by Gerhard Horn
To understand the existence of the Mercedes-AMG E53 sedan, we need to take you back to 2003 and the introduction of the E55 sedan. AMG had done some work with Mercedes before, but the E55 was a real headline-grabber. It had a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 producing 469 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, which made it more powerful than the 996 Porsche 911 Turbo of the time. Mercedes wanted a slice of the performance sedan pie - badly. Enough to take a stick of dynamite to a sledgehammer battle.
Enter the horsepower wars. BMW hit back with the now-iconic E60 M5, taking the segment into the 500-hp league. These days, you need more than 600 hp just to enter the competition. It's getting slightly out of hand, really. The point is, the current big-boy E63 S is a lot of car. Too much for some, in fact. That's why Mercedes-Benz had to introduce a series of AMG models sitting between the standard range and the mighty full-fat AMG models. The same thinking applies to the Audi S6 and the BMW M550i xDrive, both of which are positioned below their RS6 Avant/M5 big brothers. Don't think for a second that these models are for the weak and feeble, however. The Mercedes-AMG E53 is equipped with a turbocharged inline-six with mild-hybrid assist producing 429 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque, sufficient for a 0-60 time of under 4.5 seconds. It looks good, has a beautiful interior, and possesses a sleeper car demeanor that will suit a more unassuming clientele.
The 2021 AMG E53 mostly carries over to the 2022 model year. The only differences are the addition of new standard equipment, these being a heated steering wheel and Adaptive Highbeam Assist, both of which were extra-cost options at $250 a pop last year. Finally, there is a new paint color - Nautical Blue Metallic. These changes come with a price increase to $75,000 - $1,100 up on last year's model.
See trim levels and configurations:
|AMG E53 4MATIC Sedan||
3.0L Turbo Inline-6 Gas
You don't get the E63's drift mode, but we don't necessarily see that as a bad thing. Whether it be in a Ford, BMW, Mercedes, or Audi, any drift mode should be called "I want to end up in a YouTube fail compilation" mode, but we're guessing that wouldn't fit on the screen. The E53 sedan does have an adaptive air suspension and an AMG-tuned 4MATIC+ AWD system. The latter is more dynamic than the standard 4MATIC system and won't hesitate to send a decent helping of the power to the rear axle. This isn't a track car, but you do get five driving modes courtesy of the AMG Dynamic Select system: Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual. You lose out on the 63's Race mode and overarching Basic, Advanced, Pro, and Master settings. In short, you don't get the full shot of adrenaline. On the upside, you also don't get the overly firm suspension setup in the bigger brother.
The 2022 Mercedes-AMG E53 has enough dynamic talent to cover ground at an alarming pace. The speed-sensitive steering is accurate, and the AWD system inspires confidence. It's an excellent go-faster machine when the mood strikes. More often than not, you'll simply be commuting home, which should be a cosseting experience in something that wears the three-pointed star. This is where the E53 trounces its bigger brother. Merc's full-fat E63 S also has a Comfort setting, which should have been labeled as "Relatively Comfortable." In the E53, comfort mode does exactly what it says.
The E53 is a well-balanced package - in other words, it does a decent impression of a four-door sports car while still offering the luxurious experience expected of a regular E-Class. Using the logical side of the brain, one might even be tempted to say that it's better than the manic E63 S. Just think of the kind of driving you do daily and how often you get to use more than 600 horses. It doesn't happen that often, and even when it does, the E53 is hardly a slouch. It's a better-balanced car than its bigger brother, which struggles to get the luxury part of the formula right. The E53 also comes with an impressive safety rating, loads of luxury and practicality, and one of the best interiors in the business. It also represents a significant saving over its bigger brother.
Still, buying a car is often an emotional purchase. The same arguments made above can be made using the standard E-Class with its turbocharged four-pot. Prestige matters, and to some, nothing but the mighty 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 will do. We'd be proud to own an E53 - it's a perfectly balanced car with enough performance to satiate our needs.
BMW came to the same realization as Mercedes: The M models were getting so powerful that there was a considerable gap between the standard models and the full-fat M models. That's why it introduced the M Performance models. The BMW M550i xDrive sedan sits between the six-cylinder 540i and the M5. It has a 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 producing a not-insignificant 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. The E53 only has 429 hp and 384 lb-ft, so the difference in performance is quite significant. The BMW gets to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, nearly on par with the M5 and better than the Merc's 4.4 seconds.
The M550i xDrive uses quite a bit more fuel, though, with EPA figures of 17/25/20 mpg to the AMG E53's 22/29/25 mpg, but it strikes a better balance between performance and comfort than the E53. Considering the big gap in performance between these two cars, the BMW's $1,800 higher asking price is insignificant. We'll go for the V8 rumble of the M550i.
The CLS is a prettier E-Class with a coupe-like exterior. It uses the same turbocharged six-pot and can get to 60 mph a split-second faster: it's 4.3 seconds vs 4.4. The rest of the car is the same as well, right down to the 115.7-inch wheelbase and the AMG-tuned AWD system. The CLS also has the newer MBUX infotainment system, but it loses out big time when it comes to practicality. Rear passengers lose more than an inch of headroom and legroom, and the CLS has an 11.9-cube trunk compared to the E53's 13.1-cube trunk. Mercedes charges around $8,000 more for the CLS 53, and the design isn't enough of a reason to go for it. To our eyes, the Mercedes-AMG E53 Sedan looks better anyway.
The most popular competitors of 2022 Mercedes-AMG E53 Sedan: