2019 Mercedes-AMG E53 first drive review: Sweet, electrified six

Though it seems like just about every Mercedes-Benz model gets some sort of AMG treatment, the truth is, until now, the E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet haven't been invited to that party. But that all changes with the 2019 Mercedes-AMG E53. And believe me, these new cars were definitely worth the wait.

The performance

The E53 models use Mercedes' new 3.0-liter turbo I6 engine, delivering 429 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. As in the CLS53 and GT 53 4-Door, this engine uses Mercedes' EQ Boost mild-hybrid system, which provides an additional -- and instantaneous -- 21 horsepower and 184 pound-feet. That means the E53 Coupe can sprint to 60 miles per hour in a scant 4.3 seconds; the Cabriolet does the same run in 4.4.

In addition to providing more oomph, the electric motor quarterbacks the 53's stop-start system that refires the engine with immediacy and employs an electric compressor to build boost and ward off turbo lag. This results in smooth, responsive power delivery. It's especially potent in Sport Plus mode when working with a crisp-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission. To top things off, the I6 engine spits out an ear-pleasing burble through the available AMG performance exhaust -- something I enjoyed over and over again while attacking the curvy roads outside of Austin, Texas.

Around corners, the variable 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, adaptive air suspension and 245/35ZR20 front and 275/30ZR20 rear Yokohama Advan Sport tires keep things tidy with minimal body roll. The E53 Coupe offers a level of grip that's tough to exceed on public roads, and its stout brakes scrub off speed in a hurry. It's certainly no lightweight, the coupe's near-4,200-pound curb weight causing the front to wash out in turns when driven aggressively. The steering also possesses a dead spot on center and is void of much feel and feedback. But for an entertaining commuter car, the E53 is seriously enjoyable.

To visually set itself apart from the regular E450 (all E400 models are now called E450 for 2019, FYI), the E53 gets an AMG-specific hood, front splitter, chrome trim for the grille and lower intakes, specific side sills, more pronounced rear diffuser and quad circular tailpipes. All of it combines for a slightly more aggressive, but still clean and attractive appearance.   

Under the cover is a slick 429-horsepower turbocharged inline six-cylinder.

Jon Wong/Roadshow

The comfort

As fun as it would be to blast down winding roads far away from dense pockets of civilization all day, every day, that's simply not realistic. For those city commutes, pop the E53 into Comfort mode to make the engine, gearbox, suspension and steering behave in a gentler manner.

Accelerating from stops isn't met with the same level of urgency, but the engine still offers respectable shove, and the transmission reprograms to shift smoother, and earlier. The steering gets lighter here, too, which I don't necessarily mind as I creep through city centers, and makes the E53 more agile for maneuvering around bad drivers -- or rogue pedestrians on electric scooters.

The stationary periods do present a chance to appreciate the E53's comfortable, well-bolstered seats and beautiful cabin trimmings. Black leather covers the seats, large portions of the dash and door panels, with red contrast stitching offering a sporty touch. An Alcantara headliner and gloss black trim give the interior a top-shelf feel, and there's a good amount of space for adults in both up front and in back, with a pretty large trunk, too. It may be a coupe, but the E-Class isn't exactly a small car.

The E53's leather-lined cockpit is high on style and comfort.

Jon Wong/Roadshow

The tech

There's no shortage of tech inside, with dual 12.3-inch screens serving as the main gauge cluster and the infotainment display. The E53 uses Mercedes' COMAND system, powering a standard, 13-speaker Burmester audio system (a 23-speaker setup is optional on the coupe), navigation, Bluetooth and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. As in the AMG GT 4-Door, E-Class and S-Class models, the flat-bottom steering wheel uses an intuitive touchpad system to control the digital displays, letting drivers keep their hands on the wheel, where they belong.

To charge up smart devices, a wireless charging pad comes standard in the lower center stack compartment along with a USB port. Two additional USBs are found in the center armrest, and there's also a 12-volt outlet front passenger footwell.

The safety tech menu is robust, though only automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring are standard equipment on E53 models. Features like adaptive cruise control, active blind-spot assist, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, head-up display and 360-degree camera are all available, just as options.

The E53 is capable of having fun on backroads and being a comfy commuter.

Jon Wong/Roadshow

The arrival

When the 2019 Mercedes-AMG E53 Coupe and Cabriolet go on sale late this year, the field of direct competitors will be thin. The E53 Coupe will start at $74,695, and the E53 Cabriolet will come in at $81,345, including $995 destination. They'll basically be in a class all their own, too, since their only real direct competitors, the two-door BMW 6 Series models, have been discontinued.

The E53 models have an impressive range, able to be competent backroad runners one minute and compliant city commuters the next. Throw in a stylish exterior design and a truly gorgeous and luxurious cabin, and you have a pair of long-overdue AMGs that are well worth your consideration.


Editors' note: Roadshow accepts multiday vehicle loans from manufacturers in order to provide scored editorial reviews. All scored vehicle reviews are completed on our turf and on our terms. However, for this feature, the manufacturer covered travel costs. This is common in the auto industry, as it's far more economical to ship journalists to cars than to ship cars to journalists.

The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's editorial team are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.  

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