► Mercedes-Benz E-class Cabriolet tested
► Fifth member of the new E-class family
► A genuinely spacious, usable four-seater
For those that like to bask in nitrous oxides and ultra violet (and sales and choice suggest there are less and less of us), Mercedes-Benz continues to deliver roofless motoring throughout its range, adding this new E-class Cabriolet to its line-up.
It’s the fifth member of the E-class family and, says Mercedes, it is bigger, more comfortable, more practical, safer and more secure than any previous soft-top it has produced.
For a model that has been around for some time, it’s unusual that it sits in a field of one, being larger than an Audi A5 Cabriolet or BMW 4 Series Convertible and noticeably cheaper than a BMW 6 Series Convertible. It’s a genuine four-seat soft top with a premium badge at a suitably expensive price.
Until the requisite bonkers AMG traffic light head-turner version turns up, there is a choice of four petrol and diesel engines, which for the first time includes variants with 4Matic all-wheel drive. The range includes a 190bhp E220d and 254bhp E350d diesel, as well as 245bhp E300 petrol and range-topping 328bhp E400 biturbo V6 petrol.
So does it have the usual convertible compromises?
Well, not really. If it wasn’t for the sunburn, some funkier air vents, the handy Airscarf neck nuzzler function and new seat patterns, in the front you’d think you were in an E-class Saloon, with its extremely high level of fit and finish, slightly clunky digital screen and ample space.
The multi-layer fabric soft top can be opened while driving at speeds of up to 31 mph. It takes 20 seconds to perform its opening or closing function, and its shape and packaging doesn’t impinge on those in the back as much as you might expect.
For a start, there’s more than adequate space for actual real adults, and it’s relatively easy to get in and out of, even with the roof up (and decent headroom too). Airflow over the cabin is marshalled by the Aircap, an ugly yet effective pop-up spoiler on the top of the windscreen, and a big square fly swatter of a deflector that rises behind the rear seats. It’s a pretty car for the most part, and those of a more image-conscious disposition might forgo these workmanlike contraptions for a sleeker look, and a bit more buffeting.
There are some other nice touches too: to save those hot-bum moments when the car has been parked with the roof down, it has heat-reflecting leather seats, while the wipers shoot the screen wash down, rather than up, to save occupants from being showered.
Also, there’s no issue with the boot, which is large and suffers little noticeable effect on its capacity when the roof is stowed. The rear seat backrests are now 50:50 split-folding as standard, and have a through-loading feature.
Is the handling and performance as accomplished?
It’s an odd one this. It has a wider track, with 1605 mm at the front (+ 67 mm) and 1609 mm at the rear (+68 mm) than previously, and 15mm lower suspension than the Saloon, as with the Coupe, and the driving dynamics are much improved from the previous car. But even with the Dynamic Select system set to its more sporty efforts, the E-class feels like a car that doesn’t need to be hurried.
The handling won’t get messy, but at the same time it doesn’t feel nimble. I couldn’t get into a particularly sparky mood with it, finding it more sedate in attitude than even the lugubrious Saloon or ludicrously practical Estate, but I would suggest that is not detrimental to the overall experience. Trying to thrash this car through corners on the ragged edge would be to misjudge its character.
It’s a big, comfortable, secure-handling luxury convertible that is able to cover ground at a good pace, pleasing, rather than thrilling to drive, sketching a line rather than carving one.
Of the engines, the new E220d is more refined than Mercedes diesel four-cylinder has ever been – it hasn’t got much competition, though – and even with the roof down the noise is not unbearable. The E350d was not available to drive, but the E300 petrol is adequate if lacking a little punch. The latter possibly sits in that ‘why would you?’ spot in the range: not particularly fast, and not especially efficient either.
For more drama, while the E400 V6 can be undemonstrative and anodyne in Comfort and Eco modes, it is ever so slightly bonkers in Sport Plus, providing sharp acceleration and downshifting fireworks to attract attention when desired. It’s pretty quick without being mind-blowing. We’ll have to wait for the AMG for that box to be ticked.
Everything a four-seat convertible should be: pretty (except in aero mode), comfortable and luxurious for sunny weather and decently practical for everyday drudgery too.