This is my second Mercedes and my third cabrio’. When I bought my first, someone once said to me that it will be my one and only cabrio', but having alternated between hatchbacks and sedans, I found myself longing for the convertible experience once more.
My previous car was the W205 Mercedes C300 Hybrid. An unusual car because it mixed diesel power and an electric motor to create a mild hybrid sedan. I felt that the C300 Hybrid was a remarkable but not totally resolved science experiment, and the driving experience was not always where it should be. Maybe it was the contrast between a gruff twin-turbo diesel and the silence of the electric propulsion.
Three years passed and I decided that more fun was needed in my motoring life.
The current and first C-Class cabriolet is a well-resolved design. I find the front grille slightly reminiscent of sporty Mercedes vehicles from the 1950s, but it’s the rear of the car where I think the design has come together to give it a modern, sophisticated look. One that makes the car look wide, with horizontal tail-lights versus the upright lights of the sedan. Mercedes has gone very Audi-esque in the design philosophy, and I have difficulty sorting my C-, E- and even S-Class cabrios from afar.
Cavansite Blue with Crystal Grey interior is a good contrasting colour combination, and since I have no kids or dogs I can live with the light colour in the interior. I really like the C-Class interior, and perhaps all of it except the large floating infotainment screen in the middle of the dash. I think the screen is looking dated now in the age of thin bezels, and I note that a new wider screen will debut in the face-lift that will be out later this year. The seats are supremely comfortable, and with the air scarf neck-warming system useable with the roof down in very cold conditions.
The turbocharged four-pot engine has enough up and go for this type of car, which really is about open-top cruising, and the nine-speed automatic is smooth enough to provide a pleasant experience. My main criticism of the drivetrain is the sound. You know that this is a four-cylinder, and this car lacks the low-down throaty growl of my E46 BMW 330CI.
When you push the C300 it makes a satisfying noise with the top down, but only when pushed. I have driven many convertible cars, from the humble Holden Astra TS, the Saab 9-3, the excellent E46 BMW and even a wobble-like-jelly Alfa Romeo V6 Spider. The latter being by far the most disappointing in the chassis department.
I am happy to report that the C-Class Cabriolet is vastly superior to all those cars, and scuttle shake is kept to a minimum through the extensive work Benz has done in making sure the car is braced in all the right places. The suspension has been softened over the C300 Coupe. Last weekend I drove the coupe and cabriolet back to back, and I would say that the ride in the cabrio' is more sedan-like and less sporty than the coupe, but that more relaxed set-up suits the car.
One thing I do not like is the rear passenger seatbelt slapping on the seat when you are top fully up and windows down. BMW overcame this in my 330CI by having the belts in the centre of the back seat when retracted, with little clips to anchor the belt in place. Windows up and the Aircap system deployed and the offending seatbelt slap goes away. Aircap with the electric wind deflector and the big spoiler that raises out of the top on the windscreen looks odd at first, but works well.
You do not buy this type of car for practicality. The doors are enormous, so tight parking spaces are a challenge. However, being able to have the roof down when alighting does help, and you can then close the roof with the key remote.
I do like the load-through area, where the rear seats can be lowered by pulling electric releases in the boot. You can also make the boot bigger by pushing on a flap that effectively closes the space where the soft-top retracts, giving you a fairly useable boot space.
Having seen the interior in the coming A-Class, I think that the C-Class is fast becoming the orphan in terms of interior design in the Benz passenger car range. Having said that, it's still a great place to be and only points to the exciting vehicles of the future. If you look at the competition, I would still argue that the C-Class is out in front, particularly from its natural competitors BMW and Audi.
Drive them all, but I think the C-Class betters them in most areas, and it’s probably enough to tip the case over a more driver-focused BMW 4 Series.