There is no other way of putting it. The 2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet is a car designed, engineered and built for a very few select people. Those that love class-leading levels of technology and interior comfort with the sophisticated style and elegance of a top-spec Benz, but without a roof.
As it stands today, this is the best overall convertible from the German brand. It offers all that makes the E-Class the best in its class with the pleasure of open-top motoring. In saying that, it may be hard for a mere mortal to fathom why a C-Class cabriolet wouldn’t do the job or fit the brief?
Undoubtedly, though, those select discerning buyers want the best Mercedes has to offer in terms of interior packaging that you just can’t get from a C-Class both in terms of size and equipment. Plus, short of an S-Class cabriolet, this is the most comfortable and pleasant convertible we’ve ever experienced. It’s the type of convertible that makes you want to take the roof off, even in Melbourne’s on-again, off-again spring rain season.
That climate characteristic led us to our predicament of doing 100km/h on some Victorian highways with rain pouring down and the cabin completely exposed. Our $157,500 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet didn’t seem to mind. In fact, despite the heavy rain, we could hardly feel any water making its way into the cabin.
We had the rear ‘aircap’ up to create the aerodynamic wind shield over the car. This seemed to not only have the effect of limiting air noise with the roof off, but also keeping the rain away. Nonetheless, it was still paramount that we found an ideal opportunity to pull over and put the roof on.
Thankfully we hit road works (the first time that has been welcomed in the history of motoring) which brought the speed limit down to 60km/h. In most convertibles, that is still far too fast to operate the roof, but not for the E-Class cabriolet. It works beautifully at very reasonable speeds.
Hold down the well-hidden roof-operation button in the centre console and the roof got its act together and climbed back up in about 20 seconds. Yes, people stare and yes, sometimes they stare in that disapproving manner to suggest that your car’s ability to transform itself has somehow affected their sense of self.
With the roof back on and the commoners no longer interested, it became eerily quiet inside. There's something to be said about the E-Class platform. It has taken a great deal from the top-spec S-Class, not only in how it looks inside, but in how comfortable and refined it feels to drive.
With air suspension standard across the range, the extra underbody rigidity and added 100kg weight (over the E-Class coupe) hasn’t exactly dampened the car’s comfort. It’s still a silky smooth ride, even on neglected roads, but you do feel its weight in and around corners.
For the kind of open air grand touring experiences it is destined to bring its lucky owners, the E-Class cabriolet provides a very competent package that balances dynamic ability with ride comfort almost perfectly.
We also very much appreciate its ability to temporarily drive itself on the highway for when you become a tad distracted. In fact, we felt it could do this almost endlessly, if not for current driving regulations and Mercedes’ somewhat conservative approach to rolling out autonomous driving features. Our test car had no issue staying in its lane and following the speed limit, or the car in front, with zero input from us.
The E400 sends power to all four-wheels with the help of a 3.0-litre six cylinder twin-turbo engine. With 245kW of power and 480Nm of torque it can go from 0-100km/h in 5.5-seconds, which is more than adequate for this type of vehicle.
We feel that having all-wheel drive in a car like this somewhat unnecessary. The E-Class cabriolet isn’t about grip, performance or out-of-corner acceleration; it’s about superlative class and luxury convertible motoring. For that reason, we suggest you save yourself the $34,000 price difference and opt for the rear-wheel drive E300 cabriolet.
That particular car makes use of a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 180kW of power and 370Nm of torque. It’s not as fast or as sporty as its more expensive sibling (0-100km/h in 6.6s), but it’s the option that makes more sense in this application.
Nonetheless, you can’t really go wrong with the more powerful and all-wheel drive version either. However, apart from the uprated drivetrain, the only benefit of opting for the 400 over the 300 is standard metallic paint, the Burmester sound system as well as head-up display – all of which can be had as options for about $4500 – so you’re paying about $29k just for the bigger engine and AWD, which don’t add all that much to the ownership experience.
Our insistence on recommending the E300 is primarily because the reason you buy an E-Class cabriolet to start with, is due to its gorgeous exterior and interior design, which is identical on both cars.
On the inside, the centre piece remains the two giant screens, which provide everything from infotainment to the essentials such as speed display. This dual-screen system was first introduced in the S-Class and has now been revised to be not only faster, but also far smoother in appearance and operation in the E-Class.
There is an air of simplicity that goes into the E-Class cabriolet’s cabin design. It’s elegant to the true meaning of the word. The air conditioning vents are a work of art in their own right, but even the rest of the cabin in and upon itself feels incredible to touch and experience. The surfaces are matched and change from leather to wood and plastic and back again to provide a very flowing design that none of its German rivals have so far been able to match.
To the more conservative buyer, the two giant screens may not be as appealing as traditional dials, but when it comes to designing a new car, Mercedes-Benz is a company that always seems to take two steps into the future and one step back into its deep and rich heritage. In that regard, here inside the E-Class, the German brand presents a cabin that has all the hallmarks of top-notch craftsmanship but with a future-ready interface.
The two seats in the rear are by no means useless, so much so we think two averaged sized adults would be comfortable in the back. Children would have more than enough room.
The exterior design is a little less risky. It looks pretty much like all other Mercs currently on the road and while that may work well in a C-Class, which borrows the looks and assumed class of an E- and S-Class, we would think that an E-Class buyer wants a higher level of exterior differentiation to set their car apart. But that may be just us.
On the whole, the E-Class cabriolet is an amazing car to drive. It offers a convertible experience inside a cabin that is unrivalled for its price point. It’s the type of car you want to take to your holiday home out in the country, or for that weekend escape to the beach or winery. And during the week, it can also pose as a practical choice that would have no issues being used daily.
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