Len Ingrassia: Mercedes AMG E53 a stellar performer

Clean lines with blackout netting grille give the 2020 AMG E53 Cabriolet an aggressive stance.Photo courtesy Len Ingrassia

Want a sweet ride on a Sunday afternoon?

Latch on to the new Mercedes-Benz AMG E53 and you won't regret it. Well, maybe your pocketbook will, but for many, driving is more than just transportation.

We spent a week with the fifth-generation E Class Cabriolet recently and found its performance and luxurious cabin unequalled by near rivals.

• Pros: turbo power, solid ride, room for four.

• Cons: cargo space, pricey, smallish back seat.

AMG has become synonymous with speed and high performance. The result is pure adrenaline, with a turbocharged inline-tuned six cylinder producing 429 horsepower with EQ boost. In case you're wondering about EQ, think of it as an electric starter that spins directly and constantly, speeding up the engine while adding power in the same way a hybrid does.

Mated with a nine-speed automatic transmission, the E53 also functions well with paddle shifters and sprints to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. Going through the gears in rapid-fire succession, the AMG produces an aggressive crackling exhaust with each passing gear.

We found steering to be responsive, acceleration brisk with no turbo lag detected and suspension firm when it needs to be.

This year's E53 replaces last year's E300 nameplate, although except for a few tweaks, the E53 carries over relatively unchanged. The E53 AMG is available as a coupe, sedan or cabriolet with a base price of $73,800, $74,900 and $81,650 respectively.

Option packages move the price near $100,000 as was the case with our tester that included saddle brown Nappa leather and AMG black interior, AMG performance tires and exhaust, driver-assistance package with safety technology, surround view, active parking assist and exterior lighting enhancements.

Aside from its power enhancements, the cabin's atmosphere is opulent with a fully digitized and programmable instrument cluster and navigation screen more than 2 feet in length. Front seats are exceedingly comfortable with power adjustments and extra bolstering to keep its occupants firmly planted.

The acoustic soft top minimizes road noise at highway speeds, and a cabin air purification and fragrance system keeps the atmosphere free of harmful particles.

Active drive modes adjust throttle response and gear selection instantly and are selectable in Sport Plus, Sport, Comfort, Slippery and an individual setting to further customize the equation.

In addition, a new sport suspension uses an air body control that enhances lateral dynamics with continuous adjustments to each wheel's damping, resulting in reduced body roll.

Trunk space is limited, although rear seats fold down to handle larger items. In the nit-picking department, we felt the column shifter seemed out of place on such an aggressive sports car. With the top down, rear visibility is unobstructed, but not so in its upright position.

Deficiencies aside, the E53 Cabriolet is a solid and luxurious car that's fun to drive around town and a serious track contender with on-board equipment that keeps the AMG firmly on its intended course while leaving most rivals in the dust.

LEN INGRASSIA is an independent automotive columnist. Contact him at lenscarcorner@comcast.net.

What was reviewed

2020 Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet

Engine: 3.0-liter inline turbocharged 6 cylinder, 429 horsepower.

Assembly: Full production of the AMG E53 is completed at a Mercedes plant in Bremen, Germany.

Crash Test Ratings: The AMG E53 Cabriolet had not been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as of this writing.

Warranty: 4-year/50,000-limited and power train coverage.

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