by Deiondre van der Merwe
Mercedes-Benz has been in existence long enough to merit having near flawless vehicles in production in 2020; the Mercedes-AMG E53 Coupe is one of them. The two-door luxury coupe impresses by many margins, with a new 429-horsepower hybrid inline-six engine producing enough thrust to haul you from 0-60 in 4.3 seconds, while the immaculate cabin ensures that the sprint is completed in utter luxury. It cements itself as a worthy competitor against the Lexus LC 500, and for good reason, with it boasting a barrage of favorable features that are shared with the S-Class. As one of a new generation of hybrid AMG models, the E53 flies the AMG banner high, and in our opinion, the circa-$75,000 coupe may just be the best coupe the German brand produces.
What do you give a car that already has everything? Not much. Mercedes-AMG adds very minor changes to its E53 for 2020, with the addition of some new standard features. Slippery mode now supports the coupe in rainy weather, while 'Emotion Start' brings a louder exhaust note when started. Newly optional features include a matte fiberglass trim option and two new performance steering wheels for extra flash, while illuminated door sills have been made standard.
See trim levels and configurations:
The 2020 E53 boasts the same sassy exterior as 2019 and carries classic E-Class regalia in the form of an unmistakable twin-blade grille flanked by a sharp set of full-LED headlights for the front end. Tracing the lines of the well-endowed body to the back sees four gleaming exhaust tips poke out smartly beneath a set of slim-line full-LED taillights; the rear end is nicely topped off with a barely-there spoiler in true less-is-more fashion. A tinted panoramic sunroof is housed in the roof of the coupe, and the entire glamor-fest rides on 19-inch AMG wheels.
In terms of size, the E53 rests between the Lexus LC 500 and the Mercedes-Benz S Class, but shares a similar wheelbase with the former wheelbase of 113.1 inches. At a length of 190.6 inches, it's 7.5 inches shorter than the S Class Coupe and has a body width of 73.2 inches. With a curb weight of 4,429 lbs, the E53 is slightly heavier than the LC 500. 4.7 inches is all the daylight you'll see under the E53, while it stands 56.3 inches tall.
The body of the E53 isn't the only thing that's particularly well-endowed on the Merc and the coupe relies on an electrically-assisted turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six that drives a nine-speed automatic transmission effortlessly. After a nearly two-decade hiatus from building straight-six engines, the new mill is a sublime return to form, developing 429 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque thanks to a conventional turbo and an electric turbo/air compressor. The system is further supplemented by a 48-volt mild hybrid system dubbed EQ Boost, not only powering the compressor, but adding an extra 21 hp and 184 lb-ft as torque-fill when necessary. Power is sent to all corners thanks to an AMG-tuned 4MATIC+ AWD system.
It's a perfectly blended powertrain with quick take-up, a 0-60 mph sprint of 4.3 seconds, and nearly imperceptible changeovers between various forms of boost and electrical assistance. The nine-speed is smooth and adept at selecting the right gear, but despite sharpening up in sportier drive modes, it always lacks the snappiness of a dual-clutch automatic. Our only real gripe with the powertrain is that the six-pot lacks the fire and fury we've come to associate with AMG in the audio department.
The ultimate decision between a glued-down and harsher ride versus a more comfortable (but still not pillowy) journey is up to you every time you climb into the E53, with variable damper modes at your disposal. But with AMG tuning, the coupe doesn't exactly sail over bumps, although it certainly provides comfort that can be lived with, which is partly thanks to its standard air suspension. Larger bumps do tend to permeate the cabin quite sharply, however, but milder corrugations are easily filtered out.
However, where the AMG tuning has done the E53 wonders is in its direct steering. It might not drip with feedback, but there's a good amount of weight and a good sense of direction, while the composed body motions help maintain a sense that it can slingshot through corners with alacrity.
The Merc does the best it can to be economical in a segment that isn't generally known for being friends of the earth. The performance coupe brings to the table EPA estimates of 21/28/23 mpg city/highway/combined, which is a generous improvement over the Lexus LC 500's 16/25/19 mpg figures. The E53 is more fuel-savvy than its larger, more powerful cousin, the Mercedes-AMG S63, but that's quite easily predictable. When the 17.4-gallon fuel tank is topped up with premium unleaded, you can expect around 400 miles with mixed driving conditions.
Mercedes never leaves a stone unturned when it comes to the inside of its luxury vehicles, and the E53 continues to drive this reputation with premium materials swathing the interior from front to back. There's enough space for comfort in the front, but its four-passenger claim is better off ignored and it's wiser to view the coupe as a two-seater with some extra luggage space behind the front seats. Aggressively sport-focused and heated seats are great for the intimate embraces in and out of bends, but could be a little strenuous on longer journeys. Nevertheless, multi-way power-adjustable front seats with four-way lumbar support allow the driver to find a position of comfort with great visibility. Ingress and egress into the treacherous back seats is at least an easy task, thanks to the front seats' power-slide ability, but the sloping roofline means you'll still need to duck.
Point in the direction of a coupe that manages an overly useful trunk capacity - there really aren't many at all. The E53 shrinks its trunk space from the 13.1 cubic feet on offer by its sedan sibling down to 10 cubic feet. This seems small, and it is, until you have a look at the Lexus LC 500's shrimpy 5.4 cubic-foot trunk that's likely to put up a fight if you plan on going anywhere for longer than an hour or two. The E53 can still comfortably fit in a couple of shopping bags or a set of golf clubs, and the rear seats are foldable in a pinch. General storage space in the coupe isn't overly useful, but small door pockets are enough to fit a smartphone or two in and there are two cup holders in the back. A decent-sized glove box comes in handy if you're in a pinch, a does a fairly large bin beneath the center armrest.
As expected from a car that costs upwards of $70,000, the E53 comes with a barrage of standard features, and not much is absent from the list. A panoramic sunroof and remote start are both standard features along with push-button start, dual-zone climate control and power-adjustable front seats with memory. A gorgeous multifunction steering wheel and heated seats are part of the long list as well as heated seats and 64-color ambient lighting. Standard driver-assist features are generous and include active brake assist, blind spot monitoring, crosswind assist, and pre-safe with pre-safe sound technology that emits 'pink noise' when an impact is imminent to protect the ears of passengers. Attention assist and vision control are also standard. The additional Driver Assistance Package adds loads more to the safety features list, notably including lane-keep assist, lane-change assist, cross-traffic alert, emergency stop assist and route-based speed adaptation. There's also an optional parking assist package too, for rear cross-traffic alter, active parking assist, and a surround-view monitor.
The inside of the cabin is a fully-digital hub of modern technology and doesn't leave much to be desired, with two large 12.3-inch screens making an appearance. One screen is utilized as a digital instrument cluster and the other is the epicenter of tech in the Merc and makes way for full smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, though a head-up display can be opted for if you're willing to fork out an extra $1,500. Merc's COMAND system can be controlled using the control pad in the center console, or via controls on the steering wheel. Navigation, wireless charging, and enhanced voice control are standard features. Bluetooth streaming, HD Radio, and SiriusXM are brought to life via a 13-speaker Burmester sound system, though a premium 23-speaker surround-sound system can be equipped for an additional $6,900.
The 2020 Mercedes-AMG E53 coupe has not been at the center of one recall so far, and no recalls were issued for the 2019 model. Should you encounter any trouble with your E-Class , Mercedes offers a four-year or 50,000-mile basic warranty as well as a powertrain warranty for the same period of time or mileage limit. Roadside assistance is also part of the package.
Neither the IIHS or NHTSA have crash-tested the E53 coupe, and we get it, taking $70,000 and hurling it through a wall isn't our idea of a good time either. However, its sibling, the E-Class sedan, bagged a 2019 Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS and given that they're based on a lot of the same fundamentals, we're going to go out on a limb and suggest the E53 boasts great safety, too. A seven-airbag system is hosted by the coupe inclusive of dual-front, front side, driver's knee, and side curtain airbags, and the bountiful standard safety features found on the Merc are inclusive of blind spot monitoring, a collision-mitigation system dubbed "Pre-Safe", crosswind assist, driver-attention assist, and car-to-X communication, to mention but a few.
The Merc does well at almost everything and any of its downfalls are negatives that are experienced by the segment as a whole. The glitzy coupe is like that kid in your math class that just knew how to do the equation without even trying, and it'll do everything you ask of it with Dobby-like eagerness. A mixture of that powerful turbocharged six-pot, nearly imperceptible transmission, and the relentless all-wheel drive makes this coupe a paragon in the segment, and its flawless interior just seals the deal entirely. Its small flaws are easily overlooked, because well, they're small. Perhaps the only thing we'd want from it is a little bit of a softer ride and some extra trunk space, and perhaps a more audible exhaust note, but even in those categories, it beats many of its rivals. It's certainly a commendable choice if you have your heart set on this segment, and with competition few and far between, the E53 Coupe is a solid choice.
A hefty MSRP of $74,950 accompanies the Mercedes-AMG E53 coupe, but the price can hike up even further in the blink of an eye when some additional extras are added. On the interior side of things, a Warmth and Comfort Package adds a heated steering wheel and a heated front armrest for an extra $1,050. The Driver-Assistance Package adds must-haves like steering-assist, lane-keep assist, and lane-change assist for an additional $2,250 and Parking Assistant adds a surround-view system and rear cross-traffic alert for $1,290.
There is only one trim available for the E53 Coupe, but if you want some customization, you can easily load on some packages from the array that Mercedes makes available for the coupe. We'd opt for the Driver Assistance Package for some extra safety, at the cost of $1,290 and opting for the $1,100 head-up display is a must to maximize the digital feel of the cabin. For the exterior, the Lunar Blue exterior paint is worth adding for $720, as well as the 20-inch AMG wheels for an extra $720. With all of these added goodies, you end up with a final asking price of $78,780.
Coming in at an asking price of $92,950, the LC 500 is much more expensive than the E53, but offers a great deal of extra power from its 5.0-liter V8 to the tune of 471 hp and 398 lb-ft, which surpasses the E53 enough for it to be noticeable - but perhaps not enough to warrant the budget-annihilating fuel economy for an extra 40 or so horsepower over the Merc. Things also look better from the inside of the German, which comes as no surprise given Mercedes' stellar interior reputation. The E53 has a much more manageable trunk compared to the LC 500's tiny 5.4 cubic feet offering with nearly double that amount. The LC 500 is definitely easier on the eyes from an exterior point of view, and screams GT car in a way that the E53 doesn't, but considering the minimal power difference for the large price difference, as well as the Merc offering more in terms of its interior, space and fuel economy, we're going to go with the AMG on this one.
The S560 Coupe offers more power from its twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 along with a much, much bigger price tag, with an MSRP that is over $55,000 heavier than that of the E53. Though the two are related, they're worlds apart. The S-Class boasts an extremely luxurious interior, and you can imagine how much glitz would be necessary to outshine the E53. Fuel economy takes a dive in the S Class, thanks to its bigger engine, and the bigger Merc has EPA estimates of 17/26/20 mpg, which is also thanks to its larger, heavier body. You'll get an extra 4.1 cubic feet of trunk space in the S-Class, and a whole lot more standard features, but keeping in mind the price, the choice between the two Mercs ultimately depends on your budget. The E53 offers a premium experience as a performance coupe, but if you have a whole lot of extra money you're willing to spend, the S-Class is worth considering as a luxury grand tourer.
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