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2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet First Drive

Trieste, Italy ― The wind ruffles up from behind my head, subtle yet persistent, a warm embrace that catches me by surprise at first but soon becomes familiar. On the coast of Italy, traveling down the hilly roads that cut Trieste off from the mountains of Slovenia, it's not the natural interaction of the Adriatic sunlight and rising air currents that's keeping my neck at a toasty 28 degrees Celsius. Rather, it's the AIRSCARF system built into the all-new 2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet, the convertible version of the Silver Star's most affordable 2-door model and a compelling entry into the world of open-top luxury.

Although the breeze tickling the top of my spine might be thoroughly domesticated, there's nothing artificial about the UV rays pouring down on the cabin of the C-Class Cabriolet. It takes 20 seconds to go from packed-in to processing vitamin D once you've pulled the roof mechanism's actuator on the centre console, swapping its distinctly coupe-like profile for a muscular silhouette that is undeniably posh. 

Convertible for California or Canada
I'm in this cabriolet's natural environment, of course. While the car might have German DNA, it was designed for the Riviera, Sunset Boulevard, the Mediterranean ― anywhere the weather and the mood call for the ability to transition seamlessly between buttoned-down and beach at a moment's notice. For 2017, Mercedes-Benz has also made sure that if the path you elect to between these two destinations offers a few curves, you'll be well served by a redesigned chassis.

Canada is a fair distance from the year-round swelter one typically associates with convertibles, but all the same we'll be receiving three distinct flavours of the C-Class Cabriolet to sample during our all-too-short summer. Which one fits best in your garage will depend in large part on your personality behind the wheel ― and the size of your bank roll.

C-Class configuration
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4MATIC Cabriolet is the most affordable member of the convertible trio, and it's aimed at those who are seeking a comfortable cruiser they can use all year round. Standard 4MATIC all-wheel drive provides a panacea for slippery winter conditions, while the car's 2.0L turbocharged engine delivers 241 reliable horsepower through a fresh 9-speed automatic transmission (that also offers not one, but two reverse gears).

Next up is the 2017 Mercedes-AMG C 43 4MATIC Cabriolet, the new name given to the mid-tier model (previously known as the C 450) for 2017. Its 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6 engine ups the stakes considerably by way of its 362 horses, while maintaining the same 9-speed gearbox and all-wheel drive setup as its above-mentioned sibling. 

If you're really itching to incinerate the rear tires, the only way to step out of the 4MATIC family is by selecting the C 63 or C 63 S Cabriolet, which also graduates to a 4.0L turbocharged V8 that produces 469 and 503 horsepower, respectively (with a 7-speed autobox along for the ride).

Competent cruiser
Out on the road, each has their own character. Both the C 300 and the C 43 offer lighter steering and a less frenetic personality, with competent handling and, in the case of the AMG model, bursts of speed that will be satisfactory to almost anyone seeking to wind out on the weekend. Also, both have paddle shifters attached to the steering wheel, and several different drive modes can alter the rapidity of the gear changes, the effort required to turn the wheel, and the stiffness of the dampers (when equipped with the adaptive suspension).

The Mercedes-AMG C 63 makes for an explosive partner in the close quarters of Slovenia's narrow village streets and barely wider country roads. Broader and beefier than their stable mates, both the C 63 and C 63 S throw their weight around with authority, brapping forward through their sport exhaust systems to lay waste to the tarmac under their sticky tires. It's an entirely different experience to put the hammer down on the 4.0L turbo: Autobahn-esque velocities arrive rapidly and with sufficient drama should you disable traction control and let the rear meats suffer under your right foot.

Comfortable cabin
Of course, one doesn't always have to hit the V8 model’s throttle like it's a bratwurst-filled piñata, and a more civilized discourse with the C 63 can submerge its menace beneath a reassuring blanket of luxury. The cabin of all three convertibles is sufficiently comfortable to spend the entire day in pursuing summer at one's leisure, especially with the unique airfoil that deploys from the top of the windshield to mitigate noisome turbulence entering into the passenger compartment with the top down. 

Rear accommodations will, of course, be tight for full-size adults, but it's not inconceivable for a couple of tots to spend some time behind the parental units on a blast up to the cottage. The full range of active safety and infotainment features found in the C-Class Coupe and Sedan are naturally also available with this newest addition to the Mercedes-Benz lineup, which places it in good standing when compared against rivals like the BMW 4 Series and Audi A5 convertibles.

Consider it a champ
There's really no reason a car like the 2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet shouldn't be on the list of anyone seeking a 4-seat luxury convertible that walks the line between day-to-day practicality (standard all-wheel drive for half the lineup, comfy suspension tuning, excellent road manners) and all-out performance (the explosive C 63 and C 63 S). 

True, a convertible will never feel as focused as a coupe at the limit due to the extra weight and twist associated with its topless underpinnings, but the redesigned C-Class Cabriolet is a car that can be enjoyed as easily at 10 km/h cruising underneath a canopy of fall foliage as it can sucking the hat off your head in a straight line. 

With this new model, Mercedes-Benz has crafted yet another persuasive reason to work on your tan without having to lay out a towel.

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