A Mercedes is a regal affair. By comparison, an Audi is a stately affair, while a BMW is a sporty affair. A Mercedes convertible is a coronation. An E-Class cabriolet is a statement. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Like me, when you see one drive by, you think to yourself that the driver is rich and you either look at him or her with admiration or disdain.
One way or another, the driver has purchased a drop-top built like Fort Knox, that goes like stink, and treats its occupants as though they were the most important people in the world, with or without sun. For that, one will pay many a-dollar. For those with $71,300 to start, the E-Class cabriolet is not a choice but a destination.
There are few other options in the segment. If we stretch it out somewhat, the BMW 6-Series touches the E-Class from a higher price point, the Audi A5, Infiniti Q60, and BMW 4-Series from a lower price range. The subject of this review more or less stands alone and it might be best that way as it could be considered futile for other makes to try and take it on.
The 2016 Mercedes E400 Cabrio sits on its four wheels with little else to say other than here I am and I know you want me. Its profile and stance are subject to no complaints. The relatively inexpensive $1,700 Sport Package adds 18” AMG wheels to an already handsome shell. Truthfully, the E-Class’ design is nothing to shout about, it begs only to be appreciated.
The power-operated soft-top (a rarity) does its job at a leisurely pace. Twenty or so seconds are required for stowing, so plan your operations accordingly -- in other words, do not start the operation at a stop-light a few moments in. Do it immediately or pull over. Classic cloth-top convertibles are not known for their sound-deadening qualities, however, this is a Mercedes… Not much more to add here.
Clean and comfortable
The cabin is good and comfortable, but nothing more to write about -- but I’ll make an effort. It’s relatively clean, obviously well appointed and assembled with care. Although really not that old (introduced for 2014), the dashboard’s design looks a little dated given the number of buttons and the absence of a touch-sensitive screen.
The optional multicontour front seats are extremely welcoming and all body-types, save perhaps for Andre the Giant, will find solace. The rear bench is functional for two while the trunk, with the roof folded in place, much less so. The avid golfer might prefer to not take a friend along to the links if he or she relishes at the idea of top-down cruising. The bag will fit better on the back seat.
Otherwise, the gauges are large, clear, and customizable. The steering fits perfectly in hand and I can’t say enough about the airscarf when open-air driving is done in cooler temperatures.
Said driving comes courtesy of Merc’s turbocharged 3.0L V6. It pumps out 329 horsepower and 354 torques -- more than enough to get the 1,834 kg convertible up to speed briskly. The 7-speed automatic transmission delivers power to the rear wheels only. The trick lies in max torque being on tap from 1,200 rpm to 4,000. As it drops off, the full cavalry tramples in as of 5,250 rpm. As a potentially un-important side note, the cabrio is the only E that cannot be spec’d out with 4MATIC AWD.
Now, I mentioned Fort Knox and for a good reason. This car feels immensely solid and far more surefooted than any large-ish convertible should. Attempting to disturb its candour with exaggerated ham-fisted driving results in nothing more than a chassis and suspension setup that politely takes it all in stride, and makes you feel dumb for even trying to upset the car’s impressive balance.
The keyword in the E400 cabrio’s drive is: comfort. Steering is generally numb, but far more precise and quick than you’d expect. The brakes are very strong, never taken aback by the aforementioned idiotic driving. This is thanks to the fact that a Sport Brake System is standard.
The supple suspension filters out all of the road’s ugliness, and for a convertible car, cowl shake is next to not -- this is definitive proof of a tight car. Pulling on the column shifter towards “D” begins a beautiful affair with a lovely car that will only be postponed when you need to fill up the tank. Impressively though, the V6 is sufficiently frugal despite its power and the girth it’s called upon to haul. I averaged 11L/100km over the course of my weeklong test.
The Mercedes’ ability to pamper and cover ground rapidly makes it a sensational cruiser. Sadly, for the younger folk, it might all be a little bland and far from exciting. Thankfully for them, Mercedes does still have an SLK-Class on tap for more spirited jaunts.
At just over $80,000, my tester slots itself between the affordable and less affordable cabriolets. The SL-Class is a winner on many levels but although very posh, lacks the E’s regal poise. It’s also pricier.
There is then, no better, more luxurious or quicker way to get four passengers out and about with the top down.