TRACK TESTED: 2021 Mercedes-AMG E 53 Is Only AMG-ish, and That's OK

TRACK TESTED: 2021 Mercedes-AMG E 53 Is Only AMG-ish, and That's OK

Well-rounded performance for drivers who aren't expecting more

  • Ultra-smooth inline-six gets some more juice but is still missing two cylinders.
  • The brakes aren't massive but offer drama-free stopping power.
  • Just keep telling yourself it's not a sports car and you'll be happy.

If the idea of an AMG-tuned coupe has smoky powerslides and a rumbling V8 running through your brain, you might have a hard time processing the Mercedes-AMG E 53. Unlike the typical offerings from AMG, there's no thumping V8 under the hood. Nor are there giant wheels with ultra-sticky performance tires or any flared fenders or muscle-y body work.

Instead, AMG has left the coupe's standard buttery-smooth inline-six largely intact, giving it only a modest bump in power. The brakes have been slightly upgraded, as have the tires, and the suspension has been retuned a bit, too. So, a traditional AMG coupe it isn't, but does that mean the E 53 isn't worthy of the badge? We took it to our test track to find out.

You'll hardly notice the missing two cylinders

You'd expect the addition of 67 horsepower and 15 lb-ft (for a total of 429 hp and 384 lb-ft) to get the E 53 off the line a bit quicker than the standard E 450 Coupe, and you'd be right. While there's no official launch control for the E 53 (you don't get a fancy setting and special message on the screen), the nine-speed transmission does let you power-brake the engine up to about 2,500 rpm before releasing the brake pedal and letting it rip. Making the most of that additional horsepower is the standard all-wheel-drive system, which helps propel the AMG-ish coupe to 60 in a scant 4.3 seconds (4.0 seconds if you use a 1-foot rollout like other publications do).

But that strong acceleration starts to taper off once you speed past 80 mph, and even though the E 53 crosses the quarter mile in a respectable 12.6 seconds, it does so at a somewhat less snappy 107.5 mph. Still, acceleration at higher speeds might be the only place where you'll really wish this car had the more typical AMG powerplant: a twin-turbo V8. Otherwise, the inline-six and its trick electric EQ Boost system get it going quickly and smoothly.

Focus on the feel, not the distance

Stopping and turning in the E 53 are likewise AMG-ish experiences. Weighing in on our scales at a somewhat portly (for a coupe) 4,465 pounds, the E 53's modestly sized tires certainly have their work cut out. Our test car was rolling on Pirelli P Zero rubber in the run-flat specification with 245/35 R20s up front and 275/30 R20s in the back.

Panic stops from 60 mph peaked at a respectable 115 feet. Again, that AMG badge led us to believe the distances might be about 10 feet shorter, but every stop from the E 53 Coupe was arrow-straight with excellent stability. The ABS calibration deserves special mention here. It's rare to find a vehicle where the entire braking system feels perfectly matched to the tires and their available grip. ABS noise, vibration and even intervention were minimal, which gives the driver of the E 53 supreme confidence during a sudden stop.

Just keep telling yourself it's not a sports car

The E 53 AMG offers fairly impressive levels of grip so long as you don't push it too hard. During our skidpad testing, the E 53 showed excellent steering response and a crisp turn-in that made the somewhat heavy coupe feel considerably lighter and smaller than it really is. With a skidpad number of 0.94 g, it's clear there's a good amount of grip on tap, but the closer you get to the limit, the less impressive the E 53 becomes.

Specifically, the all-wheel-drive system doesn't feel particularly sport-tuned, and the E 53 begins to feel heavy and a bit ponderous. Moderate understeer is the predominant handling trait, which is safe, but we wish the AMG connection would have added a bit of dynamic capability. All of that said, driving the E 53 down a twisty road at a brisk pace is very enjoyable and reveals the true nature of this luxury coupe.

Edmunds Says

The AMG badge on the E 53 Coupe isn't exactly misleading, but don't expect the typical fire-breathing performance that usually comes with a vehicle from Affalterbach. Instead, the E 53 retains all of its luxurious civility but benefits from just a little bit of extra performance all around thanks to a more powerful engine, grippier tires and upgraded brakes. We still wish it had a V8, but it's a well-rounded and satisfying drive nonetheless.

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