Redesigned for 2014, the E-class entails the widest range of powertrains and body styles in Mercedes’ entire U.S. lineup, and this compelling cabrio ranks right near the top of the family. Yes, the E63 sedan and wagon will deliver more thrust, if you’re a junkie for face-distorting launches. But if you want a high-velocity, wind-in-hair experience, and you want to share it with more than one passenger, the E550 cabriolet is the best way to go this side of the $100, 000 frontier.
As noted in earlier reviews and previews, the E-class coupe and cabrio received a major makeover for 2014 that included new skin, a restyled nose with bigger air intakes, and headlights that maintain the E-class’s traditional four-eyed look under single lenses. The car’s proportions continue the classic long-hood, short-deck look, with rising character lines culminating in muscular rear haunches that suggest NFL running-back muscle.
It takes just one good stab at the throttle to realize the E550 cabrio delivers on that muscular suggestion. The twin-turbo 4.7-liter V-8 is familiar, as is the seven-speed automatic, carrying over essentially unchanged from the 2013 E-class, and pressure on the go pedal makes it clear that unchanged, in this case, is not at all a bad thing.
The Wow Factor
The cabrio’s dynamics are a mix of as expected and wow. At 4313 pounds, this is certainly no ballerina, and its transient responses, although willing, are more deliberate than brisk. Also, the newly fitted electric power steering—sports-car quick at 2.3 turns lock-to-lock—doesn’t convey enough tactile information.
Quick steering notwithstanding, the E550 cabrio doesn’t come across as a sports car. That’s the as-expected part. The wows occur when the driver encounters a series of fast, sweeping turns. The auto damping system—Mercedes calls it Agility Control—keeps cornering attitudes level, and the Continental ContiSportContact 3 tires (235/40-18 in front and 255/35-18 at the rear) provide a surprising level of grip: 0.90 g in our skidpad test. The suspension offers two presets, Comfort and Sport, and although the Sport mode is predictably firmer, both allow the driver to hustle the car through sweeping turns at hold-your-breath velocities, confidence building with each repetition. Select Comfort instead, and the suspension has just enough compliance to tame lumps, bumps, and ripples in the pavement.