by Jay Traugott
With new changes for 2019, Mercedes-Benz has rejigged the E-Class Cabriolet line-up, turning what once was the E400 into the E450, forming the only non-AMG E Cabrio in the line-up. The new E-Class Cabriolets are equipped with an upgraded 3.0-liter V6 bi-turbo engine that generates 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, an additional 33 hp and 15 lb-ft over the last year's E400 Cabriolet. Both the E450 and E450 4MATIC are equipped with a nine-speed automatic transmission, with outputs sent to the rear wheels in the E450 and to all corners in the E450 4MATIC. The midsize luxury Cabriolets offer refined comfort and luxury in all aspects, from the contemporary interior to the subtle ride and handling dynamics. With the demise of the BMW 6 Series Cabriolet, the E-Class Cabriolet now occupies a niche in the market, tempting buyers away from the smaller C-Class who simply can't afford the larger S-Class.
The biggest change for 2019 is a change in name, with the E450 replacing last year's E400. The two new E450 Cabriolets receive a minor exterior facelift and some interior refinement including a new three-spoke Nappa leather multifunction steering wheel. They also receive a refined version of the 3.0-liter V6 bi-turbo engine which delivers increased output figures. A Route Based Speed Adaptation feature has been added to the optional Driver Assistance Package, and new 19-inch AMG wheels are now available with the optional Night Package with AMG Line.
The 2019 E-Class Cabrio exhibits classic Mercedes-Benz styling with Mercedes three-point star emblems, smooth proportions, and a sleek cab-back design. The RWD E450 and E450 4MATIC have the standard option to ride on either 18-inch twin five-spoke alloy wheels or plain 18-inch five-spoke wheels. Both models feature all-LED exterior lighting and a power-operated three-layer "acoustic" soft top.
The E-Class Cabriolet feels comfortably intimate for a midsize luxury Cabriolet. It stretches 190 inches in length, of which 113.1 of those inches are dedicated to the wheelbase. It has an overall height of 56.2 inches and a total width of 80.9 inches. The Cabrio rides with a maximum ground clearance of 3.9 inches. The RWD E450 weighs in with a curb weight of 4,189 lbs while the E450 4MATIC tips the scales with a curb weight of 146 lbs heavier at 4,335 lbs.
The refined 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 engine delivers smooth acceleration off-the-line and is almost completely devoid of turbo-lag. It feels satisfyingly strong under full throttle, begging to be pushed to the limits with an accompanying six-cylinder growl, but behaves just as well at part-throttle on relaxed coastal cruises. With 362 hp and 369 lb-ft at hand, power is always ample, from pulling away from a traffic light in town to overtaking at speed on the highway. The nine-speed automatic transmission is smooth and delivers precisely timed shifts. The Dynamic Drive system changes shift and throttle programming based on drive modes, turning the E450 from sedate cruiser to eager sports car - we find it best to leave it in Comfort, though, as it feels more natural and the gearbox is highly intuitive should you ever need a lower gear to overtake.
As an open-top coupe, the E450 is designed to be a luxurious grand tourer. But the lowered suspension and adaptive damping system in the E450 don't quite deal with road imperfections and undulations as well as we'd expect, nor as well as they're dealt with in the E-Class Coupe. The stiffer tuning - partially to help manage body flex as a result of the roof being chopped - works a treat on mirror-smoothe surfaces, but on broken roads, it results in a choppy ride, particularly at low speeds. Body roll and flex are managed well, though, and levels of grip generally remain high. It's no sports car, but on smooth roads and should the situation arise, the E-Class Cabriolet is a more than capable handler, provided you don't ask too much of the bulky soft-top.
The new Nappa leather steering wheel is a pleasure to grasp, its weighting is driver-adjustable according to each drive mode, and its responses are precise. There is, however, not very much communication from the front axle, lending a relaxed air to the E450. The brakes deliver adequate stopping power, are consistent, and though powerful, never feel too jerky.
One area in which the E450 Cabrio impressed was the relative lack of wind noise when the soft-top was closed, with the Cabriolet feeling remarkably refined and coupe-like from an NVH perspective.
The RWD E450 Cabrio is the more fuel-efficient trim with EPA estimates of 20/27/23mpg city/highway/combined. Because the E450 4MATIC is heavier and has an extra driven axle compared to the base E450 trim, it returns lower EPA estimates of 19/26/22mpg respectively. Both trims are equipped with 17.4-gallon gas tanks and take only premium unleaded gasoline. With a full tank of gas and in mixed driving conditions the E450 Cabrio can manage a maximum range of around 400 miles and the E450 4MATIC a maximum of around 380 miles.
Both E-Class Cabriolets seat a total of four passengers in suitably comfortable and supportive seats. The soft top accords the Cabriolet with ample headroom, and legroom throughout the cabin is also adequate, even for taller passengers in the rear cabin. Finding a good driving position is no challenge, thanks to the highly-adjustable front seats and tilt-and-telescoping steering column. Accessibility to the rear seats is easy to live with thanks to power sliding front seats and in-cabin room. The seats are wonderfully plush and supportive, upholstered in a range of materials from MB-Tex simulated leather to genuine leather and even Alcantara, and available in a range of colors from Black to Macchiato Beige and Yacht Blue. Outward visibility is decent, but the E-Class Cabriolet is a large Cabriolet, and it takes some getting used to where the boundaries the car are.
There are a measly 9.5 cubic feet of trunk space available in the E-Class Cabriolet with the roof closed and the trunk partition removed. This isn't particularly impressive but is enough space to accommodate a set of golf clubs and a small carry-on suitcase. The trunk features an electronic trunk partition which defines the available trunk space that will be available with the Cabrio top retracted, and with the partition in place, the available space shrinks substantially. The 50/50 split-folding rear seats fold down to expand trunk space for larger cargo items.
In-cabin storage solutions are limited to moderately sized door side pockets that fit bottles, a sizeable center armrest console, a small center cubby with dual cupholders, and an average-sized glovebox. Another two cupholders are featured between the two rear seats.
Both E-Class Cabriolets are relatively equally outfitted with vehicle features. As Cabriolets, the E-Class E450's come with a standard-fit AIRSCARF neck-level heating system and an AIRCAP virtual wind blocker. As standard, they also feature an illuminated entry system, power-folding side mirrors, 64-color LED ambient lighting with illuminated vents, HomeLink garage door opener, and keyless start capability. Adding to comfort and convenience is dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front sports seats with power-adjustability and memory functions, and 50/50 split-folding rear seats. Both trims also offer remote start capability via the Mercedes me connect mobile app, and are equipped with an electronic trunk partition. A high-resolution multifunction display with analog gauges and three-spoke steering wheel with Touch Control Buttons guides the driver. Standard active driver-assists include attention assist, crosswind assist, blind spot assist, brake assist, and all models come with a standard-fit rearview camera and pop-up roll bars.
The old Mercedes COMAND infotainment system has finally undergone a substantial remodel, yielding the beautiful dual 12.3-inch widescreen setup present in the E450 Cabriolet. While the screen directly in front of the driver displays instrumentation, the remaining screen caters to all infotainment requirements. But it's not as user-friendly as many interfaces found in competing brands' vehicles, though, despite the striking beauty of it. Navigating through menus and adjusting settings can be complicated, frustratingly distracting, and take a while to get used to. The COMAND infotainment system is linked to a touchpad controller and the steering wheel-mounted touch controls. It is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard and boasts onboard navigation, voice control, Bluetooth audio streaming, and HD Radio. It also features a hands-free Bluetooth interface, dual USB audio ports, an SD card reader, and comes with three-years of no-charge online navigation map updates. The default sound system is crisp, but you really want the optional Burmeister surround sound for a truly luxurious listening experience.
The E-Class Cabriolet has been subject to no fewer than five recalls for the 2019 model alone, with issues ranging from a potentially loose trunk spoiler and the seatbelts reading as unfastened to more serious issues like brake assist not working, a locknut on the steering rack failing, or the power control unit stalling the engine. Along with numerous driver complaints lodged, J.D. Power allocated the 2019 E-Class Cabriolet with a below-average predicted reliability rating of 2.5 out of five. Mercedes covers the E-Class Cabrio with a standard four-year/50,000-mile new-vehicle limited warranty along with a selection of warranty extension options.
In our time with the E450, we encountered several problems, the most serious of which was a Christmas tree of lights on the dash accompanied by the soft-top refusing to operate. As Murphy's Law would have it, the top was open and a thunderstorm was incoming, so we had to hide undercover for a few hours before the roof would close.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has crash-tested the E-Class Cabriolet or the coupe upon which it's based. Some of the standard safety and advanced driver-assist features in both E-Class Cabrio models include attention assist, active brake assist, and crosswind assist. The E-Class Cabrio comes equipped with a rearview camera, pop-up roll bars, and 11-way airbag protection. Standard active driver-assists include attention assist, crosswind assist, blind spot assist, brake assist, and an electronic stability program.
As the sole occupant of a niche segment, the E-Class Cabriolet makes itself the default choice for buyers wanting open-top luxury. Thankfully, you won't rue the decision to buy one, as even in isolation the E-Class Cabriolet is rather brilliant. High levels of refinement and insulation are paired with a sumptuous interior that feels as good as it looks. Materials and build are high in quality, and the infotainment system - though not the best - isn't terrible to use. There's an abundance of safety and technological features, too. The updates from 2018 to 2019 and subsequent renaming of the E400 to E450 bring with them more than just a change in name - and the revisions, particularly to the engine - are noticeable improvements. The V6 is smooth, the nine-speed automatic gearbox crisp, and the pairing functions exceptionally together. But the E450 Cabriolet isn't without its flaws. The ride comfort on broken roads is choppy, particularly when outfitted with larger wheels, and the infotainment system could be better. But these are small flaws and worth overlooking for the luxurious appeal of the E-Class Cabriolet.
The base E450 Cabriolet is priced from $67,300, while the E450 4MATIC with a sticker price of $69,800. Those prices are excluding tax, registration, and licensing fees, as well as any dealer-specific incentives and Mercedes' destination charge of $995. Equipping either trim with all the available packages, standalone options, and accessories for the fully-loaded versions can increase the initial cost of the vehicles by around $30,000.
We recommend opting for the E450 4MATIC Cabriolet mainly for the all-weather capability it possesses over the RWD E450. It is only $2,500 more than the RWD E450 and only marginally less fuel-efficient due to its heftier curb weight, both those factors are, however, worth the all-wheel-drive advantages. The E450 4MATIC additionally receives Magic Vision Control wiper blades which do effectively benefit safety as trivial as the feature seems. The trims are otherwise similarly equipped with features and deliver very similar performance and handling capability. Standard features include an AIRSCARF neck-level heating system, 64-color LED ambient lighting, a HomeLink garage door opener, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front sports seats with power-adjustability and memory functions, and 50/50 split-folding rear seats. A high-resolution multifunction display with analog gauges and three-spoke steering wheel with Touch Control Buttons guides the driver.
The C-Class Cabriolet is the smaller sibling of the E-Class Cabriolet and carries an MSRP of around $15,450 less than the E-Class. It is equipped with a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine with outputs of 255 hp and 273 lb-ft. That power gets the C-Class to the 60mph mark in about a full second slower than the E-Class. The C-Class is only marginally more fuel-efficient, offers slightly less trunk space, and carries a smaller wheelbase which means less cabin room, particularly for rear occupants. However, the C rides a little better, carrying less weight and running lighter on its feet than the hefty E., As a result, it's more nimble, too. Both are comprehensively equipped, but the E-Class feels more luxurious inside, and the levels of noise suppression and refinement are vastly superior to those in the C-Class. While the C Cabrio may seem like a cheaper version of essentially the same package, the E-Class justifies the leap in price tag with more luxury and refinement, offering a miniature S-Class more than a slightly larger C-Class.
The S-Class Cabriolet is the bigger brother of the E-Class Cabrio and has a sticker price of around $67,000 more than the base E450. It is equipped with a larger, more powerful 4.0-liter V8 bi-turbo engine that produces an impressive 463 hp and 516 lb-ft, along with an intoxicating soundtrack that makes the sacrifice in terms of gas mileage worthwhile. With a potent engine, performance is naturally better in the S-Class, while it rides smoother, too. It's more big bruising GT car than agile sportster, but it matches the E-Class for keen handling ability. Luxury takes a massive step up in the S-Class, with all the E-Class's features and more. At nearly double the price of the E-Class, the S Cabrio is better, but is it twice as good? If you have the cash to spend on an S, you won't want an E, but if you want the same sense of luxury and style, the E-Class is a worthwhile compromise.