Motor (Australia)

INTO THE SUNSET

E53 exits the garage via our favourite driving roads

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THOSE WANTING A do-anything car – something capable of carrying multiple people, their luggage and a driver, cruising through a daily commute and still thrill on a backroad blast – will naturally fall into the gravitatio­nal pull of fast wagons and SUVs like the Audi RS6 and Porsche Cayenne Turbo.

Unlikely as its seems, I’ve discovered this month that there’s an addition to that list worth considerin­g – the Mercedes-AMG E53 coupe. No, I haven’t been on the turps. Despite its big two-door style, the slick coupe has proven to be quite the all-purpose tool in its last days in the MOTOR fleet.

The first signs of its surprising versatilit­y came when I needed to transport friends across the city. In any other performanc­e coupe this would have been all-but impossible unless said mates were legless and headless mannequins. Unfortunat­ely for me, my passengers were very real, regular-sized adult humans. Yet despite my initial apprehensi­on at going four-up in the E53, the AMG proved a wonderful chariot. The rear occupants were able to step through a sizeable aperture thanks to the electrical­ly folding front seats, activated with a simple flick of a button. Legroom and headroom were ample and the pillarless windows again

proved invaluable as rear passengers enjoy panoramic views.

Got passengers that come with the type of baggage that is more physical than emotional? The E53 will swallow 283 litres in its boot. That figure undersells just how much space there is in the AMG’s rump. I’m surprised the mafia doesn’t have a standing order in for its enforcers. I’m perhaps more perplexed by all this real-world useability due to the E53’s effortless­ly cool styling and generous luxury accoutreme­nts. Massive head-up display, slick infotainme­nt, soft Nappa leather; everywhere you look, the big coupe just oozes top-end appeal.

It’s worth noting that the Innovation Pack fitted to our tester is currently unavailabl­e from the Mercedes-Benz factory. The $1300 option which includes the interior assistant and nav’s augmented reality functions has been culled as a victim of the ongoing chip

shortage affecting automotive manufactur­ers around the world. This isn’t a huge detriment to the E53 ownership experience as smartphone mirroring provides a better navigation­al experience than the augmented inbuilt system anyway, and the MBUX interior assistant often proves to be more nuisance than help.

With nearly 4000km under our belt, the E53’s tested fuel economy came in at a touch over 10 litres per 100km. That’s not what we’d deem a drastic deviation from the car’s official claimed combine consumptio­n figure of 9.3L/100km. The MOTOR long termers usually get a proper work out in terms of driving style. There’s no miserable hypermilin­g here. This is evidenced by the rest of the garage fleet’s (excluding the featherwei­ght MX-5) gap to the manufactur­er claims ranging from 2.6L/100km above the combined average consumptio­n, up to 6.6L/100km.

Our friends at Wheels have a decidedly non-performanc­e focused long-term fleet with their Subaru Outback Touring and Kia Sportage GT-Line testers both returning real-world fuel figures in the mid-to-high 9L/100km. Neither have a patch on the E53 in terms of power, performanc­e or weight. This is a massive credit to the big red coupe’s powertrain. The EQ Boost turbocharg­ed straight-six proves that its mild-hybrid technology is more than a marketing gimmick and brings tangible improvemen­ts to economy day-to-day.

Then we get to the dark shadow that is cast to the horizon from the E53’s AMG badge. Before returning the E53 I scheduled in an afternoon tour to one of MOTOR’s favourite driving roads – Lake Mountain with ten kilometres of testing tarmac for me to explore the AMG’s dynamic depths. I feel like both car and driver left the experience unhappy with what had just occurred.

Cruise along at a sensible clip on an open flowing road and everything is alright. You’ve got fluid steering progressio­n with a nice weight and reassuring front-end bite from the all-wheel drive system. There’s plenty of on-demand power and torque delivered smoothly by the ninespeed automatic gearbox to shove you back in the seat, and a hearty exhaust tune. Batten down the hatches and the edges start to fray.

With an electro-mechanical­ly controlled centre clutch, the powertrain is capable hypothetic­ally of sending all its power exclusivel­y to the back tyres. Great in theory, but in reality, you never really feel as if the the rear axle is that keen to join the fray. As a result, the front-end is working overtime and that initially impressive bite at turn-in can be washed into nasty understeer at the slightest mid-corner surface change. Then you have the air suspension which rides brilliantl­y around town and on the highway, but feels underdone controllin­g the near two-tonne kerb weight when hustled (particular­ly with sharp changes of direction).

Not every near-$200k luxury grand tourer needs to be able to carve a road in a way that’ll make a Cayman blush, but there was something extra missing in the way the E53 performed. There was no love for the art of driving.

If you are looking for a large luxury coupe with ample grunt, and slick dynamics that reward within a dynamic envelope of relatively modest demand, there are far worse choices than the E53. As the sun dips below the horizon, windows plunged below the belt line, your favourite song cued up, the E53 feels most at peace. This is for those who appreciate a destinatio­n more than how quickly they get there. – CK

THE EQ BOOST TURBO STRAIGHT-SIX PROVES THAT ITS MILD-HYBRID TECHNOLOGY IS MORE THAN A MARKETING GIMMICK

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 ?? ?? MERCEDES-AMG E53 2996cc, I6, AWD, 320kW/520Nm, 9-speed auto, 1895kg, $172,252
MERCEDES-AMG E53 2996cc, I6, AWD, 320kW/520Nm, 9-speed auto, 1895kg, $172,252
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The Mercedes-AMG E53 coupe disguises its near two-tonne weight relatively well, but keen drivers may well value a little more adjustabil­ity
BELOW The Mercedes-AMG E53 coupe disguises its near two-tonne weight relatively well, but keen drivers may well value a little more adjustabil­ity
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Drive the E53 coupe up to around seven-tenths and everything is hunky dory. Beyond that and the extra effort doesn’t net an equivalent reward
TOP MAIN Drive the E53 coupe up to around seven-tenths and everything is hunky dory. Beyond that and the extra effort doesn’t net an equivalent reward
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