Many people would argue that any Mercedes-AMG ought to have a V8 engine, but when you're shopping for an elegant drop-top, shouldn't ultimate performance take a back seat to refinement and comfort? Fortunately for the E53 Cabriolet, Mercedes has provided an engine worthy of the AMG badge, even though it's a straight-six. The engine is a 3.0-liter turbo and produces 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. In addition, an integrated starter-generator on the crankshaft supplies an extra 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque to seamlessly fill gaps in power delivery. This is then sent through a silky nine-speed automatic automatic gearbox to all four wheels. With its boulevard cruiser image, the classy E53 doesn't need a crude and rowdy V8, especially since you'll be wanting to go slowly enough to allow passers-by to take in the gorgeous lines and stunning cabin. This is an AMG without a point to prove, and it's also one of the finest convertibles you can buy.
Not too much has changed for the 2020 model, but as with all other 2020 AMG models, a new Emotion Start feature has been added as standard, giving the car a louder exhaust note on start-up. Illuminated door sills are also now standard, and a Slippery drive mode has been added for treacherous conditions. There are also some new interior trim options available, along with new steering wheel designs.
See trim levels and configurations:
|AMG E53 4MATIC Cabriolet||
3.0L Turbo Inline-6 Gas
Not many cabriolets manage to look good with the top up and down - usually one is better than the other. With the E53, however, the shape is attractive in either guise. This is helped by the classic long hood and short trunk. LED lights feature all round, while the usual AMG enhancements of larger grilles and a quad-exit exhaust also feature. You also get TURBO 4MATIC+ badges on the fenders and 19-inch wheels as standard, with 20s being optional.
Thanks to its all-wheel-drive setup, the E53 is not particularly light. It weighs 4,566 lbs, but then again, it is a large car. Length measures 190.6 inches from end to end with a wheelbase of 113.1 inches. Width is also fairly considerable, at 80.9 inches including the mirrors, while maximum height measures 56.2 inches.
The engine in the E53 is a 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six that produces 429 hp and 384 lb-ft on its own. If that wasn't enough, an electric air compressor adds to its output with an additional 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. This system sounds complicated and is surely difficult to get right, but here it's a polished, seamlessly integrated masterpiece. Turbo lag is practically nonexistent, and once spooled up, the turbine delivers a wave of power that pushes you towards the horizon effortlessly. Official claims are a 0-60 mph time of 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph when equipped with summer tires. The nine-speed automatic transmission is a perfect companion, with smooth shifts and quick responses when you take control via the steering-mounted paddles, but the column-mounted shifter does feel flimsy and it's a little awkward to operate.
Despite being a drop-top, the Mercedes-AMG E53 convertible is surprisingly capable in the corners, with a decent level of agility and the standard adaptive air suspension system is equally adept at minimizing body roll as it is at providing a comfortable and compliant ride. The dynamic characteristics of this setup mean that you can make the vehicle as stiff as possible when you come across a winding stretch of road and take full advantage of the grip provided by the all-wheel-drive system. When you're cruising home, you can switch to a more comfortable mode for excellent compliance over uneven roads. The braking system is impressive too, balancing a high level of response and good initial bite with easy modulation at lower speeds.
The E53 is relatively economical for an AMG model, returning official EPA estimates of 20/26/23 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. With a 17.4-gallon gas tank, you should be able to realistically achieve 400 miles between fill ups with mixed driving.
The interior of every modern Mercedes is a good-looking place, and in this one, there's a decent amount of space, too. You won't be fitting six-footers in the back - at least not with the roof up - but you can fit adults back there for short drives. In the front, the standard power-adjustable seats with memory functions allow for a good driving position and are both comfortable and supportive for all body types. Ingress and egress are easy (in front, at least) and visibility is enhanced by a generous glasshouse and a dashboard that is simple to see over.
If you need to ferry people and their luggage around, the sedan should be what you buy. In that car, you get 13.1 cubic feet of volume. In the cabriolet, you only get 9.5 cubic feet with the top up. That's still enough for five carry-on suitcases, but pack it full and you can't put the top down. If you do, you may be able to fit a couple of shopping bags. Fortunately, Mercedes does fit an electric trunk partition to make it easier to tell how much of the trunk will be taken up by the roof when it's lowered.
In the cabin, you have a lot more practicality, with large door pockets, a reasonable glovebox, and a large center armrest bin. There's also a spot for your phone to charge wirelessly, and a quartet of cupholders split between front and rear passengers.
The E53 is impressively well-equipped in standard form, with adaptive air suspension, a 12.3-inch digital driver's information display, a 180-degree rearview camera, 64-color ambient lighting, heated front seats with a neck-warmer, and a hands-free power trunk. You also get keyless ignition, dual-zone climate control, remote start, traffic sign recognition, and hill start assist. Safety features include crosswind assist, a drowsy driver alert, blind spot monitoring, Pre-Safe collision preparation, rain-sensing wipers, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. Options include adaptive cruise control, adaptive LED headlights, lane keep and lane change assists, evasive steering assist, active blind spot assist, forward cross traffic alert with pedestrian detection, rear cross traffic alert, park assist, a surround-view camera, rear collision preparation, massaging and ventilated front seats, heated armrests, a heated steering wheel, soft-close doors, and a head-up display. Driving enthusiasts may also be tempted by the AMG Track Pace app with a lap-timer.
The infotainment system in the E53 utilizes a stunning 12.3-inch display, much like the one behind the steering wheel. It's controlled via touch-sensitive controls on the steering wheel or the touchpad in the center console. This COMAND system is linked to a Burmester 13-speaker sound system as standard and features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation with live traffic, HD Radio, and a hands-free Bluetooth interface. You also get wireless charging and a USB port, although additional ports are optionally available. The system is overly complex, however, and we look forward to the MBUX system being fitted here in 2021.
The 2020 E53 has thus far been subject to a single recall, for an inaccurate vehicle location for the emergency services response system. No other issues have presented themselves thus far.
Should anything go awry, a limited warranty covers the car for the first four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes sooner. During this time, the powertrain is covered by a full warranty, too.
The cabriolet variant of the E-Class has not been individually tested by either the IIHS nor the NHTSA, but the sedan on which it is based scored a full five stars from the NHTSA, while the IIHS awarded it a Top Safety Pick+ award in 2019.
Standard safety features include the aforementioned MB Emergency Call system, a drowsy driver alert, crosswind assist, a 180-degree rearview camera, Pre-Safe collision preparation, blind-spot monitoring, hill start assist, and forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking. You also get nine airbags, with frontal, side-impact, and curtain airbags for front occupants. You also get a driver's knee airbag and rear-seat curtain airbags. Options include adaptive cruise control, lane keep and lane change assists, evasive steering assist, adaptive LED headlights, front and rear cross traffic alerts with pedestrian detection, a surround-view camera, park assist, a head-up display, and Pre-Safe Plus rear collision preparation.
The E53 is impeccably finished in typical Mercedes style, with a gorgeous and spacious interior (at least in front). It's impressively well-equipped in standard form, and the available options elevate the luxury, convenience, and safety to levels that are more than respectable. Its roof is a little slow to fold and retract, and the infotainment system is not particularly intuitive, but it drives beautifully, with excellent throttle response and an eagerness to take corners. It's also a great cruiser and its standard adaptive air suspension system allows for relaxed drives without any discomfort. As a drop-top, it's marvelous. As an AMG product, it's not truly hardcore and it's not the kind of car you would take to the track, but it is still worthy of the badge.
The Mercedes-AMG E53 4MATIC+ Cabriolet is a standalone model and starts at a base price of $81,650 before a destination charge of $995, tax, licensing, and registration costs. Fully loaded, this car can exceed a price of $100,000.
Since the Mercedes-AMG E53 is only available in a single variant, the choice will depend on what you value most in the car and this will determine your choice of options. However, we're partial to the Driver Assistance package with its adaptive cruise control, evasive steering assist, Pre-Safe Plus, lane keep and lane change assists, and active blind spot assist. We'd also consider ticking the box for the AMG Performance exhaust system, and if you can spare it, massaging and ventilated front seats would be worth the money on a leisure vehicle such as this. All in, you'd still be spending less than $95,000.
If you're after a more involving drive than you get in a Mercedes product, you would usually look at the competition from BMW. In this case, that BMW does not wear an M badge, as that would be more likely to go against the E63 Cabriolet that is reviewed separately. In base form, the BMW 8 Series comes with a 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six, just like the Merc does, but here it produces only 335 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque. It's also more expensive, at a base price of $97,400 in RWD form. However, it has a larger trunk, a more advanced infotainment system, and is still excellent to drive. If you can spare the money, we'd suggest splashing out on the M850i. Along with all-wheel-drive, this model's 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 outdoes the AMG by a long shot, producing 523 hp, thus making it quicker and more exciting.
The Mercedes-AMG lineup offers something for just about everyone, so if you're after the ultimate in technology, power, and space, the S63 may be worth considering. However, at more than double the price, this level of excellence is not for everyone. Its base price is a whopping $183,500, but for that money, you get a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with a massive 603 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque. It also has all-wheel-drive and a nine-speed automatic transmission, and features the best of all that Mercedes-AMG has to offer. However, even at that price, there are compromises to be made. The trunk is even smaller, and the majority of the best features are still optional. For us, we'd take the slightly more practical E53.
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