Stuttgart’s latest cabriolet is ever so desirable - but pricey, too

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 E 350 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.

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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.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Christian Galea 6 March 2010

Re: Mercedes E350 CGI Cabriolet

Overdrive wrote:
In this month's Car magazine the new 5 series beats the E-class (and the A6 & XF) and, shock/horror, the 7-series beats the supposedly invincible S-class and the new A8! Autocar's opinion isn't the only one around, you know.

Yes, well, there's also a majority. Most reviews still suggest that the S-Class is still superior to the 7-Series; I didn't read the comparison test in question, but probably Car chose the BMW for its slightly better driving enjoyment.

There are also other magazines other than Autocar and Car, which prefer Mercedes models over Audi and BMW; WhatCar? has alaso awarded the S-Class as Luxury Car of the Year and nominated the E-Class wagon over the 5-Series Wagon. They also nominated the E-Class saloon over the 5-Series.

Auto-motor-und-sport, a german car magazine that is sometimes quite VAG-biased (i.e., in the luxury segment, towards Audi), also prefers several Mercedes models over both Audi and BMW:

(Of course, the text is in German, but if you scroll down you can see how they ranked the cars).

Lupe 2 March 2010

Re: Mercedes E350 CGI Cabriolet

Not a fan of the looks at all... A 6 series is more interesting to look at

Wing Co 2 March 2010

Re: Mercedes E350 CGI Cabriolet

The SE in the Cab is a different spec to the SE in saloon and estate and in the cab more akin to the avantgarde. In the cab the SE rides on 17" standard suspension and has full leather, etc. In Avantgarde saloon/estate I think it is 17" wheels, but sports suspension, although you can spec normal, but this may increase the CO2. All rather confusing across the range.

I was out today in my CLK Sport and quite frankly the 18" AMG wheels and sports suspension are not suitable for UK roads - you just crash and bump all round the roads and end up weaving around the place to avoid holes. This reafirmed my view, and that of this magzine, that smaller wheels and non-sports suspension is the way to go.

For the gearbox, I could not contemplate driving a manual. I think you would be mad to spec manual. See the earlier post were there is a note indicating the auto in the 4 cyclinder diesels will become the 7 speeder in due course.

On Sat I am looking at the new cab, will pursue 350CDI in SE, assuming decent trade-in. I just think if I can pay the extra 1500 over the 250cdi it is worth it.

However, your anlaysis of the 220 over the 250 accords exactly with Steve Croppley's.