Merc’s newest, most advanced gas powertrain, wrapped in a posh drop top.
The new mild-hybrid powertrain in the 2019 Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet is a technological force. The advanced engine and its electric turbocharger previews the future of performance engines. Alongside an alluring luxury convertible with an opulent interior, high-tech features, and dazzling red paint job, what's under the hood still stands manages to stand out.
After mulling through the details, it becomes apparent the E53 Cabriolet doesn’t have any direct competitors, especially now that the BMW 6-Series Convertible has gone the way of the dodo. And while it's hard to declare any car at this price point a value proposition, spending time behind the wheel of this sophisticated red hot rod is a joyous enough experience to warrant this car's high sticker price.
The E53 Cabriolet starts at $80,350, but as with most AMG products, the options list takes things to another level. There is $18,670 worth of options, along with a $995 destination charge. The Designo Cardinal Red Metallic paint costs $1,080, while AMG’s black Nappa leather adds $2,990. The metal weave interior trim ($600), AMG exterior carbon fiber package ($1,750), 20-inch 5-spoke wheels ($750), exterior lighting package ($800), and AMG performance steering wheel ($500) round out the appearance upgrades.
Driver assistance and comfort options are abundant, too: performance exhaust ($1,250) which is a must-have on any AMG product, track pace application ($250), massaging front seats with heating and ventilation ($1,770), warm and convenience package (which warms the front seats faster and adds heated armrests, $1,050), head up display ($990), energizing comfort air purification and perfume system ($800).
But we’re not done. soft-close doors ($550), parking assist ($1,290), and finally the driver assistance package (lane change assist, active distance assist, active brake assist with cross-traffic alert, emergency braking, evasive steering assist, blind spot assist, and active lane-keeping assist, $2,250). All in, this E-Class tester just eclipses six-figure territory at $100,015.
Gallery: 2019 Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet: Review
This marks the first time the E-Class Cabriolet gets the AMG treatment. There was no Affalterbach variant offered with the previous generation, although, if your Mercedes knowledge runs deep, you’ll recall the CLK 63 Cabriolet, which preceded the E-Class Cabriolet. And much like that CLK, this E53 looks sportier than it’s non-AMG sibling without abandoning restraint.
Apart from the stylish 20-inch five-spoke wheels, AMG badging, and rounded quad exhaust shoots, the E53 doesn’t call too much attention to itself, even though this tester wears a rather loud coat of Designo Cardinal Red paint. The E53 rejects flared wheel arches and aggressive aero pieces in favor of more simplistic, elegant body lines, distinct from the hardcore AMG E63 (which Mercedes sells only in sedan and wagon forms).
Mercedes cabins are, subjectively speaking, our favorite among the German automakers. And in the E53 cab’s case, occupants enjoy an interior that warrants the $80,000 price tag. The materials are lovely throughout the cabin, including the prominent sections of metal weave trim, leather with red contrast stitching. Smaller details such as the turbine-style metallic air vents, optional LED ambient lighting system, and the speaker surrounds that accompany the optional Burmester sound system make things even more upscale. The interior is special, without feeling overdone.
The sheer number of comfort-related options in the pricing category is indicative of just how stacked this Mercedes is. Those who appreciate kitschy amenities will be overjoyed to find the Merc’s cabin filled with pleasantries such as heated armrests, an air perfuming system, massaging seats, and more. While these options may seem exuberant on the spec sheet, they compound into a really relaxing package (gimmicks aside). Perfuming air vents? C’mon.
Beyond the trick features, the E-Class nails the most important interior bits with its over-the-top seats. With numerous lumbar and bolster adjustments, just about any driver can find their desired settings. On cooler evenings, you can still enjoy the top down, with a heated massage and the air scarf system, which blows warm air onto your neck from just below the headrest. That said, the backseats are less of a serene experience. As you can tell from the photos, it’s not fun to sit behind the front row for pretty much any period of time. But such is the case with most four-seat convertibles.
Contrasting the plush interior, however, is the E53’s ride quality. The adaptive suspension’s behavior is dependent on the drive mode, but it’s a bit too stiff even in comfort mode. For more aggressive driving, this works, but for traffic-filled cruising, we wish the Mercedes provided a bit more balance in its suspension tuning.
For the price, you should expect to see some serious tech, and the Mercedes doesn’t disappoint. Though it lacks the newest MBUX system and its voice-activated assistant, the standard infotainment system is still impressive. The twin 12.3-inch displays command a major portion of the dash and serve as the command center. The number of menus and settings is potentially overwhelming, but Mercedes presents the information in a very digestible manner with a clear font and easy-to-follow graphics. Scrolling between the menus with the center console-mounted wheel is generally very easy.
A healthy set of standard features supplement the infotainment setup, too. Burmester audio, wireless phone charging, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto are all included. The cherry on top is the most stunning ambient lighting system in the business. Especially at night, the 64-color options make the cabin a sight to behold.
This may be a luxurious convertible, but remember, you’re buying this car for the performance first, and the upmarket comfort second. Think of the bigger 63 V8 as Thor’s hammer: tons of power, delivered in thumping booms. Meanwhile, the 53 is more like Ironman’s suit: sleek, futuristic, and controllable.
The technical breakdown can get a bit foggy, so I’ll keep it brief. The turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine makes 429 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. For some added kick, Mercedes relies on an electric motor that sits between the engine and transmission. Dubbed EQ Boost, the motor serves as both a starter and generator. It also offers small spurts of electric assistance in certain driving situations. With 21 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, the motor works with an electric compressor that spools up the turbocharger almost instantly, essentially eliminating any noticeable lag from the E53’s BorgWarner turbocharger. And when the powertrain’s various pieces electric and mechanical bits are primed for acceleration duties, the E53 is an absolute riot.
There’s a faint electric whine when the electric motor is supplying power (as you expect from a performance EV), which adds an extra element of excitement to the inline-six’s melodious roar. Thanks to the electric assist and the no-lag turbo, torque is available from the very depths of the rev range, making it a joy to ride the wave all the way to redline.
AMG’s nine-speed transmission plays willingly with the engine and offers quick shifts, punctuated by small burps from the quad exhaust. Select full manual shifting mode for the most involving driving experience, and the car’s performance-oriented character shines strongest.
While we’re largely deprived of corners here in south Florida, the 53 is ready to attack whenever an opportunity becomes available. The steering has proper heft to it (as an AMG product should) and the chassis offered not a single protest. Each of these refined components paired well with the smooth and potent powertrain. And the end result was almost always a fat grin on my face.
Thankfully, the days of expensive performance vehicles skimping on the safety tech is (mostly) behind us. The downside, as one may expect, is that most of the good kit is still optional. Standard fare includes the blind spot monitoring, LED headlights and taillights, and parking assist.
The Driver Assistance Package costs $2,250 and comes packed to the brim with just about every active safety feature imaginable. The E53 will work actively to avoid collisions, pedestrians, and stay in the lane. When the Drive Pilot feature is active, the car will even change lanes on its own, after the driver moves the turn signal. It’s one of the best safety packages in the industry, and despite its extra cost makes the Mercedes feel like one of the most forward-thinking cars on the road today.
Unfortunately, neither the IIHS nor NHTSA has crashed the E53 Cabriolet, so we don’t have those figures to report.
According to the EPA, the Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet earns 20 miles per gallon in the city, 26 on the highway, and 23 combined. As expected, the Merc runs exclusively on premium fuel. The E53 cab concedes a few mpg to its coupe twin, which earns 21 mpg city, 28 highway, and 23 combined.