If the level of art is in how it will be appreciated over time, then the 2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG E 53 Coupe could be a masterpiece. Every time I sat in the driver’s seat of a recently tested test car, a new element made me appreciate the thoughtful attention to the design. And just before they came to take it away, I had to do a quick spin in the kind of drizzle the filmmakers use to project grief.
Better to have loved and lost.
It’s not perfect, no love, but this successor to the E 43 proves you don’t have to do everything with one AMG E 63 to get equal parts performance thrills and luxury bells and whistles.
Hit: EQ reinforces inline 6 motor
From a stop, the AMG E 53 tires chirp and spit stone as if it were only offended by pavement. The turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 puts out 429 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque, which is good enough to make your stomach drop and smile back. Mercedes-AMG cites a 60-mile mark of 4.3 seconds, and the lack of turbo lag confirms this.
AMG uses a mild hybrid called the EQ Boost system that combines a starter and an alternator sandwiched between the transmission and the engine. The engine delivers a burst of torque as the turbocharger winds in from the engine exhaust adding 21 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Together with the 48-volt battery, the mild hybrid is more powerful and efficient than its E 43 predecessor. It gets 21 mpg city, 28 highway, 23 combined with standard all-wheel drive, compared to 19/21/25 mpg in the 2018 E 43. This, along with the smooth ride delivered by standard air suspension, makes the E. 53 a great touring coupé with countless performance-enhancing grins.
Miss: 9-speed automatic transmission
The only way to compromise performance is with the 9-speed automatic transmission. It switches faster than any manual, but overwrites all flirtations with the red line, even in sports mode. Downshifting from 8th to 6th to overtake highways requires a few quick movements from the paddles. At this point the transmission hesitates. Waiting for the transmission to downshift is even longer. It’s a minor point of contention and only applies to the extremes on the performance side. In normal driving it is buttery smooth, seamless and quiet. 2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG E 53 Coupé
Hit: coupe style
Mercedes combines the lavish tour and the eager performance of the E 53 in an inconspicuous but elegant coupé package. I haven’t tested the sedan or the convertible, but the coupé’s refined yet restrained design would be easy to dismiss for passers-by. Subtle hints signal what is under the Mercedes performance department, such as a double-leaf radiator grille that bisects the nose, chrome-plated air inlets on the sides and four exhaust pipes. It’s sleek in the style of a coupe, but it doesn’t necessarily stand out until you get inside.
2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG E 53 Coupé
Hit: cabin design
My AMG E 53 tester was conservative on the outside, conspicuous on the inside: the combination can be a hit or a failure, depending on personality type. Every passenger will know that you are operating on a different plane as soon as they board. You feel special in the cabin and it is almost impossible not to run your fingertips over the contrasting textures, from the nappa-wrapped AMG performance steering wheel in all its clunky quality to the aluminum dashboard trim with knobs that surrounds the turbine-shaped ventilation slots . The black-on-white AMG sport seats looked like a tuxedo, but fitted like sweatpants and had enough adjustments (including a thigh extender) to achieve just the right level of comfort for the type of driving. The power sliding front seats provide ample space for adult passengers to jump backwards, although passengers in the rear seats do not have access to control their own windows.
To be clear, the coupe fits four reasonably sized people, not so much your 6-foot overgrown orangutans. Cup holders between the back seats add a higher level of civilization.
Some of my colleagues are less impressed with the smudge-proof, piano-black plastic that dominates the wide center console. Another starting point for my colleagues is my appreciation for the dial for the 12.3-inch screen instead of a touchscreen. With all the options offered by Mercedes, the infotainment system has many menus and submenus. However, knowing the design logic and the various functions of the controller makes it easy to find what you need without ever straying from that position of convenience. The rotary control remains stuck in the E 53 for the time being, although Mercedes is changing its setup to touchscreens.
Miss: $ 20,000 in options
Boy, are there options to play with on this screen, from heated armrests with quick heated seats ($ 1,050) to massage seats ($ 950) to a driver assistance package ($ 2,250) that is so smart is that the adaptive cruise control will automatically slow down and there will be less speed limit signs. Some might say that the updated Burmester 3D surround sound system offers $ 4,550 overkill over the standard Burmester system, but when you bring out the Led (Zeppelin) there is no question which system is your overlord.
Turn the sound, step on the pedal, and a work of art has never felt so visceral.
2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG E 53 Coupé
Base price: $ 75,955 (including $ 995 destination)
Price as tested: $ 96,645
Powertrain: 429 hp 3.0-liter turbocharger Inline-6 with 9-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive
EPA fuel economy: 21/28/23 mpg
The hits: Engine, coupe style, cabin design.
The misses: Transmission, extensive expensive options.