Mercedes-Benz E 53 AMG Cabriolet review - A rare breed
The Mercedes-Benz E 53 cabriolet belongs to a very rare breed of automobiles - four-seater convertibles. Sure, it's not sitting on the same wheelbase as the long-wheelbase E-Class sold in India, but it has decent space in the second row to seat adults in comfort for a day-long journey. The E 53 cabriolet was the first launch of 2023 and it came to us at a rather good time. There was a nip in the air, but enough sun to make the weather pleasant for a drive with the car's roof tucked away. Oh and for the E 53, folding that electronically controlled roof takes a rather long time - almost 20s! But when in action, the onlookers see a large panel with speakers (two, out of the 13 Burmester speakers bundled with the car) lift to fold/unfold the fabric roof. It is the only slow mechanical bit on the E 53 cabriolet and you can option the roof in four colours and the body in five.
The cabriolet is a good-looking car too and I would buy it over the E 53 sedan in a heartbeat - that is if the investment adviser allows the approximate Rs 30-lakh premium it demands the foldable roof and absence of rear doors. I like how the long nose offsets the elongated tail of the cabriolet. The taillights too are squarish in profile instead of the triangular units seen on the sedan. It adds a bit of a wrap-around effect and makes the tail appear rounder. It's a boat-like visual effect. I also like how aluminium panels that form the window line wrap around all the way to contribute further to that nautical theme. You can specify matching inlay panels in the dashboard too. Though I think they should have also offered the Maybach-style wooden panels with the fine metal ribs, which would have been perfect for the yacht-like vibe that the cabriolet tries to achieve. This is a nice cabriolet to drive to a marina, then, but I can't think of a picture-perfect setting like that in India - the Mumbai docks won't cut it. So the next best thing is the mountain roads.
Oh, and it loves winding roads! The short wheelbase ensures that it feels sharp and agile through the bends and not one bit like an E-Class, while the quick yet linear power delivery in this 53 tune ensures that it doesn't feel as overwhelming or muscle-car-like, as the E 63 AMG. The inline-six is quick off the mark and has a strong mid-range pull, thanks to the turbocharging - enough to make it feel like a 400PS car. What I like though is the EQ boost function it comes with, which is a mild-hybrid system that adds up to 22PS/250Nm of assistance while scaling inclines or between gearshifts. It essentially negates lag too, meaning you don't have to keep the engine on the boil all the time. It can be enjoyed as a laid-back cruiser too. Sure, this 3.0l powerplant doesn't quite create headlines like a typical hand-built AMG V8, but it is an impressive motor for a package like this cabriolet that isn't a hardcore track tool.
That said, should you take the E 53 to the track, it will oblige with surprisingly good manners about the kerbs. You wouldn't expect a convertible to be rigid or quick at changing directions as a coupe would, but thanks to new-age tech and electronics, the chassis transforms from a cruiser to a sharp handler in a matter of seconds. It certainly isn't a pocket rocket like the A 45 AMG, but it doesn't feel like a four-seater convertible when you start attacking the racetrack. And when you do, you also get some onboard party pieces like the Track Sense module which will give you telemetry data, acceleration figures and even a comparison of your racing line versus the recommended line - how cool is that!
Too bad that Mercedes-Benz isn't offering the AMG Race Package on it just yet. When they do, you will be able to get the drift mode akin to the E 63 that will allow you to give your co-passengers the smell of rubber from close quarters. The race pack would also enable the launch control function - but even without it, the E 53 can sprint from nought to 100kmph in under 5s.
This engine doesn't have the high-pitched throatiness of the larger AMGs, but it has the unique soundtrack of an inline six and I quite like it. When sprinting to 100kmph or the 250kmph top speed, you will hear this engine racing and upshifting just a touch below the 6,500rpm redline and yet your hairdo would be untouched thanks to the excellent sculpting of the aero bits. Pull up the wind curtains, which include a mesh panel behind the rear seats and a metal panel that rises over the front windshield, and you will be able to have a comfortable conversation too without the wind noise intruding much into the cabin. With the curtains up, all that fills the cabin is the swooshing sound of the inline six and it's enjoyable in a unique way. The curtains also ensure that if you were driving on a cold day things still remain warm and cosy inside the cabin. Perfect for the cold mountains. And for that kind of cold weather or the mountain roads, you also get the 4MATIC all-wheel drive system which ensures that there is plenty of grip all the time. But because this AWD is tuned by AMG it's also fun-oriented.
The E 53 AMG is plenty of fun when you are in the mood to drive a sportscar and a comfortable drop-top cruiser when you are in the mood for a leisurely drive. There are other such convertibles out there too, but very few will ferry four in comfort and with a finesse that you only get with the likes of an E-Class. So if you are looking for an allrounder leisurely sportscar, the E 53 cabriolet should certainly be on your list of considerations.
Words Rohit Paradkar
Photography Sumit Gaikwad
Starts Rs 1.02 Crore