This is the standard for four-seat top-down boulevard cruising.
There’s something about a convertible. Even though we only get a few months of top-down weather and it’s noisy, dusty and the sun burns you; when the conditions are right, there are few things sweeter than cars like this 2021 Mercedes-Benz E 450 Cabriolet. Whether a casual top-down drive along a bustling lakeshore on a hot night, or a blast through our local backroads on a crisp morning, the open-air experience is second to none. Rather than viewing the scenery from your car, you’re a part of it all and can fully experience the sounds, smells and sights.
The only way to improve on the perfect top-down drive is to share with the right people, and that’s where the four-seater convertible comes in. It’s a short list of cars on the market today that fit the bill, and an even shorter list if you want rear seats suitable for anyone larger than a child. Fortunately though, Mercedes hasn’t forgotten the importance of the top-down experience and offers a cabriolet version of the popular E-Class mid-size luxury sedan.
To me, one of the most important things about a convertible like this is the way it looks; if you’re going to cruise around with the top down, the car needs to carry a certain style and Mercedes really nailed it with the current E450 Cab. The 2021 model year brings a mild facelift to some of the bodywork and trim, but that doesn’t really matter. As before, the E 450 Cabriolet is gorgeous, perfectly proportioned and just oozing class. It’s the perfect look for a convertible, not over the top or excessively muscular, but instead strikingly elegant.
Our test car came finished in the perfect color combination as well; Silver Blue Metallic with a dark blue top and a two-toned Macchiato Beige and Yacht Blue Nappa leather interior. The car looks like it should be parked on the main drag in Naples rather than my Toronto suburb, but that’s part of the appeal. Ours also came with optional ($1,250) 20-inch AMG multi-spoke wheels, very fitting.
The interior is equally gorgeous, a sculpture of two-toned Nappa leather and dark open pore ash wood, complemented by an amazing 64-colour ambient lighting system. Overall fit and finish is outstanding with the various materials coming together impeccably, and just about every surface feels great to the touch. The sculpted dashboard is dominated by dual 12.3-inch LCD screens, one for your gauges and driver info and the other serving as the infotainment.
The soft leather seats up front are heated (standard), and in our tester are also cooled and massaging, making it nearly impossible to be uncomfortable up front. In the back, leg and head room is very generous for a cabriolet and during my week with the car, it took four adults on a 3 hour round trip, top up, with no complaints from the rear passengers. I can’t think of any other cabriolet on the market today for under $100,000 that could make the same claim.
Trunk space is generous as well. One of the advantages of a cloth soft-top versus the folding hardtops on other Mercedes convertibles is that it takes up a lot less cargo space when folded down. The E 450 Cab will easily handle baggage for four adults on a weekend trip, and still have room to fold the top.
Of course, as a Mercedes you can expect to find it packed with plenty of the latest technology; and happily I was able to intuitively control all of the main functions easily from the center console mounted rotary dial and accompanying buttons. Touchpads on the steering wheel control many of the functions within the driver’s cluster, and I found those touchpads excessively sensitive, and too small to easily operate. Fortunately, I didn’t need to use them often. Interestingly, the MBUX system can also listen to your words and turn them into action; for example, saying “Hey, Mercedes, I am cold” will prompt the car to respond verbally, and raise the cabin temperature.
The E 450 Cabriolet is only available with one engine (unless you step up to the AMG E 53) and it’s Mercedes’ buttery smooth 3.0-litre inline six cylinder with a twin scroll turbocharger and EQ, an electric boost system that adds gas-free torque for smooth and fast acceleration. The mill produces a healthy 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft. of torque at a very low 1,600 RPM.
These numbers may not be all that impressive by today’s standards, but thanks to the low RPM peak torque and 4MATIC all-wheel-drive, the E 450 really takes full advantage of its power, putting it to the ground efficiently and with a smoothness that makes the car feel more powerful than it really is.
Where the 3.0-liter six cylinder really earns its keep is in the fuel economy department. After a week of running errands around town, and then a 200-kilometre highway trip, loaded with four people, our fuel consumption for the week sat at 8.5L/100km. That’s seriously impressive for a car as heavy and as powerful as the E 450.
Graceful is the word that best describes how the E450 drives. It is extremely quiet, soft and relaxing to pilot. Every input is direct, yet smooth; one could spend hours driving without feeling a hint of fatigue. A touring car by every measure, it is not a sports car, and prospective buyers should not expect the E 450 to behave like one. It’s fast enough to get into trouble, but you certainly feel the weight of the car and while its handling is perfect for low speed whipping around the city, it doesn’t deliver the confidence you’d want to really push it to its limits. Enjoying the ride in complete comfort is more what the car is about.
Speaking of comfort, the E 450 Cabriolet is the most comfortable car I’ve driven with the top down. Mercedes engineers have put a lot of thought into managing air flow with the top down, and have designed a very effective wind blocker system consisting of a spoiler on the top of the windshield frame and a traditional wind blocker behind the rear seats. The system is deployed using a button on the console, and when paired with the side windows, dramatically reduces the amount of wind and noise in the cabin.
There is also an Airscarf feature, a system which can blow warm air around your neck if you’re driving top-down on a cool night. On the flipside, if it’s getting too warm in the sun, the cooled seats are ready to help cool down. Another nice feature is that all four windows can be controlled individually, or from one console mounted button that raises or lowers all four. You can also raise and lower the top, and windows, from your keyless remote, a nice way to let the heat out on a hot day before getting in. All these features mean that you’ll be able to comfortably enjoy top-down motoring a lot more frequently than if you were dependent on perfect conditions to enjoy it.
All this open-air motoring perfection does come at a cost though. Mercedes starts the E 450 Cabriolet at $88,900, which is reasonable given the level of luxury and driving experience the car delivers. However, if you want a fully loaded example like our tester, with all the latest features and intelligent driving aids, it’s easy to push the price north of $100,000. Our test car came to $103,850 and included just about every option imaginable.
The Premium package ($3,900) adds Burmester sound, upgraded front seats, heated armrests, 360 camera and more. The Comfort package ($1,900) adds an air purification and fragrance system and massaging seats. The Technology package ($2,100) upgrades the headlamps and adds a heads-up display on the windshield. Lastly, the Intelligent Drive package includes all of Mercedes’ latest state of the art electronic driving and safety aids.
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E 450 Cabriolet is one of the test cars I’ve enjoyed the most in recent memory. It’s damn good at just about everything, but it’s not a sports car and it’s not cheap. If that’s okay with you, then you’d be hard pressed to find anything to dislike here. There are few cars on the market that combine the winter prowess of all-wheel-drive with the top-down thrill of a convertible and the E450 is the only option that combines these perks with realistic seating for four adults. Forget the rest, this is the standard for four-seat top-down boulevard cruising.