While Mercedes-AMG is best known for its fire-breathing V8s and V12s, its beginnings featured fewer cylinders. In 1993, the C36 AMG, the first vehicle co-developed by AMG and Mercedes-Benz, hit showroom floors with its silky smooth inline six-cylinder engine. While the C-Class would eventually get a V8, it cemented the six-cylinder as part of AMG's history.
The German carmaker's latest offerings are a return to form, such as the Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet I've been driving. With a 429 horsepower turbocharged inline-six under its hood, it lacks the mind-bending performance of its V8-powered siblings. However, it delivers a premium GT drop-top experience with great looks, a fantastic interior, and enough power for most people.
Forget Bland Colors
The first thing that'll strike you about my Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet's exterior finish is just how much it changes the overall vibe of the car. It's called Brilliant Blue Magno, and it's a $3,950 option worth every penny. The matte finish not only helps accentuate the E53's aggressive body lines but it allows this AMG to stand out in a sea of executive-friendly shades that often shroud six-figure sporty GTs.
This generation of the E53 is the first to feature Mercedes-AMG's Panamericana grille and its vertical slats, paying tribute to the brand's racing heritage. As if the grille wasn't big enough, the lower front fascia also houses a massive air intake in front of the car's intercooler. While this detail is mainly functional, getting to see a few of the car's components is a nice touch.
Two large LED tail lights characterize the rear of the E53, seemingly wrapping around the rear quarter panel, visually widening the car. Below, you'll find rounded quad exhaust pipes, a sharp contrast to the E63's squared-off tips.
This AMG achieves its main visual goal with a refined, aggressive aesthetic that's just great to look at from any angle. From a visual standpoint, the E53 looks no less sharp or aggressive than the E63. While there are subtle differences in the exhaust department, there's no clear indication that a big V8 doesn't live under the hood.
A Drop Top With Big Speed
Powering the Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet is a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six developing 429 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. This is enough to rocket this luxury convertible to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds and continue to a limited top speed of 155 mph. A small electric motor dubbed EQ boost adds up to 21 hp. However, it spends most of its time filling in torque across the powerband. Aside from creating what is likely the world's best auto start/stop system, EQ Boost means you get immediate power at any rpm.
The E53 feels quick, faster than its figures would suggest on the road. While peak power comes in at 1,800 rpm, the use of a razor-sharp nine-speed dual-clutch transmission along with the added torque fill means the E53 pulls hard to redline with consistent power. Around town, I never felt the need for more power; 429 hp is a lot, plenty for most people. It was only up in the canyons where the E53 began to fall behind its V8-powered siblings. However, in all other scenarios, the inline-six is terrific.
Like most new products from Mercedes-AMG, the E53 Cabriolet features an all-wheel-drive system. While the system is rear-biased, it gives the E53 a tendency to understeer once you start to push it. The benefit here is seen when you try and launch it. With its launch control system and traction on all four corners, this drop-top pounces off the line without an ounce of wheelspin, resulting in greater speed with less effort.
While there isn't a ton of steering feel on offer, adjustable modes allow you to alter its weighting considerably. For me, the steering is best left in Comfort mode, as Sport+ and its artificial weighting require more effort without immediate reward.
An air suspension system with active body control keeps things in check once the going gets twisty. In its most aggressive setting, the E53 remains surprisingly flat, even for a 4,500-lb convertible. However, cycling things down to their softest settings leaves you with a daily driver that isn't phased by significant imperfections on the road. It excels on both the luxury and performance sides of the equation.
While there's no fire-breathing V8 to deliver a brutal sound, the E53 features an active exhaust system. Let off at high rpm's, and you'll get satisfying pops and crackles for days, only adding to the driving experience.
Excellent Ergonomic Design
Aside from nailing the looks and the drive, the Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet's interior is a wonderful place to be. Given this car's as-tested price of $105,440, composed of over $20,000 spent in optional extras, it has all the bells and whistles.
For example, you'll find Nappa Leather throughout my tester, an $2,990 option for the seats, and a $500 option for the AMG steering wheel. A $2,850 carbon fiber pack covers the E53's dashboard and center console in the lightweight material, only adding to the sporty aesthetic. As a result, everything you touch feels incredibly high quality, befitting of a six-figure convertible.
On the tech side, Mercedes-AMG's current interior layout remains one of my favorites. In front of the driver, you'll find twin 12.3-inch screens, one for the digital instrument cluster and the other for the MBUX infotainment system. MBUX is a top-notch system with a thoughtful layout and vibrant colors. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard if you prefer a phone-based system.
Instead of a folding metal roof, the E53 counts on a soft top. While the fabric top is lighter than its metal equivalent, it lacks the additional sound deadening benefits. The E53 is louder than expected on the road, slightly taking away from an otherwise refined driving experience. However, with music playing or a podcast, the added noise becomes less apparent.
Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet Worth Over $100,000?
Any way you slice it, $105,440 is a lot for a Mercedes-AMG product that isn't a range-topping option. However, the E53 justifies its price tag by delivering in all areas. Contrary to what I would typically suggest, sticking with a relatively base E53 closer to $85,000 isn't the way to go. That's because all of my tester's optional extras help make the driving experience.
From the upgraded seats to the stunning paint, exhaust system, and carbon fiber accents, the E53's bells and whistles help make it feel truly special. After spending a week with one of AMG's few remaining drop-tops, I walked away feeling impressed, and more importantly, not yearning for a bigger engine. For most people, the E53 is just right.