There was a time not long ago when Mercedes-Benz’s car nomenclature was a simple, straightforward affair with the numerals in a model’s name represented displacement of the engine powering it. But with niches, sub-niches and micro-niches being created to help squeeze out as much yield as possible from each segment, there was no way the naming convention could be kept simple anymore. As AMG got diluted from being an exclusive purveyor of 63s and 65s with hand-built, fire-breathing V8s and V12s to a unit that also offers relatively milder, greener six-cylinder powerplants, we now have Merc-AMG models bearing 43 and 53 badges. While these models might appear to be tame on paper, especially in comparison with their full-blown siblings, in our previous drives, we have found them to be more powerful than their intended uses would require.
This week we have one such car from Mercedes-AMG; the E53 Coupe. The E-Class has always been a firm favourite among mid-size luxury car buyers. And with a number of body types available, including saloon, two-door coupe, convertible, and even an estate version available in most of the markets, there’s an E that could appeal to almost every type of customer. While the saloon variant seems to be the most popular, understandably for its practicality edge, the two-door coupe is by far the best looking of the lot. The silhouette bears striking family resemblance to the larger S-Class and smaller C-Class coupes, and the overall proportions are a perfect blend of elegance and sportiness thanks to the signature AMG grille, bumpers and rear spoiler and the gracefully flowing lines and contours. But those looking for the sharp, heavily flared profile of an E63 could be disappointed as the E53 is less aggressive than a full-blown AMG would typically look.
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Inside too, the layout draws heavily from the S-Class cabin design, with materials and build quality being of expectedly impeccably high levels. It also features the slick Widescreen Cockpit that combines two 12.3-inch displays under one glass cover that flows seamlessly across the dashboard. This adds to the feeling of horizontally expansive roominess in the front compartment, while also making it easy for the driver to glean all the important information from the instrument cluster as well as the infotainment screen at a glance. The perforated brushed metal Burmester speaker grilles, the configurable mood lighting, real wood trim, and plush leather seats all add to the upscale aura of the interior. The two front seats are comfortable on long drives, while the bolsters on either side keep you snugly in place when you carve a corner aggressively. While front seats offer generous leg-, head- and shoulder room, the rear seats are not the most spacious, but then that’s an expected compromise in a two-door coupe. However, the luggage space is good enough and is almost as substantial as in an average saloon.
The star of the show is the engine though, this being an AMG-fettled car. While the AMG E63 S saloon packs 603 horsepower from its V8, the E53 is powered by a 3.0-litre in-line six that makes 435 horsepower and torque of 520Nm. Mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, it propels the coupe from 0-100kph in just 4.4 seconds and can take it to a top speed of 250kph. These figures do not appear as brutal as that of the E63, but the experience behind the wheel is still remarkably exhilarating, aided amply by the loud pops and burbles from the exhaust pipes.
The fully variable torque distribution of the AMG Performance 4Matic+ all-wheel drive system ensures optimal traction, while five drive modes -- “Eco”, “Comfort”, “Sport”, “Sport+” and “Individual” – lets the driver alter the car’s characteristics to suit personal preferences and road and weather conditions.
The E53 is a friendlier, easier-to-manage performance car than the E63. It does fall behind in terms of personality and character compared to the full-blown AMG model, but the truth is the majority of E Class coupe owners will never come close to testing the speed limits or dynamic abilities of this car to the max. In my opinion, the E53 has just the right amount of power, and a well-set-up suspension, making it the perfect mix of performance and style.