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JOHANNESBURG – There’s something special about a true coupé, the proper two door one, not marketing speak for a coupé shaped car that has four doors. And it’s even better if it has an AMG moniker attached to it. Unfortunately it seems to be a dying breed as manufacturers cater to the public’s increasing demand for SUVs, so that’s even more reason to enjoy it and in this case the Mercedes-Benz E53 AMG 4Matic+.
It always amuses me that cars like the E53 still turn heads wherever it goes but when it comes time to put down the money, it’s the more staid option that drives out the showroom.
In the flesh it’s understandable why it turns heads especially from the front that becomes broader towards the bottom. With its raked roof, AMG grille, LED headlights and optional 20-inch alloy wheels on the test unit, there’s no doubt that it means business in a very understated way.
The business comes from a turbo-charged 3.0-litre straight-6 petrol engine that’s good for an impressive 320kW and 520Nm. In addition to that it also features Merc’s EQ Boost system which adds an additional 16kW and 250Nm of torque. Mercedes says it will get you to 100km/h in 4,4 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h and if you select the optional AMG Driver’s Package, will get to 270km/h.
Power is sent via a nine-speed Speedshift TCT automatic transmission that drives all four wheels and can shift torque to each corner as needed.
The interior tweaks over the previous model are subtle but it remains as high-tech and impressive as ever with the MBUX multimedia system incorporated in two large flanking screens dominating the dash with the jet engine shaped aircon vents neatly stacked beneath. The graphics are top-notch and respond immediately to touch inputs.
Piloting the E53 coupé comes courtesy of a new AMG Performance steering wheel. It grips solidly in your hands with a flat bottom and has a two-tiered control layout that’s easy to operate once you’ve got the hang of it.
Often coupés are compromised when it comes to space but not so in this case. Up front there’s ample head and shoulder room as you comfortably sit in the AMG seats but rear space is just as impressive. I had my son who stands almost six foot tall sit behind me in the driving seat and he would have comfortably sat there on a long trip. Coupled with a 425-litre boot it ticks the grand tourer box boldly.
Pressing the start button brings about a pleasant grumble from the four tailpipes made even better if you remember to push the exhaust flap button on the centre console.
Select your drive mode from slippery (probably not in South Africa), Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual.
I like to play around with the settings in Individual to see what gives the most pleasing ride so for example you can set the engine for Sport, steering and suspension for Comfort and so on.
The ride in the E53 is firm whichever option you select and with low profiles on the 20-inch alloys you feel road imperfections especially when driving slowly on suburban roads.
At speed though I found it a fun car to drive and while I have spoken to people who lament the fact that there isn’t a rear wheel drive option in the settings, the trick is to get the most out of it with what it has to offer.
The all-wheel drive offers superb traction into and out of corners and the self-leveling suspension does a good job of limiting body roll especially considering it weighs almost 2000kg. The gearbox is slick when it upshifts but sometimes too quick if you leave it to its own devices but if you manage to sync the steering wheel mounted paddles with the engine, you’re rewarded with a thoroughly enjoyable experience especially when you gear down and the exhaust pops and crackles.
The Mercedes-Benz E53 AMG 4Matic+ provides an excellent combination of exhilarating driving, superb handling, technology, space and safety features to what is unfortunately becoming a niche market and at R1 618 000 it’s not cheap but I tell you what, if you can, grab it because before we know it the PC police will legislate against fossil fuel fun.