As a machine for lazily wafting about from place to place, this left-hand-drive E-Class is really rather lovely. Drop down into its plush, expansive cabin and the first thing you’ll notice is a redesigned steering wheel. There’s now a much larger centre boss, while new capacitive controls replace many of the physical buttons that adorned the previous model’s helm. Upholstered in leather, it complements the E450’s lightly revised interior wonderfully; this is an environment that balances the more traditional wood and leather finishing elements with the sharp, responsive digital screens that straddle the dashtop with impressive finesse.
The chairs themselves are large and comfortable, but with ample support should you decide to ditch the E450’s naturally laid-back disposition and press on a bit. Adjustability is excellent, and the presence of seat-heaters and Mercedes’ ‘airscarf’ neck warmers will go a long way to keeping you toasty when it’s cold out and you decide to brave the elements.
Which you’ll likely be inclined to do most of the time. Sure, with its folding canvas roof locked in place, it’s hard to imagine that the convertible E450 loses out on much in the way of refinement compared with its hard-top sibling; but fold it away (a job that takes 20sec and can be done at low speeds), and the E-Class continues to do a fine job of shielding you from the outside world. There is of course a lot more wind noise when travelling at pace, but with Mercedes’ ‘aircap’ wind deflector in play, any lengthy lockdown hairdo you might be sporting won’t be blown about too ferociously.
Although that new EQ Boost-assisted straight-six is good for a 5.2sec 0-62mph time, the E450 Cabriolet is very much a car for sauntering about in. There’s an appealingly relaxed, yet aristocratic nature about its motive character, which sort of puts me in mind of the hookah-smoking caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland. With the roof down you get a better taste of the straight-six motor’s sonorous, tuneful soundtrack, which develops from a languid growl into a rich roar as you use the extent of the throttle pedal’s travel. Acceleration is wonderfully creamy and consistent, and the engine pulls strongly right the way through its rev range.
Hook-up from step-off is graceful enough to avoid complaint, and Mercedes’ 9-speed auto ‘box swaps cogs with slick efficiency while on the move. Use the steering wheel-mounted paddles to change gear yourself, however, and you’ll find the E450 does so willingly, although the transmission is a bit too over-eager to revert back to automatic mode if left unattended. This can be remedied by opting for the Manual drive mode, but it proved difficult to then match this with the sportier engine mapping settings. This was a bit disappointing, but perhaps not entirely surprising given this car’s natural target audience.
Our German-market test car’s optional adjustable air suspension lent it a ride that was wonderfully soft-edged and absorptive when set to comfort, but not drastically short on body control when ramped up to Sport and Sport+ modes. With the dampers set to their most aggressive setting you’re certainly still aware of the car’s mass, size and body roll; and combined with a steering rack that’s less up on its toes and more reclined on a chaise lounge in its responses you certainly get the sense that the E450 Cabriolet isn’t a car that’s been set-up with fast driving at the forefront of its mind.