Review update: 2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53 delivers balanced power and presence

It’s an entry-level AMG, but the E53 might just be the ideal E-Class.

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53 lacks the brawny twin-turbo V-8 of the E63 model, but it boasts a smooth turbocharged inline-6, a cabin full of technology, and a sharp design. It’s by no means a compromise in the AMG world.

I recently spent a week shuttling the kids to their activities and hustling around clover leafs to determine where the E53 hits and misses.

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53

Hit: The return of the inline-6

Under the hood of the AMG E53 sits a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system for a combined output of 429 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. A quick-shifting 9-speed automatic transmission sends power to an AMG-tuned version of Benz’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. This powertrain is a delight whether cruising on the highway or launching from a stop light. The power comes on quickly, with just enough satisfying turbo drama. This is all the power anyone really needs in a daily driver. The inline-6’s smooth power delivery reminded me why I prefer an inline-6 over a V-6, and its return at Mercedes should be celebrated before the electric era takes over.

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53

Miss: Needs to be uncorked

The lovely inline-6 sounds fantastic at full throttle. Its sound is cleaner and less gravelly than the turbocharged V-6 in recent Audis. However, the exhaust note sounds like it’s being smothered with a pillow at idle and in the lower RPM range. Even with the electronic baffles open via a button on the center console, it still sounds muffled. Please, Mercedes, let this engine sing more often.

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53

Hit: Sharp moves

The electric power steering communicates what’s going on at the wheels and always provided feedback as I pushed the staggered Continental ProContact GX SSR tires around clover leafs. When the front end bit into the pavement and the power shuttled around to the most appropriate wheels, the E53 felt smaller than it is. It’s fun, agile, and quick to react, but cars such as the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Genesis G70 have it beat in these areas.

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53

Hit: Sharply dressed

The mild refresh for 2021 updates the front and rear bumpers, revises the exterior lighting, adds a new steering wheel, and introduces new wheel designs. It all works. The rear end looks more polished, and the front is more blunt and upright, giving the mid-size Benz more presence than before. Inside, the new twin-spoke steering wheel looks sharp and feels great. Set low on the steering wheel are two small dials with digital readouts that enable quick changes between the drivetrain, stability control, and AMG programming modes. They look cool and are much easier to use while driving than fiddling with the infotainment system.

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53

Miss: Steering wheel functionality

The infotainment controls on the attractive new twin-spoke steering wheel aren’t easy to use. I wasn’t a fan of the previous steering wheel design with its twin touchpad interface, but this interface is worse. It doubles down on the touch controls that are finicky to use while parked and distracting while driving. The shiny horizontal piano black spokes are made from a solid piece of plastic; the entire piece wiggles when a button is pushed, which feels cheap. A new touch-sensitive volume-control slider makes it hard to execute small volume changes. I gave up on it quickly and used the roller knob on the center console for volume control.

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53

Hit: Reasonably efficient

The E53 doesn’t guzzle 91 octane. The 22 mpg city, 29 highway, and 25 combined EPA ratings are pretty spot on based on my time in the E53. Over 152 miles I averaged 22.2 mpg in mixed suburban driving and 29 mpg on the highway. A light foot will achieve 30 mpg or more. I didn’t use a light foot.

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53

Miss: Missing some features

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53 costs $74,950, but my tester had a sticker price of $82,570 thanks to upgrades like the $1,250 AMG performance exhaust system, $1,950 Driver Assistance package that added active safety features, and the $1,000 Acoustic Comfort package that added cabin insulation and acoustic glass. While not the most expensive AMG by a long shot, it’s not cheap. It lacked niceties such as ventilated front seats and a head-up display. I’d expect those features to be included for the price.

Whatever my 2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53 lacked in features it more than made up for with its smooth turbocharged inline-6, well sorted suspension and steering, and comfortable tech-filled interior. It’s a fantastic daily driver that’s at home cruising to a country club, gobbling up open highway, or shuttling between business meetings.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53
Base price: $74,950
Price as tested: $82,570
EPA fuel economy: 22/29/25 mpg
The hits: Smooth turbo-6, has presence, new steering wheel looks good, sharp steering
The misses: Lacks certain features, frustrating steering wheel controls, hushed exhaust note at idle

Source link