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The 2021 Mercedes-AMG E 53 gets real performance, not just a badge


David Booth

Mercedes’ mid-level AMG upgrades have always been, let’s say, a little less than exotic. Oh, once you move all the way up to the performance division’s booming V8s, you know you’re in something special. But some of its lesser models have appeared to be more badge than bump (in performance).

The latest E 53 4Matic Coupe and Cabriolet seem like more.

Take the new 3.0-litre engine. Now a mainstay in Mercedes lineup, its six pistons are no longer arranged in a vee, but are all in one single line, just like BMW’s famed six. That does it make it longer – compact dimensions are the main attributes of a V6 – but reduces costs (one cylinder head to produce instead of two) and can be modular (a 2.0-litre inline four can be easily jacked up into a 3.0-litre inline six and vice-versa).

But one of the main reasons to love an inline-six, apart from their inherent lack of vibration – an I6 is theoretically perfectly balanced – is their glorious sound. Even in this day of forced induction and electrification, an inline-six is one sweet-singing engine.

And, in fact, AMG’s latest rendition of Mercedes’ I6 has all those modern attributes, too. Its main power-producing addition is a now-commonplace turbocharger, but turbos tend to have a bit of lag in their throttle response, don’t they? So, Mercedes goes one better by torque-filling the bottom end of the 3.0L’s powerband with a supercharger.

But this is no ordinary supercharger. It’s electrically powered – as opposed to a traditional belt-drive supercharger or even an exhaust-driven turbo – to eliminate lag, delivering immediate and powerful low-end torque.

 

Officially, Mercedes says the “electric auxiliary compressor builds up a high charge pressure without delay for a faster increase in torque for acceleration until the large exhaust gas turbocharger is deployed.” It all adds up to a more-than-healthy 384 foot-pounds at just 1,800 rpm; while pushing max power to 429 hp at 6,100 rpm.

The engine is also electrified, AMG keeping the E 450’s EQBoost belt-alternator-starter “mild” hybrid system, which Mercedes says adds 21 hp and 184 lb.-ft. for short bursts. Add it all up and the E 53 AMG Coupe can scoot to 100 kilometres an hour in just 4.6 seconds, while the slightly heavier convertible needs 0.2 seconds more.

In standard trim, the E 53, like the lesser E 450, is limited to 210 km/h. However, if you opt for AMG’s Driver’s package, you can squeeze out a full 250 km/h. Thankfully, the brakes – 370-mm cross-drilled and vented discs squeezed by four-piston calipers up front – are more than up to the job.

The E-Class 53 certainly looks more aggressive, the AMG’s “Panamerica” grille seeming especially predatory. All louvres and slats with a gorgeous curvaceous splitter, one can’t help wonder if this is what Lexus was after when it designed its a-little-over-the-top spindle grille. Powerdomes on the hood reinforce the appearance this is not an E-Class to be trifled with.

Like the lesser E 450s, the E 53 combines two 12.3-inch screens to create what Mercedes calls a “widescreen cockpit.” Configurable, the AMGs offer three display styles: “Modern Classic,” “Sport” and “Supersport” for the instrument cluster. Being a performance variant, there are also specific data that can be displayed via the AMG menu: engine information, gear speed indicator, warm-up, set-up, a G-meter and a Racetimer stopwatch.

 

There are also now five Dynamic Select drive modes available: Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual. Like all such Mercedes programs, the performance of the new 53-series models can be modified at the brush of a finger, the individual modes customizing the response of the engine, transmission, suspension and steering according to the driver’s needs.

Of course, there’s also an M button so you can work the nine-speed tranny manually, and there’s yet another separate AMG Dynamics system that modifies the response of the Electronic Stability Program and all-wheel-drive system to suit. That “fully variable” 4Matic system is also available with a Track Package, which includes a RACE program with a Drift Mode. In other words, the E 53s, both Cabriolet and Coupe, can be set from mild or wild, your choice but a few flicks of a button away.

The 2021 E 53 Coupes and Cabriolets will be available in the last quarter of 2020 or the first part of next year, that uncertainty due, of course, to the coronavirus.

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