TESTED 24.9.18, OXFORDSHIRE ON SALE NOW PRICE £64,790
Four-wheel-drive coupé throws a 429bhp Affalterbach punch
In the 23 years since AMG last turned its spanners to an E-Class coupé, the status and desirability of the big-boned W124-generation E36 has risen like a rocket. Surprising, then, that it has taken so long for Affalterbach to issue a direct replacement.
Disclaimer: this is not an entirely faithful recreation. The new E53 4Matic+ and its forebear might share brutishly elegant cab-rear profiles, a straight-six engine configuration and pillarless window apertures, but the new car is a spectacularly modern device replete with four-wheel drive, self-levelling air suspension and mild hybridisation. The headline figures are very healthy indeed: 429bhp and 384lb ft supplemented with 21bhp and 184lb ft from a starter/alternator motor mounted between engine and nine-speed gearbox. The 48V system driving this motor also feeds an electric compressor that compensates for the lag from a large twin-scroll turbocharger. The torque spread is vast as a result, peaking between 1800rpm and 5800rpm.
So it’s no surprise that the E53 feels Ferrari 550 Maranello rapid. It isn’t a full-blooded eight-cylinder kind of AMG, though, and anybody who expects that will be disappointed. While rear driven much of the time, the front driveshafts seem to engage early and often. Along with some draconian ESP coding, it means any adjustability is in short supply, the chassis doggedly fastening itself to the line prescribed by the steering unless provoked beyond any sensible degree. Direction changes are more deliberate than delicate – it’s a 1900kg car and feels it – and the Speedshift gearbox can also flounder if asked to swap cogs in close proximity to the 6700rpm redline that this sonorous engine so enthusiastically tears towards.
Perhaps the E53’s strengths lie elsewhere. That air suspension isn’t immune to sharper knocks but at speed it gently supports the body as if via a taut sling. Engine-off coasting in Eco mode makes for a touring economy approaching 40mpg, and the cabin has all the accoutrements you could need. You could lazily drive this car from dusk ’til dawn and hardly feel it at the other end.
As a straight-up luxury cruiser with a fabulous motor, though, the E53’s ride is on the firm side, but then neither does this chassis serve up the involvement you’d expect from a great sporting grand tourer. However, if you merely want the fastest, fanciest E-Class Coupé money can buy, it’ll do just fine.
Engine 6 cyls, 2999cc, turbo, petrol, plus electric compressor
Power 429bhp at 6100rpm
Torque 384lb ft at 1800-5800rpm
Gearbox 9-spd automatic
Kerb weight 1895kg
Top speed 155mph (limited)
Economy 32.5mpg (combined)
CO2, tax band 201g/km, 37%
Rivals Audi S5, BMW M4