Fortunately, I live in the Southern regions of KwaZulu-Natal where winters are warm enough mid-morning to go top-down motoring without fear of hypothermia or frostbite so, giving the Mercedes-Benz E53 AMG Cabriolet a blast on my favourite roads was a rather engaging experience.
I am not a particular fan of the cabriolet in general. Early experiences with performance-orientated topless cars tended offer up plenty of scuttle shake along with visible body flexing. Additionally, in this – sadly – crime-ridden land of ours, cabrios are not all that practical.
Also, I have always viewed them as boulevard cruisers to drive at slow speeds in order to take in the admiring glances.
However, things have very definitely changed and this car has top-drawer body stiffness with none of that scuttle shake and it sits, planted firmly on the road even under vigorous wheel-twirling directional changes.
The back story of the Mercedes-Benz cabriolet dates to 1991 when the company debuted a four-seater with a fabric top at the Frankfurt International Motor Show. It was initially known as the 300 CE-24, and revived a long tradition of four-door open-top vehicles in company’s brand history. It was renamed the E-Class in 1993.
Fast forward to 2021, and Mercedes-Benz launched a comprehensive facelift for its E-Class Coupé and Cabriolet. Upgrades included a healthy facelift, with the front sections, in particular, being given a fresh look; a good dose of new technology, including the next generation of driving assistance systems and the MBUX infotainment system.
The key feature is the AMG-specific radiator grille with 12 vertical louvres. The A-shaped design of the front, which becomes broader towards the bottom and the flatter, sharper-cut all-LED headlamps create a powerful impression.
Viewed from the side, the standard 19-inch light-alloy wheels in the aerodynamically optimised 5-twin-spoke design are quite eye-catching. As an option 20-inch light-alloy wheels in a 5-twin-spoke design are available, with the optional AMG Night Package offering an even sportier appearance with outside mirror housings, window frames plus trim elements in the front and rear apron styled in high-gloss black.
On the inside, the upper section of the dashboard appears to hover, resting on trim elements that flow through into the doors.
The E-Class is fitted with an entirely new, intelligent steering wheel as part of the facelift. This is available as a leather steering wheel and in a super sports variant. It is also equipped with the latest generation of the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) multimedia system, which comes standard with two large 10,25-inch high-resolution screens, arranged side by side.
Under the bonnet, the electrified 3,0-litre engine with twin turbo-charging via an exhaust gas turbo-charger and an electric additional compressor generates an output of 320 kW and produces a peak torque of 520 Nm. This results in a 0-100 km/h sprint time of 4,6 seconds, with top speed governed to 250 km/h (or 270 km/h, if the AMG Driver’s Package is selected).
The engine is coupled with the AMG SPEEDSHIFT TCT 9G transmission and it features all-wheel drive with braking to match the performance in the form of cross drilled and internally vented 370 mm x 36 mm discs, with four-piston fixed callipers and AMG lettering at the front, while the rear axle is fitted with internally vented 360 mm x 26 mm discs with single-piston floating callipers.
With the five Dynamic Select drive programs – Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual, the characteristics of the new Mercedes-AMG E53 4MATIC+ models can change from efficient and comfortable to very sporty at the touch of a finger. The modes modify key parameters, such as the response of the engine, transmission, suspension and steering.
The test car was also fitted with the optional AMG Track Pace although I am at a loss to understand why anyone would want to put this car (sans roll cage) onto a race track.
It is brisk, make no mistake about that and it is very easy while highway cruising not to notice the speed ramping up until you are well past the national limits – fortunately there is cruise control and a speed limiter option.
Having had the CLA45 AMG on test fairly recently, the comparison between the two cars puts the E53 in the greater comfort zone. Where the C-Class version reacts quite strongly to road ripples, the heavier and bigger E-Class rides them with more panache.
That additional mass also results in a little more ‘push’ at the front going into tight corners but the bigger road footprint also means less fidgeting from the back end trying to break traction – all of which means with a minor adjustment to driving style, the cabriolet can be hurled around pretty much at will.
Of course, it is also well suited to being the boulevard cruiser and, with Active Brake Assist will coddle the driver in traffic by reacting quickly to slowing traffic, stationary vehicles or pedestrians. It also has hands-off detection, allowing the car to react quickly and intelligently if the driver is unable to do so.
The hands-off detection feature of the steering wheel means if the system detects the driver does not have their hands on the steering wheel for a certain time, a warning cascade is started, which finally activates Emergency Brake Assist if the driver continues to be inactive.
Fuel consumption in normal Comfort mode on my test cycle came in at 9,3 l/100 km and you really do not want to know what it becomes when absolute hooligan mode is put into play.
In the lexicon of Mrs W, this is a “growly” car – and, indeed it is, and that is perhaps the true beauty of a convertible, where you can hear that gentle growl grow into the full-throated symphony that is petrolhead bliss.