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Car reviews - Mercedes-AMG - E53 - Cabriolet

Our Opinion

We like
Exterior design, high-end cabin, fuel economy from mild hybrid powertrain, straight-line performance, dynamic prowess, fabric roof acoustics
Room for improvement
Stiff suspension, fiddly Comand controller, roof controller should be one-touch, gear shifter on steering column

Electrification boosts Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet, but is it any better than E450?

Mercedes-AMG logo28 Jan 2019

Overview
 
MERCEDES-AMG does not offer a full-fat E63 version of its E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet, leaving the E53 4Matic+ – tested here in drop-top guise – as the spiciest two-door variant.
 
BMW and Audi don’t really have direct rivals for the E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet range, leaving Benz a niche all its own.
 
The striking E53 has loads of road presence and real performance chops, but is there enough of a difference between it and the more affordable E450 4Matic to justify the price premium?
 
We spend a week with the rag-top to find out.
 
Price and equipment
 
Mercedes is the only car-maker to offer a drop-top (or coupe if you prefer a fixed roof) based on a large passenger sedan, making the sporty E-Class range a unique proposition. 
 
For anyone that thinks it’s too big, there is the smaller C-Class two-door range as well as rivals such as the Audi A5 and BMW 4 Series.
 
At $181,329 plus on-road costs, the Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet is not cheap. Especially when you consider that Benz also offers the E450 4Matic Cabriolet for about $20,000 less at $160,828.
 
It is offered with a selectable AMG Performance exhaust system, 20-inch alloy wheels, an AMG exterior styling package, a bootlid-mounted lip spoiler, an acoustic soft-top, an Aircap automatic draught-stop system and Airscarf neck heating for the front passengers.
 
The cabin features dual 12.3-inch displays housing Mercedes’ Comand infotainment system, sports seats and steering wheel, Nappa leather upholstery and a Burmester surround-sound system.
 
Energizing Comfort Control, which links the air-conditioning, seat functionality, surface heating and music together to create different driving moods, is featured in the Cabriolet, as is the Night and Air Balance packages.
 
Safety gear includes autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep and steering assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, active blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert, high-beam assist, traffic sign recognition, driver attention warning and tyre pressure monitoring.
 
Annoyingly, the built-in alarm is incredibly sensitive. It went off at least four times for no real reason during our week with the car. Once a neighbour walked past it and the other times there was no-one to be seen anywhere near it.
 
Interior
 
Despite the rather dull grey hue, the E53 gets a lot of looks on the road. The E-Class Cab and Coupe are a bit more handsome than their C-Class two-door stablemates and the E53 definitely has road presence.
 
Benz upped its game with the E-Class cabin when it launched the sedan version back in mid-2016 and the Cabriolet is no different. 
 
The interior looks smashing and feels as premium as its pricetag suggests.
 
Touches like the chunky AMG steering wheel with intuitive buttons and the turbine-themed air vents give it a unique and high-end feel.
 
The massive dual 12.3-inch displays highlight how far Benz has come in terms of in-car tech, but the clunky Comand controller with its dial and weird Star Trek-shaped add on needs to be refined. It has in other new Benz models so hopefully in another update it will be gone.
 
Mercedes insistence on placing the gear shifter on the steering wheel column is bizarre. If they are doing it to be different – mission accomplished. But it is simply not practical. Please just place it in the centre console like everyone else.
 
We encountered a small rattle coming from somewhere near the passenger side roof but we could not locate it.
 
The front sports seats are supportive and luxurious, but the brown leather inserts look too much like melted chocolate for our taste.
 
The two rear seats are surprisingly comfortable and there’s heaps of headroom back there. Unsurprisingly there’s not a massive amount of legroom, but it’s actually not too bad.
 
Visibility is not too bad despite small rear window. There are multiple cameras and monitors to assist when manoeuvring the car anyway. 
 
The fabric roof can be lowered in 20 seconds up to 50km/h, but to lower and raise the roof, you must hold the switch until the operation is complete. Not ideal when you are driving, even at these low speeds. Surely a one-touch system isn’t too much of a stretch?
 
The roof won’t lower if there’s too much stuff in boot. It can swallow 385 litres when the roof is up and that drops by 75L when it is lowered.
 
Engine and transmission
 
Under the stylish bonnet of the E53 is Daimler’s 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder petrol engine with two turbochargers. One of them is fed by exhaust gases and the other has an electric auxiliary compressor working up to 3000rpm. 
 
It pumps out 320kW of power at 6100rpm and 520Nm of torque from 1800 to 5800rpm.
 
The E53 is also a mild hybrid. That means it has a starter alternator electric motor – EQ Boost in Benz speak – that produces an extra 16kW and 250Nm up to 2500rpm, and feeds the 48V on-board electrical system as well as the traditional 12V setup that continues to power functions such as lights and the infotainment system.
 
The engine is paired with a nine-speed Speedshift automatic transmission driving all four wheels via the rear-biased 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system.
 
Benz says the E53 Cabriolet can cover the 0-100km/h dash in 4.5 seconds and we have no reason to doubt that. Although acceleration feels quick, but not break neck, it picks up quickly after some lag.
 
The exhaust note and engine noise is delicious, especially when engaging the sports exhaust system.
 
Dynamic mode turns up the wick a bit too, if you feel you need more poke.
 
The EQ Boost system has a coasting function and extra capabilities for the idle-stop system, which helps to reduce fuel consumption.
 
The idle-stop system is virtually undetectable. It’s a flawless system.
 
We recorded a combined fuel figure of 8.7 litres per 100km after a week of mixed driving, which is a touch under the claimed figure of 9.0L/100km.
 
Ride and handling
 
A good portion of our driving in the E53 was done in inner-city Melbourne where there a lots of speed bumps and 40km/h zones.
 
Given the size of the car and the sporty suspension setup, we concluded that it was not the best mode of transport to get you around town from A to B.
 
Even in comfort mode, the suspension is way too stiff. It does not like speed bumps and potholes or manhole covers. The 20-inch low-profile tyres don’t help.
 
While it can be annoying around town, the ride is perfect for dynamic driving on twisty roads and freeways.
 
The ride improved when the adjustable dampers were switched to Comfort. 
 
The E53 never came unstuck and tail didn’t go out, and we have the 4Matic+ AWD system to thanks for that.
 
Steering feel is really heavy. It is still pretty direct, but it’s missing a bit of connection to the road.
 
The Cabriolet is surprisingly quiet with roof up when cruising down a freeway. Benz’s roof insulation is excellent. With top down on a warm day, it is lovely to feel your hair in the wind.
 
Careful when trying to manoeuvre the E53 in narrow streets because it has a massive turning circle.
 
Safety and servicing
 
Safety gear includes autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep and steering assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, active blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert, high-beam assist, traffic sign recognition, driver attention warning and tyre pressure monitoring.
 
Benz’s warranty is three years or 200,000km, whichever occurs first. Servicing intervals are every 20,000km or once a year.
 
Verdict
 
There’s a lot to like about the Mercedes-AMG E53 4Matc+ Cabriolet. It is absolutely stunning in the metal and the interior is bang up to date with the latest tech and high-end materials.
 
The clever mild hybrid powertrain is also impressive. It is very rare that a test car records a lower combined fuel use readout than the company’s official figure. It is proof that the system works.
 
If the latest tech, fuel economy and that alluring AMG badge are super appealing, then jump in. 
 
But if you want to save yourself $20K, maybe check out the E450 Cabriolet. It is only slightly less powerful, but it might chug more fuel than the E53.
 
Rivals
 
BMW 440i Convertible from $118,929 plus on-road costs
It is a size small than the Benz but the E53 doesn’t have any direct rivals. You save yourself $60K with the Bimmer but it drops 80kW/70Nm over the Benz.

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