Mercedes E-class AMG E53 Estate – long-term review
Goodbye to our E53 wagon: the sensible AMG?
The E53 wasn’t just semi-lairy, it was also a semi-Lifer. An S500 is incoming but until then a few weeks in the 53’s more traditionally AMG 63 S brother has been illuminating. It’s a relatively simple proposition compared to the ‘lesser’ car, with its 604bhp, innate driftiness, and near £100k (before options) cost. Yes, you know where you are with this thing, including its howling soundtrack, rampant pace, and juicy fuel consumption if you insist on regularly opening the taps.
The E53 is much more pragmatic – and enigmatic. Its 3.0-litre straight-six engine is technically fascinating: 429bhp and 384lb ft get a 21bhp and 184lb ft boost from the starter-alternator motor that sits between the engine and gearbox. That’s fed by a 48V system that also feeds an electric compressor to obviate the lag from the turbo. A complex way of maintaining ICE relevance or a rage against the dying of the light.
Efficiency obviously benefits, both in terms of emissions and fuel consumption: 216 CO2s versus 277, while I regularly saw 33 or 34mpg, or more in engine-off coasting Eco mode, which is double what the 63 S delivers in regular use. But then I spent most of the time driving the E53 in a generally mindful manner.
Partly because I didn’t waste any more time on a petrol station forecourt than I needed to (fill-ups from near empty cost up to £110), but more because this has got to be one of the most nuanced cars AMG so far. Its subtleties trumped its sledgehammer qualities, and while I enjoyed knowing it had the potential, I rarely went there.
An overly authoritarian ESP set-up was another deterrent. It’s a 1,900kg estate car, not an A45 or Alpine A110, and despite its various permutations the chassis is generally happier left in normal mode.
Although it’s a typically thorough Mercedes, there were irritations. Our car was on Hankook rubber and the ride was more brittle than the Michelin Pilot Sport-shod E63 S, despite its bigger wheels. The initial throttle response could be a bit hair-trigger, the nine-speed auto occasionally flummoxed by my requests.
I’d also respectfully suggest that some rivals, including the left-field likes of newbies Genesis, have eclipsed Mercedes in terms of both perceived and actual build quality. Some of the E53’s minor switchgear feels a bit thin.
Then there’s the user interface and connectivity. There’s still work to be done here. The main control track-pad is a contentious element, but this is where living with a car helps: I detested this set-up the first time I used it on an AMG GT four-door a few years ago, and now it’s only mildly irritating.
The Hey Mercedes voice activation is cool but only works sporadically so I didn’t bother using it much. But I don’t have Alexa in the house, either. Mercedes is also a prime mover when it comes to safety and the myriad assistance tech that’s starting to dominate as we head into an increasingly AI and autonomous world. Its systems seem to be more hyperactive than most, and mildly hysterical when they do go off.
Many will disagree, but the car world’s obsession with technology often answers questions no one has, and creates frustrations where there weren’t any.
It might look and sound like two-thirds of a ‘proper’ AMG E-class, but the E53 is better than that. In estate form especially, this has got to be one of the stealthiest all-rounders available.