A bit of a behemoth, in truth. This generation of E-Class Cabriolet is longer than its predecessor and nearly 70mm wider of track. Not that the main controls aren’t suitably undemanding, it’s just that the size of the footprint and weight of the strengthened chassis are palpable from the moment you cast off the E400’s moorings and it slips gently into motion.
To get to that stage you’ll have swung open a long, immensely heavy door, slid aboard and probably marvelled for a moment at the loveliness of the interior. With the addition of some metal-dipped, roof-related switchgear at the front of the central armrest, it’s identical to the tin-top coupe, with an array of crisp digital displays juxtaposed against more conventional sweeps of wood, leather, and some plastic. It’s wholly becoming of a big-engined Riviera dandy with a price that’ll surpass £60,000 once you’ve ticked a few options boxes.
And it is a fine engine. With twin-turbocharging comes hearty torque at low engine speeds – ideal for stroking the E400 along with minimal fuss – and yet extend those half-dozen cylinders and you’re rewarded with a serrated chorus that’s unusually crisp for a forced induction setup. Supposedly, it'll fire the car to 62mph in 5.5sec, which is up there with the very quick hot hatches. Proceedings never feel quite that frenzied, mind, which we suppose is the intention. Meanwhile the claimed 39.2mpg is a bit ambitious in mixed driving, though you’ll manage 35mpg at fast cruise – far from an embarrassing figure.
The vast fabric top – available in brown, blue, red or black – does a decent enough job of upholding the standards of refinement set by the coupe, though wind noise is unquestionably amplified. It means conversation is no strain unless you’re taking advantage of an autobahn, and what might surprise you is that the most intrusive sound on the motorway is that of air crashing into cars you pass by.
Peeling the E-Class open is the work of 20 seconds and brings Mercedes’ headrest-mounted ‘airscarf’ vents into play. They’re a godsend on cold days, gently warming the neck. You also have the ‘aircap’ wind deflector, which pops out of the top of the windscreen frame. It does an excellent job of reducing turbulence in the cabin, but looks a bit awkward and is loud above 60mph.
Does this car ride like a long-legged Mercedes soft-top should? For the most part, yes. However, that the air suspension (standard on AMG Line cars) is tasked with managing an additional 90kg brought about by the weight of the folding roof does tell. At low speeds there’s just a little too much intrusion from ruts and bumps, but once up to speed the E400 settles into a magnificently relaxed gait. To this end, we’d stick with the standard 19in wheels.
Don’t expect scalpel-sharp dynamics. Body roll is adequately controlled and traction is never a problem given the nature of the driveline, but there’s very little communication of what’s going on down at the road surface and steering response is ponderous at best. Very few people in the market for this car will care particularly about either trait, of course.
One more thing: if it’s between this and the coupe for you, remember also that you lose 65 litres of boot capacity to the roof mechanism.