E-Class Cabriolet: A drop top drama

If drop-top motoring and a premium badge means a big deal, the E-Class Cabriolet is probably one you should introduce to your budget



By (George Kuruvilla)

Published: Thu 5 Dec 2013, 6:04 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 3:01 AM

E-Class Cabriolet

Alongside the recently face-lifted E-Class sedan, German luxury auto-maker Mercedes-Benz have also launched the facelift variants of the E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet. We take time out of our ‘busy’ weekend driving the convertible — the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E 400 Cabriolet — a sporting car for spoils from one of the finest and longest standing car manufacturers in the world. And it’s no secret, they plan to nudge aside tough competition like the Audi A5 Cabriolet and others.

DESIGN AND AESTHETICS

The E-Class suffix was inspired in the 1990s, but it was not until 2010 that Mercedes created the E-Class Cabriolet. Yes, many would argue that for over a decade, it was disguised as the CLK but that nomenclature was a latecomer, by all means.

The W212 model was launched in 2010, but what we see today is the face-lifted version of that. The new car, by its dimensions, is almost sedan like, being 4.703mm in length and 2.016mm wide. The sloping roofline does keep the height low at 1.398 mm high. From its size, one thing is certain — it is an impressionable car.

Now on to the styling...

Like the sedan we drove a while ago, everything from the windshield forward is new, besides the front-side fenders. The fascia that was previously characterised by split two-piece headlamps in the past three generations have now been bound into a single piece with a contemporary and smooth design. Inside those headlamp clusters are strokes of light bars, also referred to as arrow-motif LED daytime-running lights. A single thick slat gives the grille structure and at its centre is a large 3-pointed star. Unlike Mercs of yore, you don’t have the emblem sticking out from the top of the grille, like a star on a Christmas tree.

The lower apron houses large air-intakes that have been styled with verve and are evidently more aggressive than those on regular Merc models. Bringing in more tasteful distinction to the eye-catching lower apron is the aluminium finish. As good as it looks, it seems to sit too low and may meet one too many kerbs as the miles are clocked, and lose its finish in the process.

The rear lamps produce lighting via LED fibre-optics, with multiple-sleek horizontal lines that can vary lux intensities depending on the function. At the lower half, you have sculpted trapezoidal tailpipes.

The retractable soft roof, which is the highlight of this svelte beauty, can be opened or closed in about 20 seconds at vehicle speeds of up to 40km/h. It’s a bit of a tortoise when compared to the Porsche Boxster’s 9 sec-operation, but comparable to other cabriolets. At short distances, the top can also be operated using the radio remote control. You can have the 3-piece fabric roof in either black, dark brown, dark blue or red. The bigger the contrast the better, we say!

Overall, the exteriors have become appreciably swankier than the crowd and we like it. Then, it’s time to climb aboard, using the smart key function that lets you keep the key fob in your pocket or purse. A big boon for women and their overcrowded handbags. Once inside, you’ll notice that unlike the face-lifted C-Class from a couple of years ago, which was outfitted with SLS-inspired trims and aircraft-inspired air vents, the E-Class retains a more traditional Mercedes interior. The words tasteful and cosy come to mind.

The instrument cluster has a tubular design with 3 analog gauges and a TFT screen to display all the car’s functions. It is typically Mercedes. The car is navigated using a 3-spoke multifunction steering, nicely wrapped in perforated nappa leather. There are 12 buttons, so you can be sure to operate the essentials like audio and cruise control — all of which are at your finger’s reach. Unfortunately, the steering column is manually adjustable — not quite what we were expecting in a luxury convertible.

The shift lever has been moved from the lower centre console. It is a stalk on the steering column, allowing for more space for cup holders and storage.

The test car came draped in the new combination of deep-sea blue and silk beige leather upholstery, but there are plenty other combinations to make from the 8-colour palette. The ARTICO leather is not real hide, but comes close. The bucket-shaped front seats are ergonomic and the two one-person rear seats offer decent support and comfort too. The EASY-ENTRY mechanism allows for easy access for rear seat passengers by folding the front seats automatically and moving the seats to the original position when done. The operation is a tad slow, but I’ve not heard one person whine about sitting in the back seat of a convertible.

POWER TRAIN & PERFORMANCE

We like the way Mercedes have approached their clientele with a variety of products and choices. It is almost bespoke. Even customers of the E-Class Cabriolet get six powertrains to choose from, starting with the 181bhp E 200 to the 402 bhp E 500.

The E 400 we test drove — equipped with a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 engine — has the best of both worlds, balancing performance and frugality. The power peaks at 333 bhp between 5,250 and 6,000 rpm while torque is prodigious at 480 Nm, available from 1,400 to 4,000 rpm. As standard, the car comes with Merc’s 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic transmission that provides seamless shifting even under hard acceleration. There is an optional 6-speed manual, but we are pretty sure that most of you city-slicker shopaholics would rather leave it in ‘D’ all of the drive.

The E 400 is a competent cruiser, but also can pushed for performance — it can clock the 0 to 100 km/h dash in a brisk 5.3 seconds. Mid-range grunt is also plentiful, serving enough power even while overtaking.

Losing its top doesn’t mean it’s going to lose weight. The Cabriolet weighs a massive 1,845 kg. However, they have managed to keep the steering nicely weighted and accurate. Perhaps the agility control and dynamic handling package has something to do with it. It loses nothing to the coupe sibling in terms of handling.

The mastery of ride quality, which Mercedes-Benz is known for, has been achieved in this convertible. It rides like a big car, which many cars in its class fail to achieve. The adaptive damping system always adjusts cushioning based on the terrain and tarmac and makes long travels comfortable.

Braking power comes courtesy of cross-drilled ventilated discs upfront and ventilated discs at the rear. Slam the brakes at a 100 km/h and you’d be sure to come to a halt within 120 feet and its vicinity. It keeps a straight face too.

The E 400 badge really underplays the car’s thrifty habits. The 66-litre tank will allow for a great range, extending beyond 500 kms, but that 7.6l/100km claimed figure may not be achieved easily. However, the car respects money spent and the fuel burnt. CO2 emissions are rated between 178 and 185 g/km. Much of its frugal nature can be attributed to its ECO stop/start functionality, electromechanical steering, regene-rative braking like on a Toyota Prius (almost!) etc.

FEATURE AND FUNCTIONALITY

It would not be fair to judge cabriolets by their practicality — they are only an indulgence. But the E-Class Cabriolet is quite the well-rounded vehicle, save a few quirks. As standard, the car comes with an integrated 6-disc CD changer with 8-speakers. Connecting to your phone via Bluetooth allows you to display text messages, access contacts and stream music. There is also a USB port to plug in your pen drive.

The car is equipped with a 2-zone THERMATIC automatic climate control system that puts you in a comfortable zone, overcoming the heat that seeps through the soft-top — something that plagues convertibles. The boot packs 390 litres of luggage, shortchange for those used to a sedan’s boot, and unfortunately, the rear seats don’t fold like the Audi A5 Cabriolet. This may be its biggest quirk, but no deal breaker.

The rotary-knob controlled COMMAND System that oversees the functions on the 7-inch multimedia screen is pretty similar to other cars in the Merc range. There is nothing flashy about it, but it works well between audio, navigation and other functions.

There are a multitude of safety features on this topless wonder. Besides the usual and very necessary airbags and ABS, you also get cruise control, blind spot warning, lane departure warning and brake assist that preps the brakes and even brakes for you. Also in the list are Cross-Traffic Assist and PRE-SAFE brake. Mercedes haven’t forgotten small families either, equipping the car with ISOFIX mounts for child seats.

Much recommended is the parking assist package with comes with a 360-degree camera, Active Parking Assist which parks for you; and PARKTRONIC parking sensors. However, the king-piece is the optional anti-draft technology called AIRCAP, which uses a wind deflector mounted on the roof frame and a special draught-stop bet-ween the rear head restraints that pushes the air-flow arc above the passenger compartment. It reduces some of that wind-in-the-hair experience, but for 
the better, of course. This helps keep conversations civil and you from having Tina Turner’s hairstyle. You can also keep cosy with the AIRSCARF that supplies warm air to your neck, and the climate-controlled seats.

Just in case you were wondering, the A-pillars have been reinforced and roll over bars have been integrated into the rear seat headrest, which pop up in milliseconds in case of a rollover.

VERDICT

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E 400 Cabriolet is a traditional cloth-roof 4-seater that has been built to satisfy your craving for owning a lavish and pacey convertible. The facelift has given it the right kind of glamour and the price remains relatively affordable... if you option it right. It is also the perfect car for going on double dates.

Also, you can buy a beautiful convertible but can’t buy good weather... so get one when the weather is still fair.


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