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’s taken so long for Affalterbach to issue a direct replacement and give us a continent-smashing car with the potential to properly entertain.
Disclaimer: this is not an entirely faithful recreation. The new E53 4Matic+ and its 1990s 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 384ft lb are 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.
Is the E53 a true AMG car?
On the road, the E53 feels Ferrari 550 Maranello rapid, in spite of the low-key sheet metal.
That’s partly to do with the throttle response, which is not just sharper because of electrical assistance, but meaningfully so. It’s often the case with performance hybrids that a slither of initial, motor-driven responsiveness fades before the power from a boosting engine enters the fray. That’s not the case here, and the E53 is ready to pummel down the road ahead at a moment’s notice.
This isn’t a full-blooded eight-cylinder kind of AMG, though, and anybody who expects that will be disappointed. It’s rear-driven much of the time but the front driveshafts seem to engage early and often – and you cannot disengage them, like you can in the E63 saloon.
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. If you’re looking for a car that’ll almost imperceptibly tuck its nose in with a lift of the throttle, look elsewhere.
Direction changes are therefore more deliberate than delicate – it’s a 1900kg car, of which the driver is never left in any doubt – and the Speedshift gearbox can also flounder if asked to swap cogs in close proximity to the 6700rpm redline. When you have such a sonorous engine so willing to tear towards that point, that’s a frustration.