Tested: Mercedes’ new muscle car
Mercedes-AMG isn't known for its restraint.
The luxury brand's hot-rod arm is responsible for hilariously over-the-top machines ranging from the explosive A45 hatchback and steroid-fed C63 sedan to twin-turbo V12-powered autobahn bruisers, gangsta-spec G-Wagens and record-braking track weapons stuffed with roll cage scaffolding.
But one of its best cars takes a different approach.
Suave and sophisticated, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe might be the most stylish model in the range. Clean lines, pillarless doors and traditional proportions lend a timeless elegance to a big two-door with few direct rivals.
Audi, BMW and Lexus don't sell coupes this size, making it something of an orphan in the prestige car game.
And unlike the E-Class sedan, the coupe isn't available with a V8 engine.
Instead, the range-topping AMG model makes do with a relatively new 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder petrol engine boosted by mild hybrid assistance.
The petrol motor is good for 320kW of power and 520Nm of torque, while the electric motor delivers 16kW and 250Nm. Hybrid power is mainly used at low speed to facilitate smooth stop-start performance and off-the-mark acceleration, returning a 4.4-second sprint to 100km/h.
This is one of Benz' best engines. Smooth, willing and surprisingly tuneful, the inline six plays a sweet song under load before quad exhausts crackle under a closed throttle. It sounds much more refined than the V6 found in the cheaper "C43" coupe, and is quicker to boot.
The E53 is a flexible performer that feels punchy without shocking you with its pace. Relaxed around town and effortless when pressing on, the engine spins freely beyond 6000rpm. Mercedes' conventional nine-speed auto is smoother than the more mechanical-feeling unit found in V8-powered AMGs, and all-wheel-drive delivers sure-footed traction in the wet.
Forget the raucous approach of the similarly priced C63 Coupe - this E53 is an altogether more mature proposition. Fun to drive and capable of delivering genuinely rapid cross-country pace, the E53 does so without the fire and brimstone of its more popular cousin.
Is that a good thing? That's up to you.
Priced from $164,800 plus on-road costs (about $178,000 drive-away), the most expensive E-Class coupe is pitched toward wealthy design-led couples drawn to its smooth looks and long list of luxury features.
It has 20-inch wheels as standard, plus a 13-speaker Burmester stereo, supple Nappa leather, an enormous panoramic sunroof, comfortable sports seats and Mercedes' latest capacitive-touch steering wheel.
The E-Class' driver assistance suite is as good as it gets, as is a beautifully presented infotainment system combining twin 12.3-inch screens with a head-up display, voice activation, smartphone mirroring and much more.
The combination of luxury and pace proves there's more depth to Mercedes-AMG than hairy-chested V8s.
The Mercedes-AMG E53 is a gem. It's not cheap, but enthusiasts will appreciate its eye-catching design and satisfying performance.
MERCEDES-AMG E53 COUPE
Price: About $178,000 drive-away
Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder, 320kW/520Nm
Warranty/servicing: 5-year/unlimited km, $5100 for 5 years
Safety: 5 stars, 9 airbags, auto emergency braking, active cruise control, lane keeping and traffic jam assistance, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts.
Cargo: 425 litres
Spare: Repair kit
Originally published as Tested: Mercedes' new muscle car