What is it?
Despite the fact that the second-generation CLK was based on Mercedes-Benz C-Class underpinnings, this is the first-ever convertible Mercedes to wear a C-Class badge. It completes a diverse line-up that includes saloon, estate and coupé models, and like them, it comes with a wide range of engine and trim packages.
Included in that line-up is the range-topping C 63 S Cabriolet. We tested it in southern Italy earlier this year, and for all that we loved about it, such as its immense performance and chiseled good looks, it’s not the car the majority of buyers will opt for. Instead, the model that's likely to keep the lights on at Mercedes HQ will be this smallest-engined Mercedes C 220 d Cabriolet, tested here in AMG Line trim.
Under the bonnet sits a twin-turbo 2.1-litre diesel that’s good for 168bhp and 295lb ft of torque. In the C 220 d Coupé we found it powerful enough for most situations, and combined with Mercedes’ new nine-speed automatic gearbox, it returns an impressive 68.9mpg.
Also like the coupé model, the cabriolet receives a new four-link front suspension set-up and an adapted version of the saloon’s multi-link arrangement at the rear. The downside is a 125kg weight penalty for the cabriolet, resulting from all the extra chassis strengthening to stop it flexing.
What's it like?
Unsurprisingly, with all that added weight to haul aorund, the cabriolet feels less composed than the coupé on tight and twisting country roads. The difference is less stark than you might first imagine, though.
There's a bit of body lean when you corner hard, but otherwise it feels stable and well balanced, with more intuitive weight build up through the steering than you get from a BMW 4 Series Convertible. Combined with a sharp front-end, the cabriolet is surprisingly adjustable on the limit, although the undefeatable traction-control system stops play a little too early for our liking.
You barely notice any scuttle shake, but around town and on this sports suspension, the C 220 d feels a bit lumpy at times. If you prefer something smoother, you might want to opt for the (£895) air suspension; we've tried it in the coupé and it smoothes out the ride a treat. The new nine-speed automatic gearbox also shifts gears seamlessly, making progress in stop-start traffic a breeze.
However, when you do eventually get the chance to put your foot down, the twin-turbo 2.1-litre diesel reveals itself as the weakest link of what is otherwise a refined package. With a 0-62mph time of 8.2 seconds, it’s certainly quick enough, but under load the motor sounds a bit coarse and unrefined. Factor in that the cabriolet weighs significantly more than the coupé, and we feel that the more powerful C 250 d would be a better choice.
Interior-wise, the cabin looks and feels more special than anything else in this class. Acres of wood, aluminium and leather line the dash, and the optional 13-speaker Burmester surround-sound system is one of the best stereos currently on the market.