Mercedes-Benz has a history of designing stylish coupe and convertible models for the discerning motorist. These gran turismo models were originally designed to whisk driver and passenger to exciting destinations and the latest E Class Cabriolet lives up to that ideal of splendid travel.
Coupe and convertible models have always been the pinnacle of Mercedes-Benz style and elegance and the latest E500 Cabriolet carries on that tradition in a striking fashion. More aggressively styled than previous models the E500 Cabriolet is muscular in design and striking in appearance.
Bulging front guards emphasise the performance aspect of the car and the prominent shoulder around the rear wheel arches has the stated design objective to evoke a visual link with the E Class model’s distant 1953 ancestor, the Ponton.
The particular E500 Cabriolet under review was finished in Diamond White with Black roof. The leather interior was Black highlighted with deep Red feature panels – indeed striking.
As would be expected, the E500 Cabriolet is loaded with technology that keeps Mercedes-Benz at the forefront of development and delivery. Traditionally the technology is developed for the leading models and then filters down to the lesser models in the range. Often the technology is adopted by rival brands and the adoption of it helps to add to the safety of cars in general.
The soft roof was electrically lowered and raised at the touch of a button and is an impressive piece of technology as it transforms the car from cosseted coupe to open air freedom in less than 50 seconds. The roof can be activated remotely and can also be operated at speeds of up to 40km/h, which is a convenience factor if you get caught in a sudden rain shower.
The opportunity to enjoy the delights of an E500 Cabriolet don’t come often – and what better way to enjoy the car than during a few days break at Lilianfels situated in the famous Blue Mountains. The original house at Lilianfels was built in 1889 on 11 acres adjacent to Echo Point. It was built as a summer residence for Sir Frederick Darley and was a centre of society and entertainment. Lilianfels became a hotel in 2000 and is renowned for its service and hospitality.
In spite of the glamorous competition within the exclusive car park at Lilianfels the E500 Cabriolet always commanded prime valet spot on the forecourt.
The drive to Lilianfels and around the mountains area gave me the opportunity of enjoying the E500 Cabriolet on a variety of roads – freeway, country and suburban – all of which gave me the chance to assess the E500 Cabriolet in different environments.
This is a car that is completely at home motoring along the open road where it sits confidently on the road or doing suburban service where it is easy to manoeuvre. It was an absolute delight to doodle around the leafy lanes of Leura which the roof down taking in the sight and smells that the lovely area has to offer.
Everglades at Leura is a delightful destination. The house was built by Henry Van de Velde in 1936 – it is an outstanding example of moderne-style and is complimented by the surrounding garden designed by Danish born landscape gardener Paul Sorenson.
The garden was designed as a series of semi-formal terraces, each with a separate theme, cascading down the hillside. Sorenson’s work was typical of contemporary garden design, which was in vogue in Europe and North America. The one thing that made Sorenson’s work stand out was his stonewalls and these contribute visually and structurally to the garden.
Everglades is a garden of surprises and just as the sublime view and grandeur of its setting are not revealed at once, neither are its secrets. It is much the same with the E500 Cabriolet. It is an exciting car on first acquaintance but has many attributes that lead its owner to discover that it is a fabulous car on so many different levels.
The E500 Cabriolet has an engine which is the definition of power, suspension which smooths out the road, a transmission which is always in the right gear, a brake system which thinks for its self and safety equipment to ensure that driver and passengers are as safe as possible.
The E500 Cabriolet is as effortless to drive as a car can be. The 5.5 litre V-8 engine no doubt enhanced this feeling, which is the crowning glory in the range of engines available in the E Class. With the roof lowered there is the aural delight of the exhaust to enjoy.
The engine boasts 285kW (388hp) developing maximum torque of 530Nm at 2800 to 4800 rpm. This refined engine ensured that the E500 Cabriolet was responsive at all times and offered performance in the range of 0-100kph in 5.4 seconds and a top speed of 250kph.
The E500 Cabriolet is equipped with a 7 speed automatic transmission, which ensures the car, is always in the right gear for the situation. The transmission has both Comfort and Sports modes, which means the driving experience, can be tailored to the personal choice of the driver. This means the E500 Cabriolet can be tuned to either comfortable or sporty driving styles at the touch of a button.
The E500 Cabriolet has a wealth of technical aids, which enhance the driving experience. Some of these aids include Agility Control, which means the selective damping system of the suspension is constantly and variably adjusted to suit the road conditions and your driving style.
Dynamic Handling package gives you the option of driving in Comfort or Sport mode. The touch of a button is all it takes to switch all the related systems from the regular comfort mode to the sports mode. The damping becomes noticeably tighter and the engine’s response to the accelerator pedal is much more direct. At the same time the shift program of the automatic transmission changes to a more forthright mode, which ensures optimum acceleration at all times.
Attention Assist warns the driver as soon as it detects signs of drowsiness or inattention. The Distronic Plus proximity control uses short and long-range sensors to maintain the desired safe distance to the vehicle in front. This is an effective aid in city traffic.
Adaptive Brake, Pre-Safe brake, Parktronic including Parking Guidance, Speed Limit Assist and a Reversing Camera are all part of the sophisticated equipment on this special car.
A full understanding of all the features and technical aids the E500 Cabriolet has to offer can be gained by reading the 332 page Owners Manual, as well as the Comand APS Operating Instructions which runs to 208 pages.
Designed as a convertible, this model boasts protection systems specifically tailored to its particular design with reinforcement in the floor and side areas and includes Rollover protection. During the time I drove the E500 Cabriolet it did not evidence body shake or vibration and was rigid in its movements at all times.
Given the limitations of a convertible design, visibility to the rear is limited with the roof raised. However, the rear camera and the reverse sensors that alert the driver to obstacles overcome this and you soon become accustomed to manoeuvring the car in this way.
As a Benz owner I was able to discern the improvements made in the driving experience of the E500 Cabriolet. It drives in typical Benz fashion – that is, long throttle travel, superb brakes, the ride is firm but composed – beautifully flowing on good roads but a little jiggly on less than perfect surfaces. Nevertheless, taken as a whole the ride is very good and the comfort levels are high.
The E500 Cabriolet is more a grand tourer type of car rather than a sports car and drives accordingly. You are always conscious you are driving a heavy car and that the plethora of technical aids are working hard to keep the car composed. Having said that it was interesting to see that several different drivers had no trouble managing the car – they took to it easily and all commented on the effortless nature of driving it. Each of the drivers loved the exhilarating feel of driving a cabriolet – it a feeling like no other!
Internally there is also a huge variety of equipment to help you manage the electronic functions of the E500 Cabriolet and contribute to its driving enjoyment. The Comand APS multimedia system entertains and navigates; it provides audio and telephone functions, showing the information you need in its 7-inch colour display.
The integrated DVD drive plays CDs and MP3 files plus video and audio DVDs. and all elements can be easily reached via the controller and the multifunction steering wheel controls.
The E500 Cabriolet also has a magnificent Harmon Kardon Logic 7 surround sound system and interior comfort features that place it at the pinnacle of driving enjoyment.
Of course the joy of driving a convertible is the feeling of freedom that comes from having the roof down and being able to experience the weather, the sights and sounds around you. I love driving it in the early morning or at night – with the stars above you. (These days there is no Mercedes-Benz 3 Pointed Star sitting proudly on the bonnet).
With its impressive technology the E500 Cabriolet makes open-air driving comfort possible in just about any season. Aircap is an innovative design which links to an air draught-stop between the rear seats. Together they direct airflow in an arc over the entire interior. Airscarf offers neck-level heating to ensure a warm internal environment even in really cold weather.
The result is open-air ride comfort for all passengers, although riding in the rear is not as serene as riding in the front seats. Talking about the seats – the ones in the E500 Cabriolet are unique to it. Not only does it have the usual Mercedes-Benz multi-adjustable seats with heaters it also has individual controls that allow you to tailor the support available to the lumbar region and under thigh support by way of bladders.
Mercedes-Benz seats are firm on first contact but very supportive – particularly over a longer drive. This helps ensure you finish your journey feeling fresh and alert, ready for the delights of your destination.
The E500 Cabriolet has the ability to be the ultimate vehicular servant to you – it is almost a case of point the car in the right direction and it will do the rest for you. It will operate according to your choice of transmission setting, it will regulate the wipers and lights – after you have left the car and found your way to where you are going. It will keep you cool or warm, it will alert you that you are drowsy or wandering off course, it will tell you when cars are approaching from the rear or side, it will maintain a safe distance between you and the car in front and it will take all sorts of evasive action should things finally get out of hand.
But there is another side to the E500 Cabriolet – it can be an engaging and entertaining car for the experienced driver. It is a powerful competent car, able to be extended to the extremes in the knowledge that it will reward the driver with an experience that would be hard to equal.
After several days temporary ownership the E500 Cabriolet demonstrated that elegance and style continue as the distinguishing character trait of today’s Mercedes-Benz. Alongside its impressive technology the E500 Cabriolet has everything it takes to be a classic right from the word go. It upholds the Mercedes-Benz tradition of style; elegance, prestige and I loved every moment of driving the E500 Cabriolet.