How does the first ever Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet manage against its German rivals?
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet has become the very first of its kind and also the most affordable point into the German brand’s convertible range, but is that reason enough to be interested?
The life of a convertible owner is one that is filled with both happiness and compromise. Even the man in charge of producing the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet admits that owning a convertible is not a rational decision - which is why the car appeals to the heart before the brain. In saying that, our test drive across Italy and Slovenia confirmed that it indeed speaks to both.
There’s certainly no feeling quite like being in an open-top car with the sun shining and the birds chirping. Once in your life, everyone needs to own a convertible.
Nonetheless, looking for a four-seater luxury convertible leaves you with few choices. With the affordable (and hugely uninspiring) Lexus IS250C long gone, the choices have been limited to the BMW 4 Series Convertible and its Audi A5 equivalent. Now, though, the Germans have brought along another contender.
The C-Class Cabriolet is a more youthful and sportier offering than the E-Class version that sits above it. Yet in many ways it offers the same levels of practicality and luxury that its larger and more expensive sibling has for long been known for.
The soft-top cabriolet will arrive in Australia in November with the choice of two Mercedes-Benz variants: C200, C300, and two Mercedes-AMG variants: the C43 and C63 S.
Pricing and complete specification is yet to be confirmed, however the Cabriolet models are expected to attract a standard premium over the Coupe variants they are based on.
Unless spending around $180,000 for the C63 S AMG Cabrio is an option, the sweet spot of the range is easily the C300, which is $83,400 in Coupe form (add a few thousand more for the yet to be confirmed convertible pricing) and is powered a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine outputting 180kW of power and 370Nm of torque.
The C300 will go from 0-100km/h in just 6.4 seconds and, honestly, that’s more than fast enough for Australian roads and certainly enough grunt to be both fun and enjoyable.
The soft roof fabric can be ordered in numerous colours that contrast well with the exterior colour (or terribly, depending on your taste). The system opens or closes in around 20 seconds (same as the 4 Series) and at speeds of up to 50km/h, which is a big difference to the 18km/h limit you get in the hardtop convertible equivalent from BMW (Audi A5 roof takes 15 seconds to open, 17 seconds to close and works at up to 50km/h).
From the outside the C-Cab looks basically like a coupe with a removable roof. The downsides are a little less shoulder room in the back seats and, of course, a compromised boot, which measures 360 litres with the roof on or 285 with the roof stored.
Like the Coupe, Mercedes-Benz Australia will equip all C-Class Cabriolet models with the AMG kit as standard, which adds larger 18-inch wheels even on the base model, a special radiator grille, bumpers and sills with AMG body kit. On the inside, there’s a touch of sportiness with a flat-bottom AMG steering wheel and sports pedals.
We managed to fit three suitcases in the back even with the roof folded away, though that’s more to do with the rectangular shape of our items than the boot space. As an everyday car, though, it would easily store everyday items such as groceries or overnight bags.
The interior is quite a nice place to be, the seats are comfortable and highly adjustable, while the cabin itself is well appointed in modern styling with sporty highlights and contrast stitching. Mercedes' Comand infotainment system is lagging the sophistication and ease of use of BMW's iDrive, though you'll quickly get used to it.
Apart from the C200, all C-Class Cabriolets coming to Australia will be equipped with Mercedes-Benz’s neck-heating AirScarf system and all variants get the AirCap technology, which is basically a draught-stop system that extends from above the windscreen and behind the driver’s seat to change the airflow through the cabin, reducing turbulence.
At low or even highway speeds - even with AirCap disabled - we found the airflow through the cabin to be very unobtrusive, allowing us to hold a casual conversation without having to raise our voice even at speeds of 150km/h.
The Cabriolet models weigh around 120kg more than their coupe variants, 50kg of which comes from the automatic roof mechanism and the rest from underbody strengthening to keep its rigidity as close to the coupe as possible, as well as additional equipment.
On the road the C300 Cabriolet presents an ideal choice in the range between power, comfort and value for money. Whereby it has enough grunt over the C200 to make it interesting to drive fast, but is not encumbered by the additional weight of the all-wheel drive system in the C43 AMG, which in itself is really a midway point to the real-AMG in the range, the C63 S.
There is no doubt the additional weight of the car is felt over the coupe, but in the C300 at least, it still feels nimble and agile around corners and certainly gives enough dynamic ability to make it work. The nine-speed transmission works a treat with the turbocharged engine, providing rapid shifts on the move and smooth shifts when requested.
Select comfort mode and the C300 is smooth over rough surfaces and rides beautifully with the optional AirMatic suspension fitted to our test car. We found it easy to drive and manoeuvre in tight spaces, though visibility out the back with the roof on wasn’t ideal.
The rear seats are not exactly spacious, however for occasional-use purposes, they will do the job just fine.
Push it into Sport or Sport+ and the steering gets heavier and the throttle becomes more responsive for when you find yourself presented with some twisty mountainous roads. In that regard, you can push the C300 far more than it may at first appear. It’s far more likely to oversteer at the limit than understeer, which is where its true sporty nature becomes evident.
With the roof closed, we did find some air leaks in our test car, which made it sound as though the passenger door was slightly open, though that certainly wasn’t the case. However we didn’t have the same experience in the C43 and C63 (separate review coming) that we also drove.
Overall, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class cabriolet presents an ideal choice in the luxury open-top segment if a soft-top is what you’re after, with the C300 presenting the sweet spot in the range.