Class: Premium Midsize Car
Miles driven: 245
Fuel used: 11.1 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 22.1 mpg
Driving mix: 60% city, 40% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 22/29/25 (mpg city, highway, combined)
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||B+|
|Power and Performance||A-|
|Fit and Finish||A|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Engine Specs||429-hp 3.0L|
|Engine Type||Turbo 6-cylinder
|Drive Wheels||All-wheel drive|
Fuel type: Premium gas required
Base price: $73,900 (not including $1050 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Cirrus Silver Metallic paint ($720) augmented video for navigation ($350), AMG Performance Exhaust System ($1250), AMG Track Pace MBUX app ($250), panoramic sunroof ($1000), MBUX Interior Assistant ($200), Driver Assistance Package ($1950), Exterior Lighting Package ($900), Acoustic Comfort Package ($1100), credit for missing standard P17/871 (-$100)
Price as tested: $82,570
The great: Smooth, strong powertrain; excellent ride/handling balance; dazzling interior
The good: Cutting-edge infotainment system; lots of high-tech available features; distinctive high-performance character of turbocharged inline-six engine
The not so good: Pricey options drive up the bottom line; some controls can be finicky–especially capacitive-touch steering-wheel buttons
If you want an example of how far off-the-showroom-floor automotive performance has come in the last ten years or so, consider this: A factory rating of 429 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque only qualifies as a “junior” luxury-brand high-performance sedan in Mercedes-Benz’s E-Class midsize-car lineup for 2021.
That’s how much power the AMG E53’s turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder makes, with the assistance of Mercedes’s EQ Boost 48-volt mild-hybrid system. The top-dog E-Class as of now is the AMG E 63 S, which is powered by a 603-hp turbocharged 4.0-liter V8. Among class rivals, there’s the 591-hp Audi RS6 Avant, the 617-hp BMW M5 Competition, and the forthcoming 668-hp Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing.
You know what? After spending a week testing a Cirrus Silver Metallic E53 sedan, we think 429 horsepower is just fine, thanks. Unless you have regular access to a race track, you won’t be able to really stretch the legs of those ultra-performance models—which, by the way, all start north of $100K save for the Blackwing (which will likely get very close to the six-figure mark with options).
The current generation of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class debuted for 2017, and the car gets a number of updates for the 2021 model year, including a facelifted exterior design, a new steering wheel that includes capacitive-touch controls, and Mercedes’s MBUX infotainment interface in place of the previous COMAND system. The midline E 450 model drops its previous twin-turbo V6 powerplant and gets a 362-horsepower version of the E53’s turbo 3.0-liter inline six. (You can check out our E 450 Coupe review for more details on the freshened-for-2021 E Class.)
The impressive fit and finish of our E53 tester were befitting of a luxury-brand vehicle. The paint finish was outstanding—exceptionally glossy and smooth, with excellent depth. The cabin is lavishly outfitted in high-quality materials, and highlighted by dazzling details such as perforated-metal speaker grilles for the Burmester surround-sound audio system, natural-grain Black Ash wood trim, multi-color configurable ambient lighting, and even a pair of small circular drive-mode display screens on the steering wheel.
The MBUX Interior Assistant feature (a $200 option) brings an extra degree of coddling convenience—it adds an overhead motion sensor that detects driver or front-seat-passenger hand movements, and then helpfully reacts by doing things like highlighting or enlarging elements of the infotainment screen, or turning on the passenger-side reading light when the driver reaches toward the front-passenger seat.
The MBUX infotainment system is an improvement over the COMAND interface, but it still requires practice and familiarization. There are so many functions and display options that you can spend a lot of time searching for specific controls, and noodling to get things set up the way you like them. Once you’re past the learning curve, you can fully appreciate the digital instrument panels’ crystal-clear graphics and extensive configurability, as well as a plethora of available high-tech features. Our test vehicle was also equipped with the Augmented Video for Navigation ($350), a slick driver’s aid that displays a forward-mounted camera view with helpful superimposed graphics such as navigation-route turn arrows and street-address numbers.
The front sport seats have fairly pronounced bolsters for good support in spirited cornering, but they’re perfectly comfortable in everyday driving. One finicky complaint—the front seat-belt latches are mounted very low, which made it a bit tricky for us to buckle the driver’s seat belt. The back-seat space is decent for average-sized adults up to 6 feet tall or so, but legroom quickly grows tight as the front seats are adjusted rearward. Plus, the panoramic sunroof’s housing intrudes on headroom for tall occupants. Small-items storage is average overall, but the front and back door pockets are generously sized.
If you like customizing your behind-the-wheel experience with drive modes, the E53 definitely has you covered, with no less than 19 settings spread across six parameters.
- Basic drive modes: Slippery, Individual (a customizable setting), Comfort, Sport, and Sport+
- Engine: Reduced, Moderate, Sport, Dynamic
- Transmission: D (regular drive) or M (manual; defaults to the driver shifting via the steering-wheel-mounted paddles)
- Exhaust: Balanced or Powerful
- AMG Dynamics: Basic, Advanced, Pro
- Suspension: Comfort, Sport, Sport+
The turbo inline six delivers its 429 horsepower with smoothness and alacrity. The 9-speed automatic transmission is positively unflappable—we never caught it stumbling, or confused by our throttle inputs. The fuel-saving auto stop/start feature is also buttery smooth; we could feel no shudder when the engine turned off or turned back on.
We’ve never been crazy about Mercedes-Benz’s insistence on using a steering-column-mounted shift lever. Even though that arrangement frees up console space, we prefer the sportier look and feel of a console-mounted shifter, especially in a performance-focused car like this one. However, the steering-wheel paddle shifters work great to summon quick upshifts or downshifts. Choosing the Sport+ drive mode activates an automatic rev-matching throttle-blip feature on downshifts when braking aggressively. In addition to aiding the vehicle’s stability, the throttle blip sounds great and delivers a gratifying high-performance feel.
The AMG Performance Exhaust System (a $1250 add-on) delivers a rather pronounced growl—especially when it’s set to “Powerful” mode—but even the normal “Balanced” mode is plenty snarky. The 6-cylinder engine doesn’t sound as lusty as V8 at idle, but it rises to a lusty, refined growl in spirited driving. Plus, there are delightfully exhaust-overrun pops and cackles in Sport+ mode when you lift off the throttle.
The adaptive-damping AIR BODY CONTROL sport suspension delivers sport-sedan nimbleness combined with a decently absorbent ride. We didn’t notice a pronounced difference between the suspension-mode settings. Even the Sport+ mode is perfectly tolerable on normal pavement—it’s not wearyingly stiff or uncomfortable.
At an as-tested price of $82,570, it’s hard to call the E53 a bargain, but if you’re shopping it against those more-powerful six-figure rivals, it actually is a decent value—and nothing about it feels “junior.”
2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53 Sedan Gallery
(Click below for enlarged images)
AMG E53 Sedan
AMG E53 Sedan
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