch wheels to a set of 20s. For just $750, that's a reasonable cost of entry into the "rollin' on dubs" aristocracy. Next, I'd add the $800 exterior lighting package featuring automatic high-beams.
Adding the $1,050 Warmth & Comfort Package (heated steering wheel, rapid front-seat heating and heated front armrests) necessitates the $1,320 massaging front seats, as well as the $2,990 Nappa upholstery. I'm a sucker for illuminated door sills, so there goes another $350. I'd also spring for Mercedes' Energizing Comfort Package that can tailor your audio playlist, climate control, ambient lighting and even cabin aroma to suit your mood. The $550 package also includes Air Balance cabin-air purification and ionization. At first, I thought it was a gimmick, but after trying it out for just a few minutes, I fell in love with my sense of smell all over again.
Front seat ventilation adds another $450, while the head-up display will set you back $990. Say "yes" to the $2,250 Driver Assistance Package for the advanced adaptive cruise control and other driver aids. The $1,290 Parking Assistance Package allows the car to automatically parallel park. Last but not least, I'd get the $1,250 AMG Performance Exhaust. That all amounts to $88,735 out the door -- $7,550 less than my tester.
Pampering, not frivolous
The E53 Coupe, meanwhile, can give you much of the satisfaction of the $100,000-plus 8 Series or LC, but for a much lower starting price. Even when well-equipped, you can still save a huge chunk of change with the E53 versus the BMW or Lexus.
Of course, a personal luxury coupe is not the most practical purchase, and to that end, Mercedes makes an E53 sedan, or you can go full-lifestyle-machine and get the E53 Cabriolet. But if you can convince yourself that the E53 allows for serious pampering while saving a bunch of money over a similar luxury rival, that should be enough to quash any feelings of frivolity.