What is it?
This is confusing. First, Mercedes-Benz determines the E-class cabriolet is too old-fashioned and replaces it with the CLK Cabriolet, which sells in much larger numbers than its direct predecessor for a period of 12 years and two model generations.
Then it decides the CLK Cabriolet no longer fits its newly realigned line-up and kills it off in favour of - you guessed it - the E-class Cabriolet.
With a purposeful appearance mirroring that of the E-class coupe already on sale here, one of the best soft-tops mechanisms you’ll find anywhere and a top-notch interior that can be optioned with all of the German car maker’s latest comfort, safety and entertainment features, the Kings Road crowd are surely going to find this classy new open-top hard to pass up.
At the start of UK sales later next month there will be no fewer than seven E-class cabriolet models offering the choice of three diesels and four petrol engines. We drove the mid-range E350 CGI, which is expected to become the most popular model over time.
What’s it like?
At typical motorway cruising speeds the E-class cabriolet’s refinement with the roof up is hugely impressive – if not quite the equal of that of the coupe, then not far away in ultimate terms.
The roof itself is a superbly finished multi-layered affair that stows in just 20sec at the press of a button located underneath a small pod on the leading edge of the centre armrest. As with the old CLK, it sits underneath a hard tonneau at the rear of the cabin in the top section of the boot to preserve the E-class cabriolet’s purposeful lines.
Many cabriolets claim to accommodate up to four adults. But the truth is a lot of them only offer sufficient space for two along with a token rear bench seat designed primarily for luggage stowage. The new E-class cabriolet, however, can be counted among the limited number of open-tops boasting four genuinely useful seats.
With the roof up, luggage capacity is put at a somewhat disappointing 390 litres – the same as that offered by the old CLK cabriolet. When the roof is lowered it drops to just 300 litres, demanding the use of soft baggage owing to an overall lack of space and narrow aperture.
In subjective terms, it feels quite rapid. There’s a silken feel and underlying willingness to the engine that tempts you to switch the gearbox into manual mode and run it hard up to the 6500rpm cut-out. Its best work, however, is done at a constant cruise in automatic mode. Tall gearing and the almost-silent qualities of the engine below 2500rpm add to the refinement and overall feeling of wellbeing.
Although it doesn’t quite feel as rigid as the E-class coupe, the E-class cabriolet is still remarkably controlled. Get stuck in on a winding mountain road and you find it is a much more rewarding drive than the old CLK cabrio.
The new car steers with greater precision, is more responsive and boasts better body control. Best of all is the ride, whose composure is exceptional by open-top standards both at low speeds around town and at a steady cruise out on the motorway.
Should I buy one
Those tempted by the E-class cabriolet’s impressive combination of style, luxury, performance and refinement should be warned. Some of the engine and gearbox combinations available at launch won’t be offered for long before being replaced by newer and more efficient units.
Not that this is likely to make much difference to the new German open-top’s sales prospects, I suspect. As a fashion statement for the in-crowd, it doesn’t get much better than this.