2014 Mercedes-Benz E 550 Cabriolet
2014 Mercedes-Benz E 550 Cabriolet
2014 Mercedes-Benz E 550 Cabriolet
2014 Mercedes-Benz E 550 Cabriolet. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Lesley Wimbush

How I ended up cruising downtown Toronto one fine evening, top down, with a half-drunk motorsports writer, and Bibendum, a.k.a. “the Michelin Man” is probably a story best left for another time.

Suffice it to say, while we barely turned a head on Queen Street, it remains one of my most memorable moments.

And if you’ve got a hankering for out-of-season, en plein air touring, you can do a lot worse than a Mercedes-Benz E550 Cabriolet. Sure, there are sportier convertibles and several that are arguably sexier, but when it comes to that lip-smacking sense of satisfactory well-being, the E-Cab is the buttercream sacher torte of topless cruising.

One of the most important models in Mercedes-Benz’s lineup, the venerable E-Class has always given off the impression of respectable solidity. After a mid-cycle refresh last year, the 2014 model returned as if from an exclusive retreat – sculpted and massaged and looking decades younger. No longer a softly rounded tourer, the E-Class exchanges its bulbous booty for more muscular haunches, and gains a chiselled face with oversized badge placed front and centre.

Oh sure, the E-Class sedan can still be had with the traditional slatted grille favoured by stuffy German bankers, but that’s a U.S. special order only. All Canadian models, like the rest of the Benz lineup, come standard with AMG-inspired grille and body cladding – three horizontal bars for the sedan, vs one for the coupe and cabriolet.

But back to my lovely drop-top roadster. Simpler, cleaner, sharper and more dynamic, the E-Class’s make over continues into the cockpit. As you’d expect from this premium German brand, nothing but the very best of materials was used in its construction.

Fragrant leather upholstery is available in a variety of colour schemes – including a cherry red and a cream grey that looks good enough to eat – and my tester is done up in chocolate and charcoal. The seats are plump and inviting, and comfortable enough to spend the entire day in– up front that is. Rear seats, as in most convertibles, are cramped and with limited leg room.

With its stitched leather dash top, glossy wood trim, analog timepiece, and aluminum trim, the E-Class is as pretty inside as it is out. The busy centre console is a throwback to its prior fussiness though and could use some streamlining. Seriously, how many people use number buttons to make a phone call? [Actually, I do. It’s super convenient! – Ed]

We’re pushing it a bit by cruising al fresco when the evening’s still crisp enough to put frost on your pumpkin, but thanks to “airscarf” which lovingly blows warm breath upon our necks via the headrests, and “aircap” – a trick spoiler that automatically raises from the windshield over 40 km/h, deflecting air up and over the cockpit – we’re warm and toasty. There’s a rear wind deflector too, rising up from between the back headrests – but it only deploys when there are no rear passengers and “Bibi” of course, put paid to that.

Although the E-550 Cab falls into the “short deck, long nose” category, it’s simply too well-mannered to be considered a true sports car. But sporty? Yes. Under the hood, a 4.7L bi-turbo V8 puts out 402 hp and 445 lb-ft of torque – a beautiful engine that growls and burbles, delivering plenty of power in linear, silken bursts.

2014 Mercedes-Benz E 550 Cabriolet2014 Mercedes-Benz E 550 Cabriolet seating
2014 Mercedes-Benz E 550 Cabriolet. Click image to enlarge

But the E-Cab is more about pampered luxury than it is about raw performance. There are two drive modes: Sport and Comfort. While selecting Sport does ramp up the car’s response, holding the shifts longer so the car revs aggressively and noticeably firming the suspension – the E-Cab doesn’t beg for a hard flogging. That’s more the realm of the AMG-badged performance-enhanced variants.

It’s a beautiful car to drive swiftly, soaking up any bumps or road imperfections whether in Sport or Comfort thanks to its adaptable air suspension. Even better, the damping system also has something called “agility control” that keeps the car on an even keel through tight turns.

2014 Mercedes-Benz E 550 Cabriolet
2014 Mercedes-Benz E 550 Cabriolet. Click image to enlarge

Electronic steering is a little on the light side, somewhat over-boosted and without a lot of feedback, but it’s fine for boulevard cruising.

The buttery-smooth performance is par for the course though. What really takes the pampering up a notch is the level of onboard electronic wizardry.

Mercedes has taken driver technology to whole new plane with its “Intelligent Drive” – the umbrella phrase for their suite of safety systems that, using radar and stereo cameras to relay information to the car, activates a variety of accident-preventing technologies.

Many are already available as standard features, but the new Advanced Driving Package that debuted with the S-Class is now optional on all E-class models.

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