Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet [A238] (2020 - 2023) used car review

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Breakdown cover from just £7.95 a month*. Plus up to £150 of driving savings!

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

By Jonathan Crouch


Launched in 2017, this 'A238'-series Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet was not only sleeker and more stylish than its predecessors but also slightly larger and quite a lot more sophisticated. The result was an arguably more prestigious approach to Executive convertible motoring than obvious competitors of the period could offer. True, it wasn't the sharpest steer in its class. Nor was it the most lavishly equipped or the most affordable to buy. But it was the best at being all the things that typical executive cabriolet owners wanted their cars to be. And yes, it felt a class above its rivals, just as a Mercedes-Benz always should.


2dr Cabriolet [E220d] / 3.0 diesel [E350d] / 2.0 petrol [E200] / 3.0 petrol [E400/E 53 AMG])


The E-Class Cabriolet. This was a classic open-topped Mercedes that brought an extra touch of class to the executive drop-top sector. A very cultured convertible that aimed to set fresh standards for comfort and refinement in its segment. Here, we're looking at the 'A238'-series model launched in late 2017 and, like its predecessor, it was primarily based on the E-Class Coupe and shared much the same engineering. What did change this time round though, was the platform this design sat upon. It might sound strange to say it but this was the first E-Class Cabriolet in a very long time that had been actually based on an E-Class. This car's predecessor, the 'A207'-series E-Class Cabriolet launched in 2010, shared the more compact underpinnings of a smaller C-Class. As did the CLK Cabriolet model that cabrio replaced, originally introduced in 1999.

In fact, prior to 2017, you had to go all the way back to the old-school 'W124'-series model first introduced in 1991 to find an E-Class Cabriolet created like this one from the proper full-Executive sector underpinnings of an E-Class saloon. And that was important. Previous to this A238 model's launch, an open-topped E-Class didn't really give you much more than you couldn't already get from a far more affordable C-Class Cabriolet. This one though, thanks to its newly acquired chassis, claimed to be quite a different proposition, supposedly big enough to offer proper rear seat and boot space for four adults. Plus its sophisticated insulated fabric roof was borrowed from the exotic Luxury segment S-Class Cabriolet of the period. In short, on paper at least, it was at last a class above, not only its smaller open-topped stablemate but also the BMW 4 Series Convertible and the Audi A5 Cabriolet models that had pillaged sales from the previous generation model.

There was more too, this 'A238'-series E-Class Cabriolet equipped with a whole raft of fresh technology that the old car couldn't have dreamed of providing. Probably the most significant addition was the all-new 2.0-litre four cylinder diesel powerplant that the vast majority of customers for this cabrio variant chose. And there was plenty else that was new to this model line; 4WD, air suspension, all-new infotainment technology, sophisticated safety systems and cutting-edge assistance features that allowed owners to take a step closer to fully autonomous driving. Plus with this A238 design, Mercedes put greater effort into giving this variant a sportier feel. This A238 model got a light update in 2020, then sold until mid-2023, after which it was replaced by the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet.

What You Get

In A238 form, this E-Class Cabriolet shed its previous compact C-Class underpinnings and was able to grow a little. Well quite a lot actually, this post-2017-era design being 123mm longer, 74mm wider and 30mm taller than its predecessor. With the soft top up, the silhouette is similar to that of the E-Class Coupe this car is based upon, the close ties between the two variants apparent in their shared design language, with its emphasis on smooth surfaces and clean lines.

We should start by telling you a little about the fully automatic roof, which features an acoustic design derived from that used by the brand's larger S-Class Cabriolet of this period. From new, the hood fabric was personalisable too, the multi-layer soft-top available in dark brown, dark blue or dark red for those who didn't like the standard black. You activate it via the middle button in a trio of switches ahead of the central armrest and the opening - or closing - process takes 20 seconds, with operation possible at speeds of up to 31mph. A particularly nice touch is the way you can also activate the roof mechanism using the keyfob. So if you're across the street from your E-Class Cabriolet sipping a coffee and admiring the car in its roof-retracted form, then the heavens open, you can casually raise the hood without shifting from your seat. Brilliant.

When retracted, the folded canopy is stored in its own boot compartment, separated from the rest of the trunk by a retractable cover. As for the other two switches either side of the main control button, well one retracts all four windows in one action, while the other engages the 'AIRCAP' draught-stop mechanism which raises a rather ugly contraption on the windscreen header rail at the same time as activating an equally awkward-looking wind deflector behind the rear seats. Both features are undeniably effective though.

Once inside, Mercedes' now traditional 'belt butler' hands you your seatbelt over your shoulder on an extending arm, a nice little touch that really sets the tone for this car. The seats are fitted out with 'AIRSCARF' neck-level vents you'll be glad of if you're tempted to go 'al fresco' on a chilly morning. Take a look around and you'll find that, as expected, apart from a few extra trimming panels, the basic architecture of the cabin is shared with the E-Class Saloon, the only really unique difference being more distinctive air vents - there are no fewer than four of them in the centre of the fascia, all with styling that's supposed to echo the look of a turbine engine. The other main cabin talking point is the double-screen instrument panel which is standard on six cylinder models but was initially optional on four cylinder variants. It combines a 12.3-inch virtual instrument display with a second centre-dash 'COMMAND Online' monitor of the same size, both screens fitted into a single frame.

In the back, the 113mm increase in wheelbase boasted by this A238-series design did indeed translate into extra stretching space - there's 103mm more leg room than the previous model, though not quite as much as you get in the C238-series fixed-top model. Plus thanks to 74mm of body width, there's 34mm more space for your shoulders. What about boot space? Well, with the roof open, the luggage capacity is 310-litres. With the roof up, that capacity figure rises to 385-litres, 25-litres more than a C-Class Cabriolet and only 15-litres less than you get in an S-Class Cabriolet. More pertinently, it was also fractionally more than Audi and BMW rival models could offer.

What You Pay

Prices start at around £23,000 (around £26,000 retail) for a typical E220d Cabriolet on a '17-plate with base 'AMG Line' trim, rising to around £41,800 (around £47,250 retail) for one of the last mid-2023 'AMG Line Premium'-spec cars. For the E300 Cabriolet petrol version, prices start at around £24,000 (around £27,000 retail) for a typical E300 Cabriolet on a '17-plate with base 'AMG Line' trim, rising to around £43,300 (around £48,750 retail) for one of the last mid-2023 'AMG Line Premium'-spec cars. Prices for the Mercedes-AMG E 53 4MATIC Cabriolet start at around £38,700 (around £43,250 retail), which gets you an '18-plate 'Premium'-trimmed model. Values for this '53' version rise to around £57,400 (around £65,000 retail) for one of the last mid-2023 'Premium'-spec cars. All quoted values are sourced through industry experts cap hpi. Click here for a free valuation.

What to Look For

Most E-Class Cabriolet (A238-series) owners in our survey were satisfied, but inevitably, there were some who'd experienced problems. We came across a few owners who'd experienced failed NOx sensors - there are two that are a part of the selective catalytic reduction system. The cause is usually extreme exhaust heat and replacing the sensors isn't cheap. The OM654 2.0-litre diesel engine has exhibited very few problems except for excessive wear of the roller and roller rocker arms. This leads to rough idling and strange noises coming from the air intake system, so keep a look out for that. We also come across issues with brake judder and screeching, so look out for that on your test drive. And we've heard it reported that the body paint is rather thin and sensitive, so scratches and spots are common. Check the paintwork thoroughly.

Some owners have reported failing LED light bulbs that illuminate the floor under the side door mirrors. And if the car you're looking at has air suspension, we understand that the relay for the AIRMATIC system is prone to failure - that relay can get stuck in the off position, meaning that the compressor won't engage and the suspension won't drop the car towards the ground. Otherwise, it's the usual things here; check the electric roof-folding mechanism for glitches. And ideally (with the roof up!) put the car through a local car wash to identify any leaks). Interior trim and electrical issues were the most commonly afflicted things that came up in our survey. Check for uneven panel gaps and paint flaws. Inspect the electrics and the air conditioning functionality - it should blow our really chilled air. As usual, insist on a fully stamped-up service history.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2021 E220 d Cabriolet - Ex Vat) An air filter is around £26. An oil filter is around £13. A fuel filter is around £36. Front brake pads sit in the £42-£84 bracket for a set (for rears it's around £63). Front brake discs cost in the £112-£127 bracket. Rear brake discs can cost in the £146 bracket. A set of wiper blades is around £42.

On the Road

Mercedes said that with this A238 generation E-Class Cabriolet, it had worked hard to inject what it called a little more 'luxurious, sporty character' into the car. Hence this E-Class Cabriolet platform's wider track, the slightly lowered suspension and the standard 'DYNAMIC SELECT' driving modes system. All of which certainly made a difference, but not enough of one to essentially alter the character of this car; it was still more of a boulevard cruiser than a B-road blaster. Which is exactly as it should be. Not that this car is unaccomplished when the going gets twisty. It's just that other rivals see dynamic cornering as being that bit more important. In Stuttgart however, they spent their development time on everyday features that they thought typical buyers would appreciate more. Our favourite one is called 'AIRCAP' and it's there to deal with the windy buffeting that normally afflicts open-topped cars at speed, using a deflector that rises above the windscreen frame and a draught-stop that rises above the normal level of the rear seats. Combined with the 'AIRSCARF' warm air neck-level vents, it makes this a convertible you'd be comfortable using 'al fresco' all the year round.

Under the bonnet, most buyers will choose the 2.0-litre 194hp four cylinder diesel powerplant that features in this entry-level E220d variant. It's still not quite as refined as we'd ideally like, but it's a responsive and efficient unit, capable of 57.7mpg on the combined cycle and 126g/km of CO2 (NEDC figures). 4MATIC 4WD was optional. Hardly anyone is likely to choose the petrol-powered four cylinder alternative, the 2.0-litre turbocharged 245hp E300 model, which was only offered in standard rear-driven form. There may though, be quite a lot of interest in trading up to one of the mainstream V6 versions, both only offered in 4MATIC guise. There were two options at this level, the 258hp E350d diesel and the 333hp E400 petrol model. Plus at the very top of the range, there was a high performance 435hp Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet flagship variant in which toupees will need to be very firmly tied down. In all the six cylinder variants, you get the 'AIR BODY CONTROL' air suspension system that from new was optional on the four cylinder derivatives. This set-up can be fine-tuned via the various settings of the 'DYNAMIC SELECT' driving modes system that influences throttle response, steering feedback and the reactions of the standard silky-smooth 9G-TRONIC PLUS nine-speed automatic gearbox that all E-Class Cabriolet models had to have.


The improvements made to this A238-series E-Class Cabriolet - the more efficient engines, the smarter looks, the extra technology - were certainly welcome but the essence of its appeal actually changed very little. As we said when testing its predecessor, what Mercedes-Benz did with this car was something so simple that it sounds blindingly obvious. Assuming that it's not lashing down with rain, here is a convertible you can use for roof-down motoring almost whenever you want. It can be cold or windy. Your journey may be at high speed. Or it may include rear seat passengers. Either way, it matters not. In no other comparable soft-top will you find yourself retracting the hood quite so often. True, there are rivals you could choose that'd be more dynamically rewarding to drive, but as Mercedes well knows, that kind of thing doesn't tend to be prioritised by many likely buyers. These people will probably attach much greater value to the way that this E-Class Cabriolet will rack up huge distances in exquisite comfort - and with impressive efficiency.

So, how to summarise? Well, in driving this car and in owning it, you feel another, more elegant level away from owners of the brand's less aspirational C-Class Cabriolet. And a cut above the sporting convertible models that car competed with in its period, cabrios like BMW's 4 Series and Audi's A5. There's a maturity and a class here that these sportier rivals lack. They could never be considered as a wise and cost-efficient alternative to spending considerably more on a Maserati GranCabrio or a BMW 8 Series Convertible. This Mercedes could be. And that about sums it up.

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