Look closely and you might notice that the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is different – not much different, but different. Mercedes updated the exterior and lightly retouched the cabin of the entire E-Class lineup to make it a bit more pleasing to the eye. That refresh extends to the Cabriolet model, naturally, which wears the range’s sharper face and sports a new steering wheel, among a few other appointments.
We spent a week with the E450 4Matic model, which starts at a cool $74,450, to see how those updates feel on the road. Spoiler alert: The Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet is better than ever. The new front end gives this car an even sharper look, while the fresh inline-six engine is good for super smooth acceleration, and the optional air suspension affords the convertible a cloud-like ride. Assuming you can swallow the $91,000 as-tested price, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet remains a car in a class of its own (no, really, it has no competition since the BMW 6-Series went away).
Stylish New Look
As mentioned, Mercedes-Benz updated the entire E-Class lineup for 2021. That refreshed styling consists of a new front end with smoother headlights, a backside with sharpened taillights, and a standard Mercedes tri-star logo embedded within the shapely grille. Opt for the AMG Line package, as our car had, and the $2,500 option adds unique AMG accents, a chrome-tinted grille, some upscale interior appointments, and special 18-inch wheels. For another $1,250 on top of that, our car wears high-spoked 20-inch AMG wheels.
As if the E-Class weren’t eye-catching enough already, the updated styling and sharp 20-inch wheels give the brand’s mid-size offering a more streamlined, upscale look. For the Cabriolet model, in particular, the removable cloth top accentuates the car’s svelte bodywork. And the combo of the optional Designo Diamond White paint (a $1,515 option), a Dark Blue top, and a caramel-covered interior ($1,370) on our tester makes the E-Class Cabrio look that much better.
Buttery Smooth Powertrain And Suspension
Along with a fresh face, the Mercedes E-Class also gets a new engine for 2021. Rather than last year’s twin-turbo V6, the 2021 E-Class adopts a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine with EQ Boost – a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that offers additional, well, boost. That setup results in 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet, plus an extra 21 hp and 184 lb-ft over short distances.
Like other Mercedes products we’ve tested with this powertrain, it makes the E-Class one smooth operator. Power arrives instantly – but not with an aggressive jolt, like some others. This inline-six setup applies power to all four wheels effortlessly (in this 4Matic-equipped spec), maintaining impressive fluidity and composure even with the most aggressive throttle inputs. And before you know it, this car is at 60 miles per hour in just 4.9 seconds. The suspension is equally smooth; the optional Air Body Control ($1,900) all but eliminates body roll and keeps the car extremely composed in all situations.
Oodles Of Available Safety
This is a common trait of most modern Mercedes-Benz products, but the E450 Cabriolet offers some of the best active safety equipment available anywhere. In this case, most of it does cost extra; the Driver Assistance package is $1,700 and the Exterior Lighting package is another $900. But with those two packages equipped, the E-Class has adaptive cruise control with steering and lane-change assist, full-speed automatic emergency braking, adaptive high-beam headlights, and more. And as expected, all of those systems work exceptionally well on the highway.
Confusing Steering Wheel Layout
Mercedes-Benz has never really nailed steering wheel controls, but at least the last iteration of the system was more functional. In this case, Mercedes removed the physical volume dial, haptic feedback pads, and cruise control selector entirely, swapping them for a more convoluted setup that consists of haptic feedback buttons and a smattering of piano black plastic.
The latest steering wheel controls simply don’t work as well as their predecessors. The cruise control layout on the left side of the steering wheel is extremely difficult to parse at first glance, and the haptic feedback controls don’t always respond well to inputs, let alone swipes to change a song or increase volume. And there are some confusing menu options on the right side of the wheel, which we couldn’t deciper fully in our week-long test.
Bland Driving Character
There’s nothing wrong with the way the Mercedes E-Class Cabrio drives, per se. The engine is smooth, the steering is responsive, and the suspension is cushy, which all make for an exceptionally comfortable ride. But there’s nothing particularly exciting about the way this car moves, either. Even in the most aggressive Sport Plus mode, flinging the E-Class into a corner feels uninspiring and dull, and when you do gun it, power arrives abruptly but with little excitement.
Yes, we know, most customers don’t buy a droptop E-Class for its sportiness. For that, there is always the E53 variant, which is definitely more fun. But a little bit of enthusiasm in the base E-Class cab could have gone a long way.
Pricey With Options
Look, we get it, new cars have gotten really expensive. But the as-tested price tag of this E-Class feels especially egregious. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet with 4Matic all-wheel drive starts at $74,450, while our car costs $91,575 as tested. That’s a hearty $17,000 increase with options, to which there are plenty.
The most expensive add-on is the AMG Line trim package, which costs $2,500. Beyond that is the Air Body Control air suspension ($1,900), the Driver Assistance package ($1,700), the Diamond White metallic paint ($1,515), the 20-inch AMG wheels ($1,200), and more. There are 15 total options on this car, including the ones already mentioned, plus a $1,050 destination and delivery fee.