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2011 Mercedes-Benz E550 Cabriolet (photos)

The Cabriolet is the latest version of Mercedes-Benz's updated E-class, previously available in coupe and sedan style. Mercedes-Benz uses a cloth top as opposed to the currently popular retractable hard tops, along with some interesting technology for keeping the passengers comfortable.

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Wayne Cunningham
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1 of 21 Josh Miller/CNET
Mercedes-Benz updated the E-class for 2010, but only released the sedan and coupe at that time. For the 2011 model year, it follows up with this convertible, available as the E550 or E350.
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LED parking lights are a new feature on the E-class, and this Cabriolet's aggressive-looking grille and air dam hint at the taut driving experience.
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Mercedes-Benz unveiled this engine, a 5.5-liter V-8, in 2005, and has since used it in many different models. Although responsive, it is not the most efficient, turning in mediocre fuel economy.
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Typical for a convertible, the E550 Cabriolet is a two-door. Because of the lack of B pillars, extenders automatically push the seatbelts out within reach of driver and front passenger.
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Mercedes-Benz used a cloth top, as opposed to the increasingly common retractable hard top. A headliner inside of it helps dampen external noise.
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Our car came with AMG wheels, a pricey option.
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The suspension in the E550 Cabriolet is sport tuned, leading to a ride that is more rigid than soft.
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Rear leg room is a little tight, suggesting that the car should only occasionally be used for more than two passengers.
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Fit and finish seemed good in the cabin, with leather and wood trim. A controller for the navigation and audio systems sits on the console.
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Mercedes-Benz used to put a phone keypad in this pod, but in the E550 Cabriolet it is used for the convertible controls. We had a hard time finding them at first.
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The steering wheel has a satisfyingly thick feeling, and it moves the nose of the car around with some precision.
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Mercedes-Benz's gauges have a classic look, but an LCD in the speedometer can show trip, audio, navigation, and other information.
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The seven-speed automatic transmission has Manual and Sport modes, both activated by buttons. The Manual mode button is near the shifter, whereas the Sport button is somewhat lost on the dashboard among climate controls.
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The hard-drive-based navigation system renders landmark buildings in 3D.
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The POI database shows Zagat ratings for some restaurants.
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Entering an address involves selecting letters along a horizontal bar, which can be a little tedious.
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The interface for the phone system also uses the horizontal bar treatment for digit inputs. The system can copy over a paired phone's address book, letting you use voice command to dial by name.
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HD radio is standard in the E550 Cabriolet.
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The iPod interface works quickly, although it is a little spare in design. The iPod connector is inconveniently placed in the glovebox.
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This Harman Kardon Logic 7 audio system delivers finely detailed sound quality.
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The audio system includes 12 speakers, even putting one down low, in between the rear seats.

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