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Mild-hybrid six-cylinder model benefits from a visual and tech-centric overall but still feels at odds with its AMG branding
Matt Prior
25 September 2020

What is it?

As facelifts go, this is one of the milder ones we’ll be reporting on this year. The Mercedes-AMG 53, the half-fat AMG model with the fancy clever six-cylinder mild-hybrid engine, has been given a small makeover that applies to the saloon, wagon and cabriolet versions. We’ve been able to drive the cabriolet.

You might note there’s a new grille – more reminiscent of AMG's angrier cars. With a revised bumper, too, it reduces drag (and therefore wind noise) at the front and there are flatter-looking rear lights. Throw in new wheel designs and you’ve largely got a measure of the exterior changes.

Interior alterations are pretty subtle: the latest-generation infotainment software uses a familiar rotary touchpad on the centre console and touchscreen on the dashboard's centre, so what’s new is the steering wheel with double-height horizontal spokes, each with an array of haptic feedback buttons. 

Suspension revisions come in, too, but they’re slight. Air suspension has been retuned to ‘broaden’ the performance of the car, which I think means ‘make it a bit more comfortable’, although a Dynamic Plus pack, featuring a drift mode, and carbon-composite brakes, becomes available as an option.

The engine and transmission on the ’53 remain unchanged: a 3.0-litre straight-six turbocharged and electric-supercharged unit making 423bhp and 295lb ft, with a 348V starter/alternator adding 21bhp but 184lb ft low down the rev range. It drives all four wheels (drift mode aside) through a nine-speed gearbox.

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What's it like?

Inside, the changes make not too much difference to the E53. The steering wheel is a nice size and shape, but otherwise it’s as-you-were – comfortable and large front seats, good fit and finish and, in this cabriolet version, quick hood operation but not so much space in the back or boot as a four-door.

And it drives well, too. The ride is reasonable, steering anodyne but well weighted. There’s nothing engaging about the way it rides or handles in normal conditions but this is the soft-top, after all. It’s feasible a saloon or wagon, stiffer of shell as they’ll be, would give more back.

If anything, in here I’d want fewer drive modes and drive options and a less overwhelming instrument cluster and info – this is only a ’53, after all, not the ’63, and a cabriolet at that – but Mercedes is seemingly on a tech- and info-overload mission. So perhaps customers like it that way.

Certainly, most people will find this car has all the performance they need and the ’53 engine is one of the real highlights of modern internal-combusted tech. Because it’s a straight six, it’s uncannily smooth and is augmented really skilfully at low revs by the starter/alternator, so mingling with motorway traffic without fuss is a doddle. It also has a superbly smooth stop/start character; perhaps the best on sale. 

Should I buy one?

I dunno. I’d want a drive in a lesser E-Class cabriolet to refresh my memory about how they ride and handle before agreeing to whatever monthly payment gets one into a £70,610 E53 cabriolet. 

The most ‘AMG’ thing about it is the engine and performance, rather than the way it goes down the road. It feels quite big, heavy and not particularly sporting in any way, which is absolutely fine. This is a soft-top, after all, with only a little shimmy from the body to suggest it has no roof, and very little buffeting with the top down. But if a regular E-Class cab gives you most of that experience, you could have a big outlay here just for an engine.

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Comments
6

25 September 2020
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25 September 2020

I know its another 20K (ignoring options) but at this level does it make a big difference? My money would go to Lexus LC cabrio instead, which has a fabulous interior (the Merc dash is just nasty) brilliant styling, and a V8

25 September 2020

I agree with you re the Lexus. As design it's leagues ahead of this dumpy looking thing. 

Yes the Mercedes interior is nasty, particularly the steering wheel.

25 September 2020

 Still popular, there either an Audi or a Mercedes, you buy what you like, it's your choice, you have to live with it,now, what's wrong with that?

25 September 2020

I don't undersatnd your argument, or rather lack of argument ("you buy what you like, it's your choice" etc.)

As soon as an article or book is published, a work of art is exhibited, a piece of music is performed, it will attract comments and, to use your words, 'what's wrong with that?'

  

27 September 2020

Seems strange you haven't mentioned it, but if you want a straight six with this level of performance and a more dynamic driving experience, this is the obvious competition.

It pretty much matches the performance and economy figures as well, so perhaps this AMG engine isn't so advanced after all.

Finally, it is still available for now with hard folding roof and a lower price.

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