It’s the 4th of December 2015, I find myself in a dark room of one of Daimler’s R&D facilities in Sindelfingen, near Stuttgart in Germany. In front of me, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, packed in camouflage material and ready to be shipped out for its grand debut in Detroit about a month later. This was my first experience with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
Fast forward one and a half year and I find myself standing on a viewing platform at 3466 meters altitude somewhere near the Mont Blanc. In front of me, again a Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the fifth and last variant that completes the 2017 E-Class family: the new 2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet.
This year marks 25 years since the very first E-Class Cabriolet made its debut. In the past 25 years the open-top E-Class made quite a transformation, and in order to celebrate its anniversary Mercedes have introduced a special 25th anniversary edition at launch finished in Rubellite Red.
Design, Interior and Tech
I haven’t had the pleasure of driving the new E-Class Coupé, but I have to say there are few coupés that I find so aesthetically pleasing to look at. The proportions, lines and short overhangs work well together. As opposed to its predecessor, the new Cabriolet grew by an impressive 123 mm, 113 mm of which went straight into lengthening the car’s wheelbase. The Cabriolet has also grown in width by 74 mm, and for a change the effort that went into solidifying the car’s road presence is actually visible for the naked eye.
It shows competence, a statement in the form of a powerful and luxurious open-top cruiser, something I assume Mercedes-Benz meant to portray with their latest convertible model. The C-Class Cabriolet is slightly more sporty, the E-Class Cabriolet embodies comfort and touches upon the luxury segment dominated by the S-Class Cabriolet. The handsome rear of the E-Class Coupé and Cabriolet turned out exceptionally well, and I am sure I prefer it over those of its well respected siblings – the C- and S-Class models.
The lengthened wheelbase is not just for show, it actually adds significantly more leg and knee room for rear seat passengers. That being said, space is still not royally available at the rear seats, but it’s a definite improvement over the previous generation E-Class Cabriolet. It’s fair to say that most four-seater cabriolets struggle with rear-seat space, and it makes perfectly sense. Most comfort and space is oriented toward the front seats, because in a convertible that is simply what matters the most. Rear seats are of secondary importance, the times you will actually take out your convertible and cruise toward the sunset with four adults are minimal. People usually buy a convertible in the first place to enjoy driving on certain occasions, not as a daily driver or family car.
All the previous considered, Mercedes-Benz did a stellar job in making the E-Class Cabriolet as functional and comfortable as possible, as we have come to expect from the brand. The interior of the E-Class is by far the most luxurious and comfortable in its class. Quality Nappa leather in a variety of colors dominates the car’s interior, alternated by wooden or carbon inserts available in different gloss or matt finishes. The fully electrically adjustable front seats are nicely contoured and can be adjusted to fit anyone’s figure, with separately adjustable side bolsters if you want to take things dynamic. Did I mention it optionally comes with seat massage?
The large mid-console smoothly flows over into the car’s imposing dashboard, which incorporates the two neat looking glazed 12.3-inch digital displays. The electronic heart of the Cabriolet is packed with so many functions and tricks it would be impossible to run through all of them and still keep you entertained. A few highlights are the 64 different colors ambient lighting module, the intensity of the car perfume, full functionality of COMAND Online including the latest navigation software, 360 degree parking camera, a host of driver assistance systems including DRIVE PILOT and much more.
Despite the staggering amount of functions incorporated in the car’s infotainment system and steering wheel, there is still an abundance of buttons throughout the interior. More so in the Cabriolet, where you have to look out for the open and closing button of the car’s soft-top at the end of the mid-console. The soft-top opens and closes in 20 seconds and at speeds up to 50 km/h.
There is also a designated nose-lift button just in case, after all the E-Class Cabriolet does sit 15 mm lower to the ground compared to the regular E-Class. Next to it is the AIRCAP button, which extends some sort of spoiler above the car’s windshield that tilts the airflow to reduce wind noise. Another Cabriolet essential you find in the door next to the seat- heating and airconditioning buttons, which is the AIRSCARF button. Essential, if you want to take out your convertible on colder days that is. The ventilators are built in to the headrests of the two front seats and breeze warm air around your neck, does it get any better?
Dilemma: you are cruising down the highway with the top down but realize that the windshield is in desperate need of a wipe-down after all the mosquitos it ate the night before. This is no problem in the new E-Class Cabriolet, thanks to the intelligent MAGIC VISION CONTROL washer and wiper system. Like the S-Class, it releases the washing fluid from the wipers, but now also reads when the top is down, in which case it will only release the fluid downwards in order to avoid giving your fresh hairdo an unwanted restyle, how neat!
Last but not least I gave the car’s trunk a solid inspection. There is 385 liters of luggage space with the roof closed, and 310 liters of luggage space with the roof folded down. That is solid for its class and plenty of space for your everyday groceries. If you happen to be in need of more space, a nifty button inside the trunk releases the backrests of the rear seats, which can be folded down to create even more luggage space.
Powertrain and Suspension
At launch customers can choose between five engines, three petrol and two diesel. The entry-level diesel is the 4 in-line E 220 d with 194 horsepower and 400 Nm of torque. The entry-level petrol is the 4 in-line E 200 with 184 hp and 300 Nm of torque. The next step is the very capable 4 in-line E 300 with 245 hp and 370 Nm of torque. If you want more torque, Mercedes-Benz offer the V6 diesel good for 258 hp and 620 Nm of torque. The most potent version for now is the E 400, powered by a V6 petrol that delivers 333 hp and 480 Nm of torque. It also comes with 4MATIC AWD as standard, which is a first for the E-Class Cabriolet.
So what happened to the new range of in-line six-cylinder engines Mercedes-Benz presented last year? Those will actually first make their debut on the facelifted S-Class next month. That being said, more powertrains will be offered for the E-Class Cabriolet in a later stage. Whether any of them will include 8 cylinder is yet to be determined. Some rumors say that Mercedes-Benz regretted not making an E 63 Coupé the previous generation, while there are other rumors stating that the E 50 will possibly make a return. The E 50 would be based on a six-cylinder but generate more output than the E 43.
Every E-Class Cabriolet comes with the smooth in-house developed 9G-TRONIC 9-speed automatic transmission as standard. It’s one of the most efficient automatic transmissions currently being offered thanks to its fast gear shifts at lower engine speeds.
As standard every E-Class Cabriolet comes with the AGILITY CONTROL suspension module, which already lowers the Cabriolet by 15 mm compared to the E-Class Sedan. Optionally available are the DYNAMIC BODY CONTROL, the dampers of which are separately adjustable, and the AIR BODY CONTROL multi-chamber air suspension. Out of the three the air suspension setup is by far the most comfortable, but also the most expensive.
I arrived in Geneva on a sunny early afternoon ready to enjoy some open-top cruising. With a temperature of 35 degrees celsius the weather couldn’t be any better, it was almost too warm to drive with the top off – if there is such a thing. Luxury problems, I suppose. I opted for a Designo White E 400, the most capable out of the line-up powered by a fierce 333 hp V6. First order of business was folding away the black contrasting soft-top, which was only a matter of seconds. I made sure to put the seat airconditioning on full power and off we went.
The first thing I noticed was the size of the car – usually when I drive a convertible the car is quite small. By all means this is a serious coach, it doesn’t just show on the outside. The first stretch of French Autoroute was devoured comfortably with the help of an array of driver assistance systems. All of the tech that was first introduced on the E-Class Sedan is also optionally available on the Cabriolet, including the DRIVE PILOT semi-autonomous driving mode. While autonomous driving is still in the early stages, the DRIVE PILOT is a reliable companion for long and boring highway stretches. It’s on top of the industry’s current autonomous game and is capable of changing lanes automatically upon flipping the indicators.
I am usually not much of a fan of driving with the top down at highway speeds, but Mercedes’ AIRCAP is a game changer. Me and my co-driver were actually able to have a normal conversation and as long as I wasn’t too itchy on the throttle, we even got to enjoy the fine tunes coming out of the optional Burmester sound system. Approaching the toll station it came down to a standard recipe for me. Music down, flick the DYNAMIC SELECT button into ‘Sport +’ and enjoy the rush of a passionate acceleration. The V6 actually has quite a nice sound to it, and the E 400 isn’t slow either. It takes just 5.5 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h and the E 400 is capable of reaching a limited top speed of 250 km/h.
Having left the highway behind, we quickly found ourselves cruising alongside Lake Annecy, one of the clearest lakes on the European continent. It’s these kind of roads where the E-Class Cabriolet truly excels. At average speeds the air suspension absorbed any inefficiencies in the road surface as we comfortably made our way around the lake, taking in the astonishing surroundings. Not much later we arrived at the Monte Bianco skytrain, a gondola on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc – Europe’s highest mountain – which would be our destination for the day.
The next day took us back to Geneva via some scenic mountain roads. This time we were handed the keys to the 25th anniversary edition finished in red with a beige and brown interior. First we had to make our way through the Mont Blanc tunnel, which gave us plenty of time to appreciate the quality of the car’s color matching soft-top. Inside it’s very quiet indeed, as far as I could notice there’s barely a difference between this and a hard-top. As the temperature started rising at the end of the morning, we did away with the roof and continued our way down to Geneva.
The 25th anniversary edition comes with special 20-inch wheels, as well as special emblems and badges throughout the interior and exterior of the car. From the outside the 25th anniversary edition impresses with its exclusive and classic looking ‘Rubellite Red’ lacquer. After lunch I decided take the E 400 out once more for a dynamic drive through the French countryside. I’m quite familiar with the region thanks to the many childhood holidays I spent there, and decided to climb the Grand Colombier, a challenging hurdle often featured in the Tour de France.
The asphalt on the 20-kilometer way up had seen better days, but it was nothing the car couldn’t handle. It was here where I realized how stiff the chassis of the Cabriolet actually is. While it primarily serves as a comfortable cruiser, it has no problem doing the dirty work with Sport + mode engaged. The car is very communicative and direct steering-wise, although I did feel the bounty in weight that the convertible tacks on. However it stayed pretty much in line and we reached the summit at over 1500 meters quite effortlessly.
25 years into the E-Class Cabriolet Mercedes-Benz have managed to raise the bar once more. The new E-Class Cabriolet is without doubt the finest cruiser in its segment and comes with a near endless list of options and possibilities to make open-top motoring even more pleasurable. It’s not only superior in comfort, but also offers those who want a more challenging drive plenty of joy.
The new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet will arrive at local dealerships in just a few months so customers can still enjoy the last weeks of summer with their brand new convertible. The Cabriolet is priced from €54,228,00 in Germany for the E 200, the for now range topping E 400 will start at €70,282,00.