2021 Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet review: High-tech and handsome

The E53 is a really sharp droptop.

Michael Shaffer / Mercedes-Benz

Normally, I would avoid a Mercedes-AMG convertible. AMGs are usually a little too edgy and manic for my taste, and not quite in the spirit of what I would like in a luxury convertible. The E53 AMG is different, though. In fact, it’s one of my favorite cars I’ve driven so far this year.

Like it

  • Smooth and powerful transmission
  • Stellar build quality of the interior
  • Attractive design

I do not like

  • Very expensive
  • The brakes are a bit weak

At the heart of the E53 is its 3.0-liter turbocharged I6 engine with AMG tuning and mild-hybrid assistance. It misses the guttural growl of the heavy metal ogre of AMG’s 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, sure, but it makes up for it with stunning smoothness and a surprisingly pleasing scream across its upper rev range. The E53 is the most powerful E-Class convertible you can get, by the way; there is no E63 available.

The I6 engine delivers 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque with little or no power lag, largely thanks to the EQ-Boost lightweight hybrid system. EQ-Boost not only smooths out the start-stop operation, but its electric motors offer enough extra thrust – 21 hp and 184 lb-ft – to get the E53 moving until the turbochargers are at full throttle. Acceleration to 60 mph takes a scant 4.4 seconds, which is good enough for a 4,566-pound convertible.

The E53 engine is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. It works invisibly when left to its own devices and offers quick and easy gear changes when required via the steering wheel-mounted paddles.

Another advantage of this small-displacement engine is fuel economy. The EPA rates the 2021 Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet at 21 miles per gallon in the city, 27mpg on the highway, and 23mpg combined, which I have no problem matching in regular driving.

Being a midsize heavy convertible, the E53 isn’t exactly sports car sharp, but that’s not a bad thing. The E53’s suspension does a great job of smoothing out rough roads, even in its more aggressive Sport Plus mode, and there’s a noticeable difference in ride quality between the convertible’s Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus suspension settings. The steering is precise and well-thought-out, although in Sport Plus mode, it feels unnecessarily heavy. The large multi-piston brakes are easy to modulate and offer great stopping power in most situations, although they are prone to fading after a brisk ride.

The interior of the updated E-Class is one of the best in the business and this affects the Cabriolet. The fit, finish and material choices are all top-notch and befitting a car in the E53 price range (more on that later). The AMG sports seats are very comfortable and offer a lot of adjustment possibilities, so even someone my size – 6 feet, 4 inches – can be comfortable without too much trial and error.

The huge dashboard and infotainment screen have a brilliant look, delivering all the information you could want in a clear and sensible way. Both screens completely define the look and feel of the E53’s interior, and that’s a good thing. The tiny screens on the steering wheel-mounted controls are also a nice touch, allowing you to adjust frequently used elements like the manual transmission mode or the sports exhaust on / off switch. All of this makes the E53 feel technologically advanced and modern.

The redesigned steering wheel is a new part of the interior of the 2021 AMG E53.

Michael Shaffer / Mercedes-Benz

The cornerstone of the E53’s technology is its MBUX infotainment system, which offers powerful natural voice recognition for many of the cockpit controls (such as heat and stereo volume) as well as must-haves like Apple CarPlay is Android Auto. Combined with its colorful and crisp visuals, the MBUX is among my favorite infotainment systems available today.

Also I can’t talk about the interior of the E53 Cabriolet without talking about the Air Scarf. For those who have never tried this feature, it’s basically a tiny space heater that lives in each front headrest, blowing hot air down your neck. Makes cool weather, top-down motoring a breeze (pun intended). It’s great and I find myself using it all the time.

Unfortunately, all of this goodness doesn’t come cheap. The 2021 Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet starts at $ 83,845 including a $ 995 destination tax, and my extremely well-equipped tester comes in at just $ 105,000. Let’s face it, that’s a lot of money. Mercedes convertibles have always carried a hefty premium, and the E53 is no different.

With Air Scarf, you can drive with the top down all year round.

Michael Shaffer / Mercedes-Benz

As for the competitive set, the E53 is something of a class of its own. The Audi S5 Cabrio is smaller, less powerful and less expensive – in fact, it competes with Merc’s own AMG C43 Cabriolet. The Lexus LC convertible starts at $ 101,000 and has a bright naturally aspirated V8, but it lacks a lot of Merc’s tech. The BMW 8 Series is much larger. And honestly, I’d take the E53 on all of these.

The 2021 Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet is a fantastic luxury convertible that offers good looks, great technology and excellent road manners, but is expensive. Plus, if you’re buying a car in this segment, you’re probably not looking for great value. Aside from the price tag, there’s very little not to love about the adorable AMG E53.

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