Test Drive:2019 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Christian Wardlaw | Apr 08, 2019

Introduction

Few car model lineups are as diverse as that of the 2019 Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The midsize car in the automaker’s lineup, the E-Class comes in coupe, convertible, sedan, and wagon body styles. Engines range from a turbocharged 4-cylinder to a twin-turbocharged V-8, with a new light-electrified hybrid drivetrain in between.

Called EQ Boost, the hybrid is new for 2019, and exclusive to the Mercedes-AMG E 53 models. Paired with a turbocharged 6-cylinder engine, a 9-speed automatic transmission, and a 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, it aims to maximize both performance and fuel economy.

2019 Mercedes-AMG E 53 Sedan photo
2019 Mercedes-AMG E 53 Sedan

Output measures 429 horsepower and 384 lb.-ft. of torque, and the integrated starter generator with its electric motor effectively eliminates turbo lag. Acceleration to 60 mph takes less than 4.5 seconds, and the AMG E 53 gets up to 28 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA.

To experience EQ Boost for myself, I headed to San Francisco to drive the 2019 Mercedes-AMG E 53 sedan.

Styling and Design

Distilled to its essence, the latest E-Class is simple and plain in appearance, relying on its Mercedes emblems, subtle detailing, and balanced proportions to convey a quiet luxury. In AMG format, the E-Class adopts a more aggressive look with a beautiful diamond-studded grille pattern, larger and more aggressive wheels, and sexy quad exhaust outlets.

Numerous customization opportunities—from matte gray paint and six different 20-in. wheel upgrades to multiple upholstery and interior trim selections—ensure that an E 53 buyer can tailor the car to specific preferences.

Inside, metal, wood, or carbon fiber decorates the cabin. Two 12.3-in. display screens dominate the dashboard, underscored by classy round air vents. The look is simultaneously futuristic and elegant, and the quality of the materials is top-notch.

Though it is a midsize car, the E-Class feels intimate. Seating is bolstered for performance, and can feel snug. Rear passengers may wish for more foot space. And the trunk measures just 13.1 cu. ft., which is small.

Features and Controls

A car with this much technology can be difficult to understand and use, and that’s the case with the E-Class. It takes a long time to go through all of the different menus and settings to configure the vehicle the way you prefer, and even after you’ve got everything set up to your liking, distraction is a frequent companion.

Compounding difficulties in the E 53, much of the switchgear has a metallic finish, making it difficult to see and read their markings. Suffice it to say that the less you interact with the controls, the more you can concentrate on the driving.

There is no shortage of features for the E-Class. Among the more notable and unusual items, the available heated front armrests and Air Balance interior air purification and fragrance system deserve special mention. You can also get massaging front seats, heated rear seats, soft-closing doors, and given the amount of road noise inside the E 53, a highly recommended Acoustic Comfort package designed to quiet the cabin.

Safety and Technology

No doubt, the Widescreen Cockpit instrumentation and infotainment display is impressive. But it can also serve as a source of distraction, which is why you should upgrade the E-Class with the Driver Assistance package and the Parking Assistance package.

Combined, they add 17 driver-assistance and collision-avoidance systems to the car, including numerous semi-autonomous technologies. They work with impressive accuracy and refinement, though other automakers are catching up to Mercedes in this regard.

One of my favorites is the Active Emergency Stop Assist system. It works when the car’s adaptive cruise control is set, and can detect when a driver is no longer holding the steering wheel. After a short period of time, if the driver does not respond to prompts to grip the wheel again, the system assumes that he or she is asleep or suffering a medical emergency. In a staged fashion, the system brings the E-Class to a halt in its lane of travel, activates the hazard flashers, and places an emergency SOS call to get first responders on the scene as soon as is possible.

A combination of control activation, touch sensing, and voice activation controls the various instrumentation and infotainment functions. It takes quite a while to acclimate. My test vehicle had the optional 23-speaker Burmester audio system and it sounded sensational, as it should in exchange for $5,400.

Driving Impressions

As I mentioned, my Mercedes-AMG E 53 test vehicle allowed more road sizzle and impact noise into the cabin than I expected. Sitting on optional 20-in. wheels with low-profile, run-flat performance tires, themselves bolted to an AMG-tuned adaptive damping air suspension, the E 53 also rode more stiffly than expected.

These, however, are the trade-offs for maximum handling capabilities. If you’re buying an AMG E 53 for its look, or because you think it’s better than the E 300 or E 450, consider yourself warned. And stick with the standard 19-in. wheels while you’re at it.

As an enthusiast driver, I quickly forgot about how loud and stiff the E 53 was. That’s because the EQ Boost powertrain is a revelation. Turbo lag is non-existent, replaced by instantaneous electrified torque and seamless acceleration from a seemingly endless well of power.

The driving route wound out of California’s Napa Valley, over to the coast, and down to San Francisco. Driving the E 53 was always a delight, though the 9-speed automatic did behave in an occasionally befuddled way on the steep streets of the city. Larger brakes effortlessly hauled the E 53 down from speed, variable-ratio steering felt perfectly assisted and telepathically responsive at all times, and the optional active performance exhaust system entertained me with each flick of the metal paddle shifters.

EQ Boost clearly improves performance, but what about efficiency? I averaged 21.9 mpg during a 3.5-hour drive, much of which was spent in Sport or Sport+ driving mode. That falls short of the EPA’s prediction of 24 mpg in combined driving, but the trade-off certainly was worth it.

Conclusion

Swanky, sophisticated, stiff, and speedy, the 2019 Mercedes-AMG E 53 might be a hybrid, but it’s also legitimate German sport sedan. The harder you drive it, the more you’ll like it.

If you’re seeking a traditional Mercedes ownership experience, may I show you something in an E 450? You’ll save yourself about $12,500 in terms of base price, money that could be spent on cabin fragrance systems, seat massagers, and a Luxury Styling package complete with a classic stand-up Mercedes hood ornament.

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