The 2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet is an interesting beast – not quite a sportscar, but not quite a boulevard cruiser either – it straddles some sort of middle ground in a C-Class range that is now quite literally bursting at the seams.
If you ever thought about complaining that there are simply not enough C-Class variants in the Merc line-up, stop before you dig yourself a deep hole. There’s a C-Class for everyone – something Mercedes-Benz probably wants.
At the recent local launch of the C-Class Cabriolet, we drove the C200 Cabriolet quite extensively, so we’re well placed to assess the entry point into the drop-top range. Despite the performance increase you’ll obviously access if you buy the C300 model, the C200 actually makes a lot of sense given this platform is by no means an outright sportscar.
Key standard C200 Cabriolet features include: AMG 18-inch alloy wheels, leather trim, LED intelligent lighting system, electric front seats with memory, and metallic paintwork.
Key standard C300 Cabriolet features include: AMG 19-inch alloy wheels, Burmeister surround sound system, COMAND Online, driver assistance package plus, and Keyless-Go.
For quick comparison, the C200 Cabriolet starts from $75,914 plus on-road costs, while the C300 Cabriolet starts from $83,314 plus on-road costs. You can see there isn’t a huge gulf between the two. Despite that, the smart money is on the C200 given this platform is more about cruising in style than with outright power. If power is more important to you, the C300 is the model you should look at.
Under the bonnet of the C200, there’s a 2.0-litre (1991cc specifically) four-cylinder direct injection, turbocharged engine. The compact four-cylinder generates 135kW and 300Nm, and uses an ADR-claimed 6.8L/100km. We averaged mid eights over our launch drive, held mostly over country roads. The C300 is powered by an engine of the same capacity, but in a more aggressive tune. As such, there’s 180kW and 370Nm on offer from the 2.0-litre with an ADR fuel claim of 7.2L/100km.
At start up, and city speeds, the C200’s engine note is whisper quiet. You won’t wake up the neighbours with an early start that’s for sure. I liked the overall refinement of the powertrain, which is evident right from start-up and the general drive experience around town is also quite premium.
The interior is, as we've experienced with all C-Class product recently, beautifully executed and the aerodynamics such that you can have a phone conversation clearly with the roof down over Bluetooth. With the roof up, there’s only the slightest hint of wind noise that enters the cabin at speed. And our base model transmitted very little road noise, no matter how rough the surface underneath our 18-inch AMG alloys .
There’s almost no buffeting or wind entering the cabin with the top down and the windows up either, making for relaxed topless cruising when you're not in the mood for the full monty. Drop all four windows and there’s only a minor increase into the wind coming into the cabin, and it’s never uncomfortable. That feeling of insulation is enhanced by the seating position, which lets you drop yourself down into the cabin as much as you like.
The roof lowers and closes up to 60km/h (which we tested) and it’s fast enough not to be a pain too. It doesn’t make any unnerving whirring or clunking noises either, and once closed, the cabin is more hardtop-like than ragtop-like. In fact, the point needs to be made that with a soft top of this quality, you really don’t need the added complexity – and weight – of a hardtop mechanism. Maybe the retractable soft top isn’t dead just yet.
Around town, we had no gripes with the engine or transmission. The pairing is smooth, quiet, and effortless. That inherent refinement remains a factor right up to highway speed too, so long as you don’t have to get there too rapidly. In those instances, the C200 steps away from the sports car realm and edges over to cruiser.
Kick the accelerator pedal down, ask the transmission to drop back a few cogs and expect the C200 to build up speed quickly, it won't exactly reward you. It is, in short, a little sluggish. There’s a pause as it seemingly takes a deep breath and then a bit of a hole before the engine rpm translates to on-road speed. The engine sounds a little harsh right up at redline too, although it has to be said that once you do start building up speed, you can overtake quickly enough. This happens whether you roll on from 60, 80 or 100km/h and need to build speed quickly.
The same can be said of some of the inputs. The throttle pedal isn’t snappy, the steering isn’t as sharp as you might expect and the handling a little on the doughy side. You couldn’t call the C200 sloppy but, top up or down, there’s something about the chassis that is unsettled on bumpier roads. We noticed it mainly in tight, corrugated country corners, and in truth, I was probably demanding more of the C200 than any target buyer ever will.
The chassis itself – and its ability to deal with bumpy roads – feels rigid enough over bumps, and the general absorption of the ride is no doubt helped by the 18-inch wheels the C200 is fitted with compared to the C300’s 19s. So, while the handling isn’t perfect, the rigidity of the chassis is impressive enough for this class. What it means is you won’t be encouraged to push the C200 right to its outer limits, but it has to be said that isn’t really the point of this vehicle anyway.
One system that should come in for praise is stop/start. Universally, stop/start annoys me, but the C200 possesses the best I’ve tested. It’s smooth and snappy, such that you quickly forget it’s even active. Even around town, where it’s shutting down and cranking back into life regularly, it is never intrusive, a mark of a very competent and effective system.
While the C-Class Cabriolet isn’t going to suit everyone – regardless of the engine under the bonnet – it does deliver exactly what the potential buyer will want. It’s stylish, classy, possesses excellent build quality as you’d expect, and is as practical as a hardtop.
Though it’s by no means perfect, we’d call that mission accomplished.