There’s an air of elegance when cruising in the E-Class and popping the roof down - not that fickle Melbourne weather is normally kind to convertibles.
But the E-Class seems impervious to the elements and many tricks up its sleeve help it to effortlessly comfort occupants from the outside world. The morning of our test drive it’s no doubt the effective turbulence reducing ‘aircap’ and heated seats which go from tickling warm to bread toasting hot on a cold Melbourne morning.
And when the weather truly turns sour the roof is easily shut while still on the move. We’re told the roof will fold up and down until around 55km/h although it did so at a little higher speed when unable to pull over. Such is life on the road with Mercedes’ well thought out luxury E-Class cabriolet.
Vehicle Style: Prestige convertible
Price: $123,500, $157,500 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 180kW/370Nm, 245kW/480Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo and 3.0-litre 6cyl twin turbo petrol | 9sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.4-8.7 l/100km
On test are both the E300 and E400 E-Class cabriolet, with the most noticeable point of difference a less powerful 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo power plant in the E300. The E400 also does away with rear-wheel drive for all-wheel drive as a result of its larger 3.0-litre six-cylinder twin turbocharged engine.
But it’s the difference in price that will be the deciding factor for those who settle for the well-equipped but less powerful E300 priced from $123,500 (plus on-road costs) which is $34,000 more affordable than the $157,500 E400. Both models come equipped with a nine-speed automatic transmission and receive similar levels of equipment.
The design of the E-Class cabriolet retains the fabric hood and some of that allows the roof to fully close at speed. It also prevents the sculptured body’s aesthetics from being broken up into panels. Either way, the top is available in contrasting colours to the paint and our blue over white combination looks dapper.
The four-seat E-Class is based on its own platform rather than the smaller C-Class architecture it used to ride on and is a more spacious car because of it. Growing 113mm, the longer wheel-base adds 74mm extra leg room which equates to plenty of space up-front and surprisingly good space in the rear for adults.
- E300: Leather seat trim, two-zone climate control, electrically adjustable front seats, heated and ventilated front seats, LED headlights, keyless entry and ignition, hands-free powered tailgate, digital instrument cluster, rain-sensing wipers, auto-headlights, auto-dimming rear view mirrors, 19-inch alloy wheels
- E400: 13-speaker Burmester sound system, 20-inch alloy wheels, metallic paint
- Infotainment: 12.3-inch infotainment, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, Apple CarPlay compatibility
- Cargo Volume: 310 litres to rear seats
Inside, the cabriolet features the same design cues and soft elements found in the larger E-Class range. It’s the form of design, materials used, quality of fit and detail given to items like the air vents and centre console which combine to provide one of the best cabins in its class.
Adding to the lux feel and buttons and switches constructed of solid materials that click and rotate with the sort of feel you’d expect from German engineering.
There are also plenty of creature comforts. Leather-electric seats have three-way heating and ventilation, Mercedes’ airscarf provides neck comfort and cost-options such as air fragrance, heated rear-seats and even climate-controlled seats keep on-board passengers oblivious to the outside environment.
Over a day of driving the soft leather seats were comfortable and never felt tiring, including some tedious early morning traffic in Melbourne. A fine level of seat movement combined with electric tilt-and-reach steering provides an excellent driving position.
The level of detail inside the cabin was consistent too – perfect stitching and fitment will satisfy pernickety owners.
Customisable coloured LED lighting adds ambience to the feel and technology such as the wide dual-screen display exhibits the latest benchmarks. The E400 also gets a 13-speaker Burmester sound-system (cost-option for E300) that adds clarity but doesn’t make the E300 system sound any less adequate.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 180kW/370Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo and 245kW/480Nm 3.0-litre 6cyl twin turbo petrol
- Transmission: Nine-speed automatic, front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive
- Brakes: Four-wheel disc brakes
Along with a plush interior is a plush ride. Air suspension comes standard on both models and can be adjusted on the fly depending on the driver’s enthusiasm from comfort to sport.
Sport adds firmness but doesn’t crash over bumps and small potholes. However, the E-Class is better considered as a cruiser which is capable of carving corners, which is does quite well.
Comfort mode is supple, compliant and best for most conditions. But it also holds up well when driving quickly on rough roads, and if the roads aren’t great, it’s best to not to change the mode dial.
Considering the large 19-inch and 20-inch alloy wheels fitted as standard to both the E300 and E400 respectively, the ride isn’t hard and road noise is well contained. There is some wind noise developed off the side mirrors pick hairs but Mercedes has evolved the fabric roof to the point where it is as good as a well-insulated solid panel lid.
Sans roof, wind noise is reduced somewhat by the air cap, which is Mercedes speak for a windshield mounted deflector that creates an air cushion over the cabin when moving forwards. It was first used on the 1989 SL and has since evolved the idea to the point where it noticeably reduces wind noise and even protects the cabin from light rain.
A less noticeable addition is the 4MATIC all-wheel drive fitted to the E400. Compared to the 180kW of power and 370Nm of torque the E300 produces, the E400 makes 245kW and 480Nm but doesn’t really need the extra grip, although it is the more competent car when driving quickly and has noticeable power up top where the E300 runs out of steam.
The E400’s 480Nm of torque comes on full stride between 1600-4000rpm and power out of corners. The E400 hits 0-100km/h in a claimed 5.5 seconds, which is 1.1 second faster than the smaller capacity cabriolet. The extra two cylinders also account for a nicer soundtrack that fills the cabin with a nice throbbing exhaust note on full acceleration.
But the E300 is still a quick steer and will not disappoint. And unless pushing, it also shares much of the same handling response found in the E400 despite lacking all-wheel drive. Even through twisting mountain roads the E300 was only losing out to the E400 on the straights while keeping up in twisty sections.
ANCAP Rating: The Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet has yet to be rated by ANCAP.
Safety Features: The E-Class includes a long list of safety features including expected items like five airbags with optional rear side and curtain airbags, seatbelt pretensioners for all seating positions, electronic stability and traction control, and rear ISOFIX mounts.
Advanced safety features available include lane warning departure, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, autonomous emergency braking and blind spot monitoring.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The BMW 6-Series is a close rival but it isn't as fresh as the E-Class and lacks some of the refinement. The 640i convertrible is certainly a powerful and capable car, but the E400 is equally as sharp and effortless to drive. The E-Class also has the more polished semi-autonomous driving aids which work - in the right conditions - flawlessly.
Audi's S5 offers comparable dynamics on the road but offers less space inside and the interior, which although very good, isn't as refined as the Mercedes.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Despite the good performance, the E-cabs are geared towards comfort rather than performance. Nonetheless it’s assuring to know the chassis, suspension and brakes are up for spirited driving.
For the difference in price the E300 offers better value while the E400 has a nicer soundtrack and better straight-line oomph for enthusiasts. In reality, both E-Class models are so well-rounded that neither model lacks in any department for top-down motoring.
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VISIT THE SHOWROOM: Mercedes-Benz E-Class - Prices, Features, and Specifications