Well, yes they do, and I’m not talking pricetags.
At age 75, the days of me contemplating purchasing an expensive, high quality brand automobile are long past (if they ever existed), but as I still have the opportunity to sample some of the latest and greatest on a regular basis, I can afford to be either glowing or disparaging about the cars which are ‘on my drive’.
A few weeks ago it was a Mercedes-Benz E53 AMG coupe, which I must admit when I walked up to get into the car, I was feeling very blasé, given that Gorden Wagener and his design team has lavished almost identical visages on each different model class, both exteriors and interiors.
Personally, and I remain entirely consistent, my favourite Mercedes-Benz remains the C-class sedan – it is just right in my mind. Perfect size, perfect dimensions and perspective, adequate powertrain and performance, and, dare I say, a little jewel.
So, I slide into the luxurious interior, fire up the E53 coupe for the 70km trip from Brisbane to the Gold Coast with considerable insouciance, and join the M3 for the boring freeway drive south.
At about halfway I thought, enough of this mindless motorway monotony, I will depart the expressway for my favourite way home via some regional hotspots, like Yarrabilba, Tambourine, Canungra and Clagiraba.
Now, I realize those names will not spring immediately to mind as representing a route something like you may find on the Rallye de Monte Carlo, but Routes 92 and 90, cover about 40km, and thanks to my familiarity with the roads, allows me the chance to spring to instant judgment on a car’s appeal and responses.
By the time I arrive home, I have come to some conclusions, which may inform a post on DRIVING & LIFE.
So, back to my question.
Does E53 mean anything?
Yes, I think it’s probably one of the most enjoyable drives in a current Stuttgart Stormer I’ve had in a while.
The car was beautifully balanced, both in the city and on the regional roads, and despite the interior color scheme (more on that later), it was a very enjoyable drive, with the bi-turbo 3.0L V6 urging me to push harder, and extend the car’s performance limits.
I think the bi-turbo bit requires some explanation. There is a single, conventional, exhaust-driven turbocharger, but also an additional electronically-driven turbo, which boosts power and torque because it spins up so quickly, regardless of engine speed.
I think it’s this combo, plus the 9-speed automatic, which makes the car so pleasurable to drive. In fact as I told the guys at Mercedes-Benz Australia, I think this could be the real star of the current range.
It comes as a coupe, a ragtop and a sedan, and with the AMG embellishments, it’s also probably pretty good value for money.
At AUD$175,000 you may well say: “What does he know about value?” Having just brought a Kia Cerato Sport hatch into my garage, in my dotage.
But, after a career spent associated with some of the most famous brands in the car business, I do have an eye for value, and this E53 was starting to get under my skin.
Talking of 'skin', the interior on my test car was finished in black and white leather, but my following comments will only resonate with people who live in the USA.
At first glance, my initial reaction was that M-B had finished the car with skunk-skin leather. If you’ve ever been ‘skunked’ (as I have) those colors will only mean one thing for the rest of your life.
When cornered, a skunk will spew out pheromones which convey the most terrible odour, and can only be mitigated with liberal bathing in tomato sauce.
However, skunk-colored upholstery aside, the cockpit is easily the best of the brand’s new breed of cars.
A great dashboard, a Burmester sound system and understated use of dark veneers (they can’t be made from real wood, can they?) present an image of a truly premier design approach.
Okay, it drives well, presents with relatively compact dimensions, has a great powertrain, and displays great design perspective, thanks to the previously-mentioned dimensions. Is the E53 Mercedes-Benz’s best set of numbers?
I don’t know, but I certainly appreciated the chance to drive it, because it tells me quite a lot about Daimler AG’s product planning vision, and where it ends up.