Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabrio: Just in time for summer
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Mercedes-Benz’s apparently faultless E-Class range has just been added to with drop-top versions arriving in time for summer. If it’s niche motoring you’re after, this particular cabrio ticks more boxes than even the accomplished coupe version can.
A couple of months back, someone with a top pay grade at Daimler made the startling, yet no-doubt utterly realistic, observation to a UK car magazine that niche models such as coupes and convertibles had the potential for a limited shelf life going forward.
With the advent of shared platform architecture, coupled with both the world’s unceasing appetite for SUVs of varying sizes and the all-important Chinese market’s apparent disinterest in coupes and convertibles, carmakers, so said the man from Benz, were finding it increasingly difficult to justify the R&D costs associated with designing and building lower-volume, two-door models.
It wasn’t just Daimler facing this conundrum, either. The same magazine article quoted a senior figure from within its chief rival organisation in Munich, who essentially said the same thing.
Well, I’ve just been driving a couple of examples from the latest Mercedes-Benz E-Class cabriolet line-up. And I’m here to tell you the above hand-wringing assertions are absolute bollocks.
There’s simply no way Mercedes-Benz would spend every waking hour engineering a cabrio with as much elegance and refinement as this latest-gen E-Class line-up if it didn’t think there was any future in it.
Simply put, if a long wheel-based two-door like this represents an itch you can scratch, the cabrio makes a compelling case for ignoring the coupe altogether. It has space, pace and quiet refinement in spades.
New Zealand will receive two flavours of E cabrio; the four-cylinder turbo petrol E300, and the six-cylinder twin-turbo E400 4Matic. For the extra cylinders and assuredness of all-wheel drive you’ll pay $159,500 plus on-roads. That’s a not-inconsiderable $26,000 more than the E300, so you’ll really have to be an unrepentant six-cylinder fan to pony up the difference, as both cars are trimmed and spec’d generously.
The E300’s 2.0-litre four offers 180kW peak power and 370Nm of torque, while the six gives you 245kW and 480Nm. The E cabrios offer reasonable combined fuel economy of 7.4L/100km and 8.7L/100km respectively. I’m presuming an AMG E 63 drop-top will be added at some point, too, although that’s getting ahead of things a little.
It also might not be the point. A cabrio is for cruising, not track day aggression. Although, despite the ever-present aura of “waftability” surrounding this pairing (and we did plenty of ‘wafting’ on the highways to the north of Melbourne last week on the media launch drive), Mercedes-Benz has engineered these cars to be driven at speed if desired.
A combination of Mercedes’ 9G-Tronic automatic transmission with shift paddles, multi-mode Agility Select drive programme settings (including race-face Sport+ setting), standard air suspension and – on the E300 – a sports exhaust, make this every bit a driver’s car if you need it to be. It’s also worth mentioning the e300 and e400 4matic arrive out of the box with a scattering of AMG line body enhancements, giving them a slightly sportier look.
On top of all that though, the ride remains poised and dignified whether the fabric roof is up or down. Wind deflectors can be raised or lowered which will ensure back-seat passengers can converse in comfort at higher (motorway) speeds with the top down. Up front, with the roof down and the windows up, it’s almost as if there is nothing different about a topless journey for the driver and co-pilot, save for the elements on a changeable spring day.
Never fear though, because the electric-folding fabric roof can be raised or lowered at speeds up to 50km/h. Also, Mercedes-Benz New Zealand has ensured that every E-Class cabrio features a high-grade acoustic hood. Stop the roof half-way through its procedure (minding your fingers) and you’ll see thick, woolly insulation sandwiched within the layers of roof fabric. It’s impressive how this deadens the sound when you’re on the move.
Also — a nice touch — thanks to super slim LED technology, Mercedes-Benz’s engineers have retained a cabin light in the centre of the roof interior, despite it being a fabric fold-up.
Because it is an E-Class, that fantastically futuristic dashboard featuring twin full-width screens is present and correct. Even the E-Class’ A/C vents look great; designed to mimic the retro-futuristic look of jet turbines. Naturally, technology and safety feature sets are as complete here as you’d expect to see in the E-Class sedan. The comprehensive Comand Online infotainment system, Driving Assistance Package, dual zone climate control and Multi-Beam LED headlights are all included, with plenty more comfort and convenience technologies besides. The E400 4Matic also receives a top-shelf 13-speaker, 590-watt Burmeister surround sound system.
The E-Class cabrio gives you everything a coupe will, but with the bonus of top-down motoring whenever the fickle New Zealand summer allows. Taking this car’s impressive levels of refinement into account, along with a standard level of specification straight off the showroom floor that puts competitor models in class to shame, I’d find it hard to go past this iteration of the two-door option.
The bean-counters might see it as niche, but I hope the cabrio remains with us for many years to come.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet
Engines: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol (180kW/370kW), 3.0-litre, six-cylinder twin-turbo petrol (245kW/480Nm)
Prices: $133,500 (E300 Cabriolet), $159,500 (E400 4Matic Cabriolet)
Pro: Refinement, interior space, power, impressive feature set
Con: Stock up on sunscreen ... but only when New Zealand’s fickle weather allows for it