THE 2014 MERCEDES-BENZ E550 CONVERTIBLE REVIEW
Full Review by Andy: Wanted: (Real) Drivers
With the refreshed 2014 Mercedes-Benz E550 Cabriolet, Mercedes may well have perfected the sport luxury convertible. Too bad the world is still working on a matching it to a driver.
The E550 convertible is the biggest, baddest E-Class cabriolet model that Mercedes makes. The automotive equivalent of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, it is fashionable yet ferocious. Tweaked for the 2014 model year, the E550 features a redesigned front end, advanced safety technologies, and upgraded interior materials (upgraded drivers still forthcoming).
The E550’s name neither refers to its displacement (4.6 liters) or its power output (402 horsepower). In fact, “550” doesn’t refer to anything anymore. Aided by two twin turbochargers, the car’s engine produces enough torque at start-up to halt the rotation of the earth. Like oil rushing through a pipeline, all that power is ferried through a wet-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission to the rear wheels. Spinning and thrashing, the wheels propel the 4,400-pound behemoth from 0 to 60 mph in a pulse-pounding 5.2 seconds.
Detroit’s big boys post similar scores, but let no one be fooled: The E550 is anything but a muscle car. It rides on Mercedes’ patented Dynamic Handling suspension, which features electronically controlled shock absorbers to independently respond to road conditions in milliseconds. Damping rates, transmission shift points, and throttle response can be altered by switching the car from COMFORT to SPORT mode, in which case the driver is in for a treat. Imbued with Teutonic steadfastness, the E550 sticks to the pavement like shame on Miley Cyrus, neither oversteering nor understeering. Just point and shoot.
In reality, of course, this situation rarely if ever happens in a Mercedes, due mostly to the overly mothering stability control system and intrusive driver aids. Some, like the Attention Assist driver drowsiness monitor, stay hidden in the corner where they belong. Others, like the available Steering Assist, lay an extra third hand on the wheel. Pre-Safe, a system which rolls up windows and tightens seat belts if it anticipates a crash, completely freaks out on twisty canyon roads, and the optional collision mitigation systems work better the slower the car goes. The E550 convertible is at odds with itself, capable of gut-wrenching performance but unable to let itself – or the driver – go all the way.
Nowhere is this brouhaha more clearly demonstrated than with the E550’s relationship with wind. As a convertible, the E550 loves the sensation of wind rippling across the hood, and yet the convertible is packed with gadgets bent on taming the wind. Measuring almost an inch in thickness, the three-layer soft-top encapsulates the cabin like an Egyptian tomb. Yet it can retract within 20 seconds. AirCap, Mercedes’ patented wind deflector, automatically peeks out its head at 30 mph and retracts at 11 mph. The real cheese is AirScarf, an optional feature that blows hot air onto the driver’s neck and shoulders to combat the effects of breezy air. Notice the conundrum? The driver likes wind; the car doesn’t.
But enough blabbering about the driver. What about everyone else in the car? The E550 convertible can fit up to four passengers in a 2+2 layout, which is industry-speak for “small rear seats.” Squeezing two average-sized adults through the front doors into the cramped back seats is an exercise in geometry and efficient packing. Although far from the smallest accommodations in their class, the rear seats are unsuitable for adults during longer trips. The front seats tell a wholly different story. Voluptuous, heated, wrapped in leather and electronically adjustable via tiny toggle switches, the front seats can accommodate everyone from Paul Bunyan to Thumbelina.
The Mercedes-Benz E550 costs $7,300 more than the E350, and 99 percent of that cash sinks into the engine. Feature-wise, the two are nearly identical. Each front passenger can adjust his or her own weather via automatic climate control. Electronics like Bluetooth connectivity and audio are overseen by the COMAND infotainment system.
Obviously, the standard features a bit thin. In swoops the options roster to the rescue. The popular Premium 1 package adds AirScarf, a rearview camera, Harman Kardon surround-sound stereo system, and upgraded COMAND functions. Keyless entry and ignition are unfortunately high on the features ladder as part of the Keyless Go package. An aesthetic Sport package and Parking Assistant bundle are also available.
In the 2014 E550 cabriolet, Mercedes envisioned the ideal convertible: 402 horsepower, a power-folding soft-top, and the meanest grille short of an SLS AMG. Then they built it, and reality got in the way: The price is exorbitant and capable drivers are few. The E550 may be the ideal sport luxury convertible, but that may not be enough.
4.6-liter twin-turbocharged V8: 402 horsepower/443 lb-ft of torque
Seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission
17/25 mpg (RWD)
0-60 mph: 5.2 seconds
Base MSRP: $67,300
Need More Information on the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E550 Convertible?
video: 2014 Mercedes-Benz E550 Convertible
vehicle eBrochure: 2014 Mercedes-Benz E550 Convertible
Find a Mercedes-Benz E-Class for Sale in Your Area
Dealer Quote for the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E550 Convertible
More>>> Car Reviews
Copyright © 2010-2013 zAutos All Rights Reserved. Watch car videos at zAutos.com