By Sala Masindane
Forgive me for displaying my age here, but if my memory serves me correctly it has been 23 years since Mercedes Benz last produced a performance cabriolet (AMG) based on the E-Class. The last being the E36 AMG, which I unfortunately ahve never had the opportunity to drive. Fortunately, Mercedes Benz South Africa has brought in the new E53 cabriolet and we had the privilege of putting it through its paces and try rekindle the love we had with the E36.
Outside – the E53 tries not to attract attention but the AMG badging across the body, the 20-inch wheels, the front adaptive cornering lights, rear LED headlights and the quad exhaust scream “look at me”. However, the cherry on top is the canvas roof that resembles that of the interior colour which takes the trophy in our opinion.
Once you open the door, you are met by the dual contrast stitching on the door panel that houses seat adjusting and heating controls. Also part of that display are two Burmester speakers that are part of the 13 speaker surround sound system on offer. Wood like detailing on the dash gives the E53 a plush feel. The design language of the latest Mercs has been employed on the E53 Cabriolet as well. This includes the twin 12.3-inch screens that take up a large chunk of the dash and are the command centre for practically everything in the cabriolet. These are generally easy to use, whether it be through the centre console or multifunctional AMG steering wheel. The infotainment also has a bag of standard features to supplement it. They include Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and wireless charging for smartphones. Also included is the ambient lighting that turns nights in the E53 to something else. The lack of MBUX is an unfortunate omission though.
Jumping to the back is made simple using a small metallic handle that’s on the side of either one of the front seats which once pulled, electronically moves the seat forward. Space at the back is not the greatest but two adults can fit comfortably though, especially for short distances. Unlike most cars these days, the rear cup holders are fixed onto the seat as opposed to being deployable. The rear passengers also have the benefit of adjustable electronic windows at their disposal. While headroom is comprised due to the sloping roofline, it is not a deal breaker. For a sports coupe, the E53 has a decent boot space which stands at a claimed 385 litres when the roof is up and when down it will be 310 litres. It can be extended if the rear seats are folded and this can only be done when the roof is open.
Our test car was fitted with noticeable safety features that include attention assist, brake assists, blind spot assist, active lane keep assist and a 360-degree camera.
The drive and engine
The E53 AMG is not your typical jaw dropping and hair-raising fun as an E63 will probably be. However, there’s a 3.0-litre six-cylinder in line turbo with an electric auxiliary compressor hidden underneath the bonnet which is paired to a 9-Speed automatic. This means, the cabriolet churns out power outputs of 320kW and 520Nm of torque. The power is distrusted to all the wheels thanks to the AMG performance 4Matic+. The AMG Cabriolet sprints to 100km/h in just 4.5 seconds. Those numbers are quite impressive. When driving the gentle beast, you will notice that turbo lag is minimal. This is largely thanks to the EQ boost system that generates power to the 48V on-board electrical system. The electrical system can generate up to 16kW and 250Nm for a short period. It all then changes everything when cruising with the top down or up. I will add that it is more fun when the roof is down. The assistance of the air scarf and air cap features make this more enjoyable… albeit with the windows wound up.
We feel that the E53 cabriolet is one of those niche market cars and might not be the fastest car out there, but it gives both luxury and performance-based vehicles a run for their money. If you fall into this niche, then we suggest you look no further.
The E53 cabriolet is priced at R1,441,226,00. This includes a two-year/unlimited km warranty and a five-year/100,000 km maintenance plan.
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