2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 Cabriolet Review: Come Sail Away

With the amount of change in the automotive industry, it’s worth considering the last of certain types of cars.

Lamborghini and Ferrari are about to build their last purely-petrol-powered V12s. There’s just one V6-powered, front-drive family sedan left: the Camry. Want a naturally-aspirated V8 four-door sedan? Your choices are either the Lexus IS 500, the Chrysler 300, or the Dodge Charger. Slim pickings.

Consider the convertible. Now refine that brain-based search to exclude two-seaters (Miata, Boxster), pony cars (Mustang, Camaro), or cars where no actual adult can fit in the second row (911, LC). Chop it down further by disqualifying cars with sporting intentions.

What you’re left with is the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 Cabriolet. This mid-sizer has no direct competitors, and almost certainly sells in tiny numbers. It’s also a consummate cruiser for you and three friends, and despite some inherent flaws, should be celebrated for just that.

What’s new?

The entire E-Class family saw a round of updates for 2021, from sedan, to coupe, to wagon, and this here convertible. In typical Merc fashion, the exterior changes are subtle: tweaked headlight shapes, a switch from a “grin” to a “frown” grille shape, and a smattering of new color options. Overall this is still a smooth shape, elegant and simple in a way that’s remarkably rare in today’s over-styled scene. The folks in Stuttgart aren’t reinventing the wheel here.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Mercedes-Benz E 450 All-Terrain Review: Keeping the Dream Alive

They did ditch the old turbocharged V6, though. Now there’s the delightful inline-six, the same one AutoGuide praised in the E450 All-Terrain wagon earlier this year. Horsepower and torque are up, to 362 and 369, respectively, which is all fine and dandy. There’s also a mild-hybrid system at play, which tosses its own 21 hp and 184 lb-ft into the pot for short bursts.

Inside, not much has changed, with a new steering wheel being the main attraction—or annoyance (more on that later). The cloth lid can disappear in a little less than 20 seconds, and it can be operated at speeds up to 30 mph (50 km/h). There is the small matter of the gorgeous interior spec this tester comes with, though.

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2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 Cabriolet interior and comfort

This, dear friends, is Macchiato Beige and Yacht Blue, but we can just shorten it down to The Perfect Spec. With the matching dark blue fabric top, this particular Silver Arrow oozes class. I’m sure it’d look right at home cruising along a winding road in the south of France. But it’s mid-autumn in Canada, which means a week that encompasses both shorts-friendly weather and the hint of snow.

Top-up, the Merc is a well-insulated cocoon, protecting occupants from the outside world. More of the commotion does make it inside compared to a tin-top—particularly around the C-pillars—but it’s a far cry from what you’d call noisy. Visibility is naturally worse too, though the rear window is larger than most.

I’m not going to let plummeting mercury get in the way of a good cruise, though. As much as possible, the E450 operates al fresco, with its various methods of heating employed depending on the situation. The heated steering wheel is only fine, but the seats toast up nicely. Airscarf is delightfully OTT, in-headrest vents keeping napes warm. Turbulence is kept at bay with the combination of a powered rear deflector, and a deployable spoiler at the top of the windshield. Up to highway speeds, conversations are possible without yelling. Your hair may fare worse.

The interior is standard modern Merc: if it ain’t broke and all that. A quartet of of aero-inspired vents dominate the center of the dashboard, with primary climate controls just below. Every switch has a pleasant, consistent action, and fit and finish is superb. The front seats are supremely comfortable, built for comfort over speed. Rear-seat passengers are well taken care of too, though it still is a tight fit. I installed two family members back there, and I think the hour drive was about as much as I’d want to submit any adults to with the top up.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 Review: The Hot Hatch for Grown-Ups

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 Cabriolet technology and features

Mercedes’ MBUX remains one of the best infotainment systems on the market, all because the brand believes in the importance of options. Sure, driver or passenger can poke and swipe at the big 12.3-inch screen for everything they need. There’s also the rotary dial-slash-mouse contraption on the center console.

As the driver, my preferred input method is the little touchpad on the upper right spoke of the steering wheel. This used to be a flush, contrasting material, and it was better for it. The new setup is harder to be accurate with, requiring multiple “bites” to get where you want to go. The left pad, used for the other 12.3-inch screen ahead of the driver, is the same story.

Similarly, the touch-sensitive controls for the volume and adaptive cruise control feel a step too far. Continuously tapping seems the best option.

The rest of the MBUX experience is still great. The menus are clear and easy to navigate. Response times are near-instant. The graphics are crisp. It’s just the one input method that feels like a step back.

This tester comes with the up-level driver assist package ($1,700 / $2,700 CAD). While it still stings that much of this optional tech is standard on mainstream models, there’s no arguing with how well it all works. For instance, the adaptive cruise control is very smooth when altering its speed, and flicking the indicator has it changing lanes flawlessly. It also uses navigation info to automatically adjust speeds for upcoming corners.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon Review: Overachieving as an Art Form

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 Cabriolet driving impressions

Prod the engine start button and the creamy inline-six awakes up ahead. You know because the digital dials tell you as much; otherwise, there’s little sonic or vibratory hints. Even just a bit of throttle reveals a wave of torque, as the six cylinders work in concert with the EQ Boost system, essentially eliminating turbo lag. Feed in more throttle and the combustion engine drops the shy routine, with a clean, crisp exhaust note. Truth be told, it’s not necessary to rev the E450 high, both because it feels distinctly out of character and because it puts in its best work in the mid-range. Still, a 5.2-second dash to 62 mph (100 km/h) ain’t nothing to sneer at.

Mercedes’ nine-speed auto is the right match for the engine, with smooth, quick shifts on its own. It responds well enough to the wheel-mounted pedals, but just like hunting the redline, using them feels so gauche. Same goes for the driving modes: this is a heavy car, with the 4MATIC AWD gubbins underneath and the assorted structural reinforcements necessary for droptop duty. So while the engine and transmission perk up in Sport mode, it never feels like the E has its heart set on sniffing out apexes. The brake pedal is firm and positive, as well.

The suspension contributes to this wafting feel. The E Cab is soft, allowing it to glide over rough roads even on the upsized 20-inch wheels. Rougher tarmac can cause some pogoing from back to front, but the structure always feels stiff. Larger bumps do elicit angry noises from the wheel arches and upset the in-cabin equilibrium. Perhaps the optional air suspension would smooth things further still.

Steering effort and feedback are both light, regardless of drive mode. It’s not that the E isn’t interested in having fun; it’s just more interested in making sure you’re not stressed. About a single thing.

You won’t be fussing over fuel usage, that’s for sure. Even with 362 hp and a curb weight to rival a small condo, the E450 Cabriolet is rated at 25 mpg combined (9.3 L/100 km). I saw it top 30 mpg (7.8 L/100 km) on the highway.

What’s the competition?

Allow me to make it easy: nothing. Not directly, anyway.

Okay, you could look at the slightly smaller BMW M440i Cabriolet. It’s the tourer of that family, but it’s still distinctly sharper in ride and handling than the cruise-friendly Merc. Want even more of an edge? BMW will sell you an M4 droptop, complete with AWD. There’s the Audi S5 too, but same story: smaller, more affordable, more overtly sporty.

SEE ALSO: 2021 BMW M440i Cabriolet Review: Cloth-Top Cruiser

Ah yes, affordability. I hope you’re not looking for any here. The E450 Cabriolet starts from $75,500, including destination ($88,900 CAD, before freight). Even this lightly-optioned example adds another $10,000 to the bottom line, bringing it up to $85,470 (around $102,000 CAD). There’s just not much at this price point that offers the same mix of space, grace, and pace. Even the BMW 8 Series convertible starts a further 10 grand richer.

Mercedes offers a sportier droptop E53, but I’d argue that’s a contradictory model. Want a sporty Merc? Get the coupe, or a 63 model.

Verdict: 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 Cabriolet Review

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 Cabriolet surprised me. It’s a fixer: the Cab smoothes over any problems or stress points that may arise, letting the driver soak up the scenery.

It remains a niche offering, and not a cheap one, either. What the E450 Cab offers is a very particular set of skills, ones no other car on the market offers in this exact mix. If your tastes align, there’s nothing else that will do.


FAQs

  • How much is a 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 Cabriolet worth? 
    • Prices start from $75,500 in the US, including $1,050 in destination charges. Canadian prices begin at roughly $91,000 CAD—Mercedes-Benz Canada allows dealers to set their own destination fee, which is typically around $2,000 CAD or mor.
  • What’s the difference between the E450 and E53?
    • The E53 is the AMG version of Merc’s mid-sizer. It uses the same basic 3.0-liter engine, but with more power. The chassis is also tuned for more athletic handling..
  • Does the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 Cabriolet come with a folding hardtop?
    • No, the E Cab uses a traditional softop. Mercedes has moved away from the heavy hardtop, either discontinuing the car (SLC) or switching to cloth (next-gen SL).

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