We’ve said before that the E-Class is the backbone of Mercedes-Benz, especially in America. It’s frequently ranked as the benchmark among midsize luxury cars. Now to support that image, Mercedes continues to roll out more models for the new E-Class series, the latest being this E-Class Cabriolet. So let’s see if this E keeps our enthusiasm up with the top down.

Style-wise, the transition was a smooth one, from hardtop to our 2011 Mercedes-Benz E550 Cabriolet test car. The E coupe’s expressive lines and sinewy haunches make welcome repeat appearances. In taking the steel roof off the elegantly drawn two-door, Mercedes has created a surge of drop top drama for what they call a four-seat, four season convertible.

Like the Audi A5 Cabrio we recently tested, Mercedes passed on a retractable hardtop, opting for a traditional ragtop. But its three layers does a non-traditional great job of soundproofing. The fully automatic top opens or closes in about 20 seconds, even while driving up to 25 miles per hour.

But it wouldn’t be a Mercedes without some innovation. That prize goes to the AIRCAP automatic wind deflector.  Driver operated, the AIRCAP system consists of two primary components: an integrated deflector that deploys from the windshield header, and a windscreen that rises up between the rear seat headrests. The AIRCAP lifts the air flow over the rear passenger compartment, and along with the screen, virtually eliminates buffeting, allowing civil conversations between front and back rows even at interstate speeds.

Also contributing to the E-Cabrio’s four-season status is an enhanced AIRSCARF system.  AIRSCARF is a neck-level heating system with air outlets under the front headrests.  We found it effective enough to make late winter top down driving quite tolerable.

For the most part, the E-Class Cabriolet is a mechanical mimic of the coupe.  The E350 is equipped with the same 3.5-liter V6, producing 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.  The E550 and its 5.5-liter V8 generates 382 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque. Both engines drive a seven-speed manual-mode automatic. But despite the four seasons motto, there is no all-wheel drive system.

At the track, our 550 Cabrio rocketed from 0 to 60 in 5.1 seconds, and shot through the quarter mile in 13.6 seconds at 105 miles per hour. Despite 120 added pounds, Cabrio times compares well with the Coupe. Power is abundant throughout the rev band and shifts are as quick as they are smooth.

Moreover, the E Cabrio also felt almost as solid and torsionally stiff as the E-Class hardtop.  With its familiar front strut suspension and rear multi-link set-up, this convertible loses nothing in the way of agility or responsiveness. The Cabrio did well in stopping power, too.  Average halts from 60 to 0 were just 123 feet with rock solid stability.

On normal roads, again, our Cabrio felt as planted and nimble as its E-Class brethren. The Cabrio combines an athletic driving experience with a superbly comfortable ride, free of rattles and cowl shake.  The only thing we noticed was a slight vibration in the steering wheel at higher speeds.

Like the Coupe, the Cabrio’s four-place cabin unites traditional Benz luxury with a moderate dose of performance character.  Burl walnut trim and a dark surround to the five gauge cluster immediately catches your eye. The standard, nicely bolstered front seats are covered in weather-resistant leather, with 10-way power and 4-way lumbar up front.

Advanced safety technology includes Attention Assist which alerts you if it suspects you’re getting drowsy. And adding to the normal airbag compliment comes two front pelvic airbags plus one more for the driver’s knee.

Also standard is Mercedes’ latest COMAND interface, which oversees the audio system, Bluetooth, and available navigation.

Like the coupe, the Cabrio’s rear seats are tight in legroom. But smaller adults will be just fine. And, while the seats don’t fold like the A5 Cabrio, the E does have a small pass-through to the trunk.

Which is generous, thanks to the decision to go with a soft top.  Its 13.8 cubic feet of cargo space, with the top up, is just two shy of the coupe, and it’s still adequate with the top down.

Mercedes estimates Government Fuel Economy ratings of 17 city/26 highway for the E350, and 15 city/23 highway for the E550 on premium fuel.  Our 550 returned 20.1 miles per gallon in real-world driving.

Real-world pricing for the E350 starts at $57,725, or about nine grand more than the Coupe. The E550 Cabrio starts at $65,675. So what do you get when you take a world-class coupe and pop the top off?  Well, a world-class convertible, of course!  The 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet arrives with the same caliber of presence, technology, amenity, and yes, driving prowess as its coupe counterpart.  Now add to that the innovative AIRCAP, and the benchmark for luxury convertibles just went up again.



  • Engine: 5.5-Liter V8
  • Horsepower: 382
  • Torque: 391 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 5.1 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 13.6 Seconds @ 105 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 123 Feet
  • EPA: 15 MPG City/ 23 MPG Highway
  • Mixed Loop: 20.1 MPG