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2020 Mercedes-AMG E53: The Goldilocks of German Performance Sedans

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Filed under Automotive, Mercedes-AMG, Mercedes-Benz, Test Drives

I’ll admit that when Mercedes-Benz began applying the AMG moniker to cars that weren’t equipped with the famous Affalterbach individually assembled engines, I had my doubts. Afterall, AMG always represented the performance skunkworks of Mercedes, and their creations were tire-smoking beasts that demanded both hands on the wheel and nerves of steel. The difference between a plebeian E350 and the maniacal E63S AMG were night and day. Of course, you could pony up for the larger motor in an E450, but it still felt more ‘luxury car with some added performance’, rather than the other way around. However, with the AMG E53, I think they’ve hit the balance just right: Luxury and comfort you’d expect with more than enough performance to keep you highly entertained.

Let’s start with the motor, an ‘AMG-enhanced’ three-liter turbocharged inline 6-cylinder delivering a healthy 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque, while managing a commendable 24 mpg on average. It doesn’t pin you back in the seat like an AMG V8, but the lightning-fast Speedshift 9-speed transmission and 4Matic drivetrain are both optimized for quick acceleration and do a stellar job backing up this smooth, straight-six from 0-60 mph in just over 4 seconds. Like all AMG Mercedes offerings in this middle range (35, 43, and 53 models), The AMG Dynamic Select is key to making the car really come alive. Selecting ‘Sport’ for a more spirited response and ‘Sport +’ when you want to be on the edge, both make driving so much more fun than leaving it in the default ‘Comfort’ mode. No matter what mode you do choose, there are still settings to tweak suspension stiffness, steering, transmission & engine aggressiveness, and to open or close the exhaust baffles a bit. Speaking of exhaust sound, the E53 optional Performance Exhaust System has a unique howl that really grew on me. It’s obviously less throaty than E63 big brother, but (call me crazy) it also sounds just a bit more like an F1 car.

The ‘Air Body Control’ suspension comes standard, and it does a commendable job of delivering a plush ride when you want it, but carves corners that belies its weight when pushed hard. Make no mistake, this is still a large, heavy sedan, but with much less mass in the nose than the E63S, so the car feels nicely balanced even when driven aggressively.

As you would expect, the E53 comes standard with many tech and luxury features like Keyless-Go, Burmester Surround Sound, Apple CarPlay, and an excellent touchpad infotainment system. Standard safety items included Active Brake, Blind-Spot, Active Parking, and even Crosswind Assist! Our handsome test vehicle also came loaded with a bevy of noteworthy options: On the exterior, the designo Selenite Grey Magno matte paint looks tough, especially when accompanied by the black-out AMG Night Package and 20” 5 spoke wheels with black accents. Once you step inside, the headliner and flat bottom steering wheel were skinned with black Dinamica microfiber, offset by red seatbelts for a very AMG look. Packages included Driver’s Assistance, Parking Assistance, Exterior Lightning, and Sun Protection.

Overall, the AMG E53 makes a very strong case for that sweet spot in the E Class line up, well-positioned between docile and downright devilish. It’s hard to believe that you’d honestly need any more power and performance than this for your daily driver, 98% of the time. For that other 2%, there’s always the option of a track day with an AMG Driving Experience!

Jay Ward is a Bay Area based gearhead and the Creative Director for the ‘Cars’ franchise at Pixar Animation Studios. He also serves at an honorary Judge at Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, Audrain’s, and Hilton Head Island Concours, as well as a regular contributor at the Jalopy Journal. You can find him and his kids at ‘Dad’s Daily Driver’ on Instagram and Facebook.


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