As dying breeds go, the four-seater convertible is right up there with K-Mart, Toys R Us, Blockbuster, and RadioShack. Man, I miss RadioShack.
Today, the only real drop-top four seaters you can buy are Ford’s Mustang, Chevy’s soon-to-depart Camaro, BMW’s 4-series and 8-series, Audi’s A5 Cabriolet, Bentley’s Continental, and the Mercedes’ C-Class and E-Class soft-tops.
Full disclosure here; I used to own a four-seat 1976 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible that was the size of Texas. So big it had its own zip code. Wish I still had it.
Gone is the lovely Rolls-Royce Dawn and Phantom Dropheads, Mercedes’ huge S-Class Cabrio, Maserati’s Gran Turismo, and the too-cute VW Beetle. Remember the Buick Cascada convertible? Thought not.
For me, a full four-seat convertible is a thing of beauty and practicality. Invite over friends, drop the top, and head to the beach. Or dinner. Or just cruise for ice cream.
To remind myself of the joys of drop-top cruising for four, I just spent a week with Mercedes’ gorgeous AMG E53 Cabriolet, an open-air bundle of automotive joy that makes the most perfect Florida convertible.
Just look at the thing. It has endless curves, a windshield so steeply raked you could ski off it, and so much style and elegance it could have come off the cover of Vogue.
And, being an AMG, it features that classic Panamericana front grille with its vertical blades, just like the one on the 1952 Mercedes 300SL racecar that dominated the fabled Carrera Panamericana road race in Mexico.
Add to all this, the car is a rockstar of advanced technology. Yup, it’s a hybrid.
Under that curvy hood, Mercedes has squeezed in an AMG-tuned turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six engine. But here’s the cool part: integrated between the engine and its nine-speed transmission is a honking 48-volt electric motor. Mercedes calls it EQ Boost.
No, it won’t power the car on battery-only like some open-top Tesla. What it does provide, however, is an extra 21 horsepower to juice up the performance.
That means for short bursts—like powering away from a stoplight or zipping past slower traffic—you get a combined 429 horsepower and 384 pound-foot of muscle. Against the stopwatch, that translates into 0-to-60 miles per hour sprinting in just 4.4 seconds.
Such is the Merc’s refinement that you never notice the electric assistance. The car just feels seductively fast. Squeeze the throttle and you get this lovely tsunami of torque that pushes you back into the seat and thrusts you towards the horizon.
Also standard on this E53 is 4Matic+ all-wheel drive for sharper handling, better traction, and the sure-footedness of Nike Airs. The beauty of this AMG-tuned system is that it can direct 100 percent of power to the rear wheels.
For driving enthusiasts who love to carve curves, that means sportier, more dynamic, more fun handling. And with five different driving modes –Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, and Individual—there’s a setting to satisfy your mood.
And dropping the top only adds to the considerable joy. Toggle a switch and the three-layer, inch-thick fabric roof automatically unlatches and powers back in just 20 seconds. And one switch can raise or lower all four windows at once.
Drop the top, raise all four side windows, raise up the wind-blocker behind the rear seats, and levitate the so-called AIRCAP wing at the top of the windshield, and even at triple-digit velocities there’s hardly a rustle of wind.
While you wouldn’t want to subject friends or family to a long trip in the Merc’s rear seat, there’s enough legroom for a quick trip to dinner or the beach.
All this quality, technology, and craftsmanship naturally doesn’t come cheap. E53 Cabriolet pricing starts at $91,500, though I wouldn’t be too upset to “make do” with the base, non-AMG E450 Cab that starts at $76,900.
But when you want to add a little AMG spice to your open-top driving, this latest E53 Cabriolet might just be the hottest thing around.