Mercedes has made a commitment to India; a commitment to offer as many models as possible from its vast repertoire. While the locally-built sedans are obviously the bread-and-butter models for Mercedes, it does offer most of its range as completely built-up units, or CBUs, in our market. We get behind the wheel of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet, which is fully-imported. In India, the E-Class Cabriolet is available with a single engine option – a 3.5-litre petrol V6, christened the E350, and this is the car we drove.
Design & Engineering
The folding hood can be deployed or stowed within twenty seconds, and can be operated even when on the move, up to speeds of 40 km/h. You can specify three colours, including the black pictured here, dark blue, or beige.
Convertibles have always been the cars of dreamers; people who want to feel the warmth of the sun, take in the sounds and smells of the terrain they’re passing through. Mercedes’ E-Class Cabriolet is a car which allows you to do all of this, yet remain comfortable within the car if it rains, or gets too hot. This versatility of course, has everything to do with the ease of use of its folding cloth top.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet is the replacement for the recently discontinued CLK model range. Although based on the current C-Class platform with the same 2,760 mm wheelbase, the E-Class Cabriolet borrows its front end from the larger E-Class sedan. The taillights too are from the E-Class. The proportions are spot-on, and the E-Class Cabriolet has a long, low, elegant look which perfectly complements this car’s character. The most extrovert design element is the prominent arch over the rear wheels. There are no superfluous creases or strakes anywhere on this automobile, and it is blessed with simple, clean-cut lines. You only need to open and shut the doors once to get a feel of just how solidly engineered this car is. The subtle chrome detailing on the front grille and in the rubbing strips are the final details which underline the simplicity of the E-Class Cabriolet’s overall look.
Nestled under that long, low bonnet is Mercedes’ 3.5-litre V6 direct-injection petrol motor. It produces 275 PS of peak power and 355 Nm of torque, which is enough to give this 1,765 kg automobile a fair turn of speed.
The E-Class Cabriolet has required additional chassis strengthening given that it doesn’t have a roof, and this has added to its kerb weight, but not excessively so. The chassis and suspension has been honed to make the E-Class Cabriolet an involving drive, and while it isn’t intended to be sporty, this car still retains enough verve to keep you interested while behind the wheel.
Interiors & Comfort
Step inside the E-Class Cabriolet, and you’re greeted by an austere cabin. Much of the centre console and dashboard has been derived from the C-Class sedan, and while it is all exceptionally well made, it doesn’t quite ignite the senses the way you’d expect, especially given the drop-top exterior. We did find the layout to be quite intuitive to use though, and despite the surfeit of buttons on the centre console, you’re immediately comfortable with it. You can specify different combinations of leather for the interiors, and also choose between ash wood or aluminium accents.
The large analogue clock nestled among the instruments is an old world touch, but is quirky and quite useful nevertheless.
1. Parking sensors very helpful given the car's long, low nose. 2. Simple to use one-touch button for operating the folding roof. 3. Individual rear seats are cosy, but not particularly spacious. 4. Superlative Harman Kardon music system.
We must make a mention of the E-Class Cabriolet’s Harman Kardon music system, which has been designed to provide good sound even with the top down. This has been managed by the clever location of speakers, with one even nestled in the rear seat back, between the two individual rear seats! Sound quality is impressive, with amazing clarity and well defined tones. You hear lyrics clearly, and all the notes are crystal clear as well.
1. Low-profile tyres on 18-inch rims not the most practical for our roads. 2. 'Airscarf' system is a simple deflector, which creates a 'bubble' of calm air for occupants.
The E-Class Cabriolet also uses a new technology that Mercedes-Benz has developed, called Airscarf. Simply put, a deflector above the front windshield and another between the rear seat headrests have been designed to prevent wind buffeting at speed, which is great if you’ve just had a coiffure, or wear a toupee.
Front seats flip and slide forward electrically with single chrome lever on front seat head rest.
Performance & Handling
Like we mentioned earlier, the E-Class Cabriolet as sold in India has a V6 petrol engine with 275 PS and 355 Nm of torque. These figures won’t raise too many eyebrows, but it is the way this car drives which brings a smile to one’s lips. For the most part, in everyday stop-start traffic, the E-Class Cabriolet behaves exactly as you’d want a Mercedes to; it’s hushed, unruffled, and content to live below 2,000 rpm. Despite the soft-top, the cabin is a serene place to be, and you can enjoy your music as you contemplate the inevitability of rush hour traffic.
The conventionally-placed gear lever is simple to use, and while the steering does feel a tad heavy for in-town use, you soon get used to it. There are no paddles on the steering wheel to change gears manually, like you’ll find in some other Mercedes models, which makes them conspicuous by their absence.
But it’s for those weekend getaways and late evening drives that the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet feels like the ideal automobile. You can use more throttle, enjoying the strong engine note as the revs rise. There is a rasping to the exhaust note above 4,000 rpm, but it’s more a declaration of intent than any hooliganism. If you keep your right foot down, this engine is happy to rev all the way to its 7,000 rpm redline. Do not underestimate the turn of speed this car is capable of, with the mid-range being particularly strong.
The E-Class Cabriolet feels surprisingly sprightly, with an engaging steering as you aim for the apex of corners. There is a fluidity to the chassis, which makes it an enjoyable automobile to drive quickly.
This car has adaptive damping, which detects the kind of surface you are driving on, and adjusts the dampers accordingly. Mercedes, in typical fashion, has a name for this feature too, calling it Agility Control. Call it what you will, but it works really well. Despite the low profile tyres (235/40 R18 at front and 265/35 R18 at rear), the E-Class Cabriolet boasts of surprisingly good ride quality. Seventeen inch wheels with slightly higher profile tyres might be more practical for Indian road conditions though, but Mercedes offers only a single tyre size. We did notice a little bit of rim damage on our test car, but then it had been driven hard by other members of the automotive fraternity before it came to us.
The brakes on this car are superlatively good. Pedal feel is superb, and deceleration from three-digit speeds is quick and well-controlled. Given its deceptive performance, which I spoke of earlier, strong brakes do give you a sense of reassurance.
The E-Class cabriolet has a button which allows the driver to select between two modes – ‘E’ for Efficiency and ‘S’ for Sport. Sport mode holds the gears longer, stiffens the dampers, and provides more immediate response from the throttle. However, we found the ‘S’ mode spoiled the car’s ride, with a side-to-side motion like you sometimes feel in stiffer-sprung BMWs and Audis. I’ll stick to the normal ‘E’ mode, thank you very much.
The Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet earns the BlueEFFICIENCY sobriquet, which means it has Mercedes-Benz’s fuel saving tech, which includes an alternator which decouples when not needed, electromechanical steering etc. These help increase the car’s efficiency, but not significantly so. In real-world traffic, the E-Class Cabriolet returned 8.2 km/l overall, which included city and highway driving. This is slightly less than Mercedes’ own claimed figures, which are closer to 10 km/l, but then we’ll grant it this much leeway, considering our average speed over the course of our test was in the low 20s!
Considering this car is a cabriolet, one area which leaves occupants vulnerable is if the car rolls over. To cope with such an eventuality, Mercedes has engineered two extendable roll over hoops embedded behind the rear headrests, which can deploy in fractions of a second if the system detects that the car is going to flip. You’d have to be driving like a real hoon to trigger the system though.
Other than this feature, the Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet has ESP with ABS+EBD and 7 airbags, which should help to keep you out of trouble. Mercedes’ Pre-Safe technology comes as standard as well.
The airbags in this car are two-stage airbags, so if you are unfortunate enough to have a head-on collision, there is a lower likelihood of you breaking your nose.
So, should you buy one? The E-Class Cabriolet is sure to be unique, even among the many Mercedes owners in the country. It is a stylish automobile, exquisitely engineered, sturdily built, and truly nice to drive. It’s not a car for those who want to scream new money, however, which is how I like it. It is sexy, but subtly so. It is still a car for those who wear tailored clothing, rather than flaunting extra-loud labels.
In the final analysis, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet comes across as a car which blends a good deal of usability, with the typical attributes of build quality and class that car lovers the world over associate with this brand. Depreciation is sure to be high though, so invest in one if you intend to keep it for a few years to come, enjoying it on those weekend getaways with a special someone, or when you’re in the mood for some solitary moonlight contemplation.