What's it like?
After the paint and wheels, there’s not very much AMG decor on this one, though you get the Affalterbach message easily enough. The badges and grille are AMG-specific, and those wheels (plus the standard air suspension) give it a stance that means business.
Inside, some labelling and a flat-bottomed wheel are the obvious AMG add-ons. You also get extra driving modes (via a Dynamic rocker switch) and a separate shocker ride adjuster. Which underscores the point about this E53: the bigger changes will be the ones you feel on the move.
Start the engine and there’s the kind of audible rasp you’d never hear in a cooking E-class; the performance intent is immediately obvious. This car has a 3.0-litre turbocharged petrol straight six (packing 429bhp and 384lb ft of torque) that is supplemented by a 48-volt mild hybrid powertrain, the same one offered in the Merc S500.
This set-up inserts a 21bhp, 184lb ft electric motor between the engine and the nine-speed automatic gearbox. It seamlessly starts the petrol engine, augments take-off and acceleration, can help the car coast, engine-off, in its economy setting, and converts itself to a generator to feed retardation power back into the battery on the overrun.
On the performance front 0-62mph acceleration is timed at 4.5 seconds and top speed is a governed 155mph; in real-world driving you’ll easily turn 32-34mpg and 38 if you try hard. Which makes Mercedes’s combined figure of 31.7mpg figure look more honest than most. The 203g/km CO2 output isn’t too shabby, either.
The performance is effortless, partly because the electrically boosted power and torque don’t have lags or gaps, and partly because the nine-speed ’box provides a profusion of low, easy shifting ratios especially in the early acceleration phase. You can control the gearbox by paddles if you want, but with a Sport setting selected, you’ll soon get the feeling that the gearbox makes sophisticated decisions often better than your own. Only the need for engine braking on long slopes encourages you consistently to use the paddles.