Mercedes-Benz E-Class Convertible (2017 - ) review
The E-Class Cabriolet is a prestige four-seat convertible, and that makes it a rival for cars like the Audi A5 and BMW 4 Series convertibles, along with the Range Rover Evoque Convertible. That said, the Mercedes is a considerably larger model than all of those cars.
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Size-wise, the E-Class doesn’t really have any direct competition. It’ll be considered alongside drop-top versions of the Audi A5 and BMW 4 Series, both of which are considerably smaller (the same size, in fact, as Merc’s own C-Class Cabriolet), and also alongside bigger convertibles like the BMW 6 Series. One thing is for sure; the E-Class has the visual glamour to cut it with any of its possible rivals. Both ends of the car appear curvaceous and muscular, so the car looks purposeful yet sophisticated. At the moment, only AMG Line trim is available on the E-Class Cabriolet, and with other Mercedes model ranges, AMG Line sits very much at the sportier end of the spectrum. This means that all Cabrios look the business, with LED lighting at both ends, huge 19-inch alloy wheels and a collection of sporty touches.
Just as you’ll find in any other version of the latest E-Class, the Cabriolet has a level of interior quality that not many cars at any price can rival. The materials are dense, glossy and high-grade, with a wide range of textures and finishes to keep things interesting; and, combined with an exemplary standard of fit and finish, the feeling of sophistication is cranked up even further. As with most cars these days, most functions are controlled by scrolling through on-screen menus. There are various ways of doing this in the E-Class (depending on how you specify your car), including touch-sensitive thumb pads on the steering wheel and another touchpad on the centre console. Neither is particularly easy to use, though, especially on the move, so you’re best off making do with the more conventional scrolling wheel and buttons, also located on the centre console. The electric seat adjustment makes finding your desired driving position easy, and your rear view isn’t too bad whether the roof is up or down.
With many four-seat convertibles, it’s somewhat ‘optimistic’ to say that every one of those seats is a useable everyday proposition. Happily, that is something you can claim about the E-Class with some confidence. Legroom, although a little on the snug side, is adequate for six-foot passengers, and with the fabric hood in place, there’s enough headroom, too. The seats themselves are a little upright, so you won’t want to spend hours in the back, but for short to moderate trips, you’ll be absolutely fine. A system called Aircap – which directs airflow over the car more smoothly, efficiently and with less buffeting – also means that those in the back won’t end up with a bird's nest hairstyle and flies in their teeth. The boot is a decent size at 385 litres, and that’s about the same as you’ll get in rivals from Audi and BMW, although that does drop to 310 when you put the roof down. What’s more, the luggage area is rather oddly shaped and is accessed through an awkwardly shallow opening, meaning that carrying bulkier items could be a no-no. Folding rear seats come as standard, but the aperture you load items through is narrow and strangely shaped.
Ride and handling
So far, we’ve only tried the E-Class Cabriolet on air suspension. This is standard fare on the most powerful, most expensive versions of the car, but it’s a pricey optional extra on the versions you’re most likely to actually buy. That does mean we don’t yet know how the car will behave on its basic suspension, but we do know that the air suspension is seriously effective. Depending on your mood, you can firm things up or soften things off by selecting different driving modes, and the comfier ones give you a really comfy, cosseting ride, while the firmer ones give you impressive control over the way the car's body moves in the corners. The considerable size and weight of the car mean it doesn’t feel particularly sporty, but there’s no doubting how capable its handling is; and, this isn’t a car that you’ll really want to chuck around that much anyway. It’s at its best at a steady cruise, keeping things comfortable, quiet and luxurious as the world – and the wind – rushes by serenely. The improved airflow provided by the Aircap system also helps enhance the car’s roof-down refinement, and you don’t feel many flexes, wobbles or shakes from the bodywork, either, which isn’t something you can say about all convertibles.
The E-Class Cabriolet is available with four engines, but we haven’t yet had the chance to try the most powerful petrol and diesel versions, the 328bhp E400 and 254bhp E350d, respectively. To be fair, though, we can’t see much of a reason to look past the entry-level options. The E300 petrol, which has a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine developing 242bhp, provides more than enough pace to be getting on with, with a decent spread of power across most of the rev range. It can sound a little wheezy when you really rev it, so it probably doesn’t sound quite as nice as the big growly V6 in the E400, but neither acceleration nor flexibility is ever in short supply. The same goes for the 2.0-litre diesel in the E220d, which gives you 191bhp. The noise it makes isn’t particularly appealing – although it’s much better than the equivalent engine found in older E-Classes – but the noise is very quiet and subdued, and it never gets offensive. Again, the spread of power is broad, giving easy, muscular and smooth performance at all times. All versions come with a nine-speed automatic gearbox as standard, which changes gears smoothly, cleanly and with the minimum of fuss.
Comparing the Merc's prices with those of competitors such as the Audi A5 and BMW 4 Series is a rather a confusing business. These cars are a perfect match for the smaller C-Class Cabriolet on price, and although it’s a good slice bigger, the E-Class really doesn’t cost that much more. Compare the E with other big drop-tops like the BMW 6 Series, and it costs many thousands less. The car’s desirability will also ensure that resale values are as solid as those of any rival, which will also help minimise your long-term ownership costs. The Mercedes is also competitive with its rivals in terms of fuel economy and CO2 emissions, so tax and fuel bills should also be perfectly palatable.
Mercedes’ reputation in this area has been rather patchy in the last few years, and the manufacturer standings of Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index study won’t do too much to allay many fears on that score, as the brand is lodged firmly in the bottom half of the rankings. The situation looks a little rosier for E-Class owners specifically, though, because the last version represents the company’s second-best performing car in the study, with a very respectable score indeed. What’s more, the three-year/unlimited-mileage warranty isn’t half bad, either.
The E-Class Cabriolet comes with a very impressive amount of safety kit provided as standard, which includes nine airbags, all the usual electronic traction- and stability aids, Isofix child seat anchoring points on both rear seats, a driver fatigue sensor and a bonnet that pops up automatically to provide better protection for pedestrians in a collision. You also get autonomous emergency braking that will slam the brakes on automatically if it senses an impending smash. The options list features more clever safety systems, including a package that utilises a whole variety of systems – like blind spot assistants, braking assistants and steering assistants – to allow the car to pretty much drive itself. The saloon version of the E-Class has achieved the maximum five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP, but obviously, due to the significant structural differences between the Saloon and the Cabriolet, we can’t be absolutely sure that the latter would equal that performance.
Having only high-end AMG Line trim means that all versions of the E-Class Cabriolet are very well equipped. The standard kit includes climate control, powered windows all round, rain-sensing wipers, heated front seats, keyless go, leather-effect upholstery, cruise control and an infotainment system that brings together sat-nav, digital radio, Bluetooth and a reversing camera. The standard roster also includes the Aircap system, along with another system called Airscarf, which blows warm air down into your collar through vents in your seat. A parking system that steers you into your space automatically is also included, while air suspension comes as standard on the two most powerful petrol and diesel models, but it’s a pricey optional extra in the others. The same goes for the upgraded infotainment system, which comes with a massive 12.3-inch screen rather than the 8.4-inch screen you get otherwise.
Because you want your four-seat convertible to have all the glamour, theatre and image that a good convertible should, but you also want that combined with unimpeachable quality, comfort and refinement. The E-Class Cabriolet also does a cracking job on safety, luxury equipment and practicality, and it doesn’t look like bad value for money, either. For that reason, we find this car exceptionally easy to recommend.