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£64,945 when new
53? Aye. A semi-skimmed AMG’d E-Class Estate, if you like, to the E63’s double cream and E450’s milky water. It replaces the short-lived E43, and is more or less the same save for one, essential element – the drivetrain. The 43 had a bi-turbo V6, but the 53 pairs a turbocharged straight-six from Mercedes’ new family of engines with a small electric motor that gives additional power, torque and theoretically, miles per gallon. Get geeky. That engine is the same one you get in the S500, as well as every other Merc with a 450 or 53 badge on the back. By itself it makes 429bhp and 384lb ft, but the 48-volt electrical system’s electric motor, which separates the engine from the nine-speed automatic gearbox, adds bursts of 21bhp and 184lb ft as you need them. Naturally, power is sent to all four wheels – no 63-style rear-drive drift mode here, I’m afraid. . The result is 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and 155mph, from a 2.1 tonne estate car. That’s only a whisker slower than a (admittedly rear-drive) 6.2-litre V8 E63 could manage about eight years ago.
Blimey, that’s quick. It is, although the E53 never feels especially fast. Left in Comfort mode it wafts about like a big diesel, preferring higher gears and low revs. It won’t kick down unless you give it a proper bootful, either. Doesn’t need to, because the electric motor gives all its torque from no revs, and its 184lb ft is all you need to breathe past the peasants in their family hatchbacks. It’s all very effortless, very serene. And that’s kind of a shame, because the E53 actually sounds really nice. Basically silent, until you start to push it. But then it’s arguably better than most modern, six-cylinder BMWs. Your passengers might even think it’s supercharged, such is the whine from all the electricity whizzing about behind the dashboard. But what if I want to go fast? Naturally there are sportier modes, though we never went near them. Well, we did once. You should too, until you figure out how to set your own and save it under the Individual tab. Then you can have manual gears and a fighty engine but with the soft(ish) suspension that works oh-so well in Britain. So configured, the E53 properly grips, even with the ESP in half-off Sport mode. The steering’s alright too, with a bit of weight to it we weren’t necessarily expecting. Meanwhile the gearbox responds quickly to flicks of the cold, metal paddles. And pops on the upshifts and crackles on the overrun, manufactured as they are, never fail to amuse. This is one of those cars where you, the driver, seldom realise how quick you’re travelling. A combination of the refinement/silence typical of a big Merc, plus a bit more power than usual is a recipe for an extended stay at Her Majesty’s pleasure. Seriously, best spec the heads-up display, or you’ll find yourself in licence-losing territory alarmingly often. Bet it’s expensive. £63,835 isn’t outrageous money. The E53 is a lot of car, and it’s not as though Mercedes is skimping on standard kit. An E63 is £30K more expensive, remember, before you start in on the options list. That said, the 53 is not a cut-price 63. It’s its own thing, philosophically and practically different. A plush, techy, spacious estate that happens to grip and go rather well. An S4, to the E63’s RS4. Closer to a regular E-Class than it is an E63, but nonetheless amusing. worthwhile, and no doubt a tremendous thing to biff about in day-to-day. An appealing version of an already very appealing car.