Executive summary: While a full-on AMG Benz is way too hardcore for most drivers, the new hybrid Mercedes-AMG E53 Coupe is much more liveable and, for almost all of the time, more enjoyable too.
What we’re driving: Mercedes-AMG hybrid E53 Coupe
What it costs: from $172,729
Why we’re driving it: the Mercedes-Benz code book has traditionally translated AMG as 'V8 muscle', but times have changed. There are smaller cars and engines to suit the 21st century, as well as people who are not interested in going fast all the time.
Cue the mid-sized Mercedes-AMG E53, which swaps old-school V8 thunder for a high-tech six-cylinder with twin turbochargers and a mild hybrid system which injects a little extra electric energy into the mix.
At the same time, there's all-wheel drive behind a nine-speed automatic shifter.
It’s a complicated but interesting mix and one which is already working well in the smaller C43, another V6 middleweight that sits behind the C63 slugger.
Basically, the target is efficiency at all times and in all ways. So the V6 is a sipper and not a slurper, nicely green, and very well equipped and tuned.
There are three E53 models - a four-door sedan with two-door coupe and convertible – with pricing from $167,129 that puts it right in the middle of the latest Mercedes-Benz line-up.
On the outside: This mid-sized Benz is a smooth coupe, with elegant lines and enough of the AMG tinsel to turn heads and create smiles.
The AMG edge comes from big 20-inch alloys and a bazooka-style exhaust with four tips, but the overall effect is not childish or try-hard.
Anyone worried about too much noise has no fears, for the E53 can waft quietly through traffic and it’s only if you run the performance setting up to Sport-Plus that things get a bit growly.
Under the bonnet: The three-litre engine is more than enough with the twin-turbos to translate into a 0-100km/h dash in just 4.4 seconds, while the EV side of the hybrid equation uses a 48-volt system so that the E53 can literally coast down hills, as well as being more efficient in stop-start traffic mode.
The nine-speed auto is predictably smooth and trouble-free, with paddles behind the wheel if you want manual control.
The all-wheel drive helps with acceleration that won’t just melt the rear tyres, and snow trippers will enjoy the extra grip in the mountains.
On the inside: everything you need, and much more to enjoy, is standard in the E53 from the soft Nappa leather on the seats to a pair of oversized display screens and Benz’s latest Command infotainment system with Apple CarPlay.
There's also a cordless phone charger, you can dial up your choice of colours for the LED cabin lighting, and there are plenty of options in the way all the information is displayed through the digital dashboard.
Much of the latest cabin treatment has been trickling down through the whole Mercedes-Benz range, which means the E-Class package is much as you find across the line.
It’s only really missing the ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control system, complete with artificial intelligence that allows it to learn your voice and preferences, which arrived last year in the all-new A-Class.
That’s partly about timing, but also because Benz knows the younger buyers considering an A-car are more likely to be won to the three-pointed star with something cutting edge and fun.
On the road: my first few kilometres in the E53 pass in blissful ignorance. I’m too busy enjoying the cushy comfort and the cabin quietness to worry about the go-faster stuff that comes with the AMG badge.
But then I have to hustle out of a road junction in front of oncoming traffic and, blimey, this thing is quick with a capital GO. As my foot hits the carpet the engine room comes alive with an instant shove that turns a potential threat into a non-event.
So, for a couple of fun kilometres, I switch the performance all the way up by turning the controls to Sport+ and head down my favourite driving road.
The E53 coupe proves crisp and responsive, well balanced and swift. It’s not as edgy or grippy as an E63 belter, and it doesn’t have the Valhalla soundtrack that comes when you open the exhausts on the V8 car, but I’m not missing any of it.
It’s as quick as I need to go, it’s not creating a fuss, and I can quickly and easy flick back to the Comfort settings and ease back into the ‘burbs with no-one knowing about my fun run.
All the rest of the E-Class coupe package is welcome and enjoyable, from a big boot and genuinely sumptuous seats in both the front and back...
...and enough tech toys to keep me amused and challenged through my test time.