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New Mercedes-AMG E 53 4Matic+ review: super saloon swaps focus for all-round ability

New high performance plug-in hybrid is an impressive fast executive car, but this isn’t an M5 rival

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Verdict

It’s all in the name. AMG’s new E 53 might have the power figure and the pumped up styling accoutrements of the old E 63 S super saloon, but to assume it a direct replacement would be a mistake. As is usually the case with the milder ‘53’ models in the Mercedes range, this iteration of hot E-Class is comfortable, luxurious and fast, just don’t mistake it for a BMW M5-rival.

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Mercedes-AMG has once again diverged from ‘business as usual’ for one of its core models, introducing a high performance plug-in powertrain for its new flagship E 53 4Matic+. The car is destined to be the most powerful Mercedes E-Class of this generation, but as the name suggests this is not a full-fat E63 S model with cars like the BMW M5 or Audi RS 6 in its crosshairs. Instead Mercedes says it’s created a new type of powerful, efficient and rounded E-Class that sits below its hardcore former rivals.

The new Mercedes E 53 4Matic+ can be a little bewildering, as under the bonnet is a turbocharged 3-litre straight-six petrol engine mated to an electric motor and 25.4kWh battery pack. Peak power is 585bhp, but when fitted with the AMG Dynamic Plus package this is able to be raised to 603bhp for limited periods of time during the Race Start function. 

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Torque is rated at 560Nm from the petrol engine with an extra 480Nm able to be generated from the electric motor, but these peak figures are never produced at the same time, so it’s not a simple sum to reach a combined peak output. In any case, power and torque is routed to all four wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission, which is actively variable depending on the available grip and selected driver mode.

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Due entirely to the sheer size of the battery pack on board, AMG is claiming an EV range of up to 60 miles, and being run on a 400V electrical system, it’s able to be charged on a DC fast charger at up to 60kW. This allows for a 10 to 80 per cent fill in just 20 minutes. Of course, the compromise of such a big battery is weight, so this executive saloon tips the scales at 2,390kg – an astonishing, and frankly worrying, figure. 

Given that it has such an intensely complicated powertrain, it’s no surprise to know that your chosen driving mode completely changes the way the Mercedes E 53 feels. Comfort mode is the kick-off point, and here the electric motor takes up a majority of the strain, happily driving the car across the entire spectrum of UK speed limits with a good amount of pace and urgency. 

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Handily, if you’re keen on keeping the petrol engine switched off, the dial pack features a subtle graphic that’ll show how close you are to engaging the petrol engine, and if you want to lock it away for good, there is a pure electric mode. However, our test route quickly had us on some fast-moving German autobahn, which is where the E 53’s true colours were revealed. 

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When awoken, the straight-six engine displays some serious levels of performance. No, it’s not a raucous or aggressive engine in the same sense as the old V8, nor AMG’s highly strung four-cylinder in the new C 63 S, but rather it comes across as cool, calm and collected. Dig into its available performance and you can build some serious speed as the electric motor gives the petrol engine some added bulk to its torque curve in the mid range. On sections of derestricted autobahn, the E 53 keeps pulling up and over 120mph with ease and calmness, revealing a chassis that, unsurprisingly, feels totally at ease at some faintly crazy speeds. 

Yet as you pull off the motorway and find smaller and twistier roads, the suspension’s other talents come to the fore. The system itself is unusual for an AMG E-Class in that it features a coil spring setup in lieu of the air suspension system that’s been a common element over the last few generations of AMG E-Class models. Rather than being a potential compromise, the ride quality and body control are generally well sorted, with lots of suspension travel and an ability to handle smaller bumps and intrusions, even on our test car’s 21-inch wheels.

But in typical Mercedes fashion the steering ratio is quite fast and, combined with the rear-wheel steering, gives the car an almost over-accentuated sense of agility. The steering weight itself is also fairly light, and unusually isn’t variable between the different driver modes. There’s little to no feel, and while it is accurate, it would be nice to have a little more weight just off-centre, especially when hitting those high speeds on motorways. 

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The brakes need a little bit of work, as the pedal can be disconcertingly lacking in feel. It’s by no means the worst system we’ve tried, and with as much as 120kW of regenerative power able to be captured, it is a very difficult task to blend braking systems into one natural-feeling input. Whereas this system is a positive step on from those in AMG’s other electrified models, rivals like the Porsche Panamera show even more progress in this field. 

At its most intense, those hoping that the new Mercedes-AMG E 53 might channel some of the old E 63 S’s emotion might be somewhat disappointed. This car can post a very impressive 3.8 second 0-62mph time, but the stark reality is that it really doesn’t feel that fast, even in Sport+ mode. Beyond not having a V8 engine note, it lacks the raw excitement and driver engagement of AMG’s last truly ho E-Class. The extra weight, no matter how well contained it feels, blunts in-gear performance and takes away some of the balance we know is inherent within the chassis of the new E-Class. 

The new plug-in hybrid powertrain’s advantages, both in terms of usability and efficiency, add a compelling new scope to the vision of what a Mercedes-AMG E-Class can be. But with that comes compromises, and from a daily-driver standpoint, these even start to get in the way of practicality in the shape of a pretty hefty reduction in boot space. 

Overall, though, it’s important to remember that as an Mercedes-AMG E 53 and not an E 63, this car deliberately has a very different set of qualities to the car that came before it. In that context, as a fast, comfortable, environmentally- and potentially tax-friendly luxury car, this is a very impressive all-round package. 

Model:Mercedes-AMG E 53 4MATIC+
Price:£90,860
Engine:3.0-litre 6cyl turbo petrol PHEV
Power/torque:603hp/560Nm + 480Nm (on overboost)
Transmission:Nine-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
0-62mph:3.9 seconds
Top speed:155mph
Economy/CO2:31.7mpg/21g/km
Size:4,959/2,045/1,468
On sale:Now
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Senior staff writer

Senior staff writer at Auto Express, Jordan joined the team after six years at evo magazine where he specialised in news and reviews of cars at the high performance end of the car market. 

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