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Driven: Mercedes-Benz E 400 Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

Driven: Mercedes-Benz E 400 Cabriolet
The decision not to 'AMG'-ify this 333hp soft-top reaps immense dividends.

   



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Mercedes-Benz E 400 Cabriolet

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: Elegant exterior, stunning cabin, creamy drivetrain, sumptuous ride and refinement on air suspension, space for four, capable handling for 1.9-tonne convertible

Not so good: It looks a bit too much like C-Class and S-Class Cabriolets for comfort

Key Facts

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz E 400 4Matic Cabriolet
Price: Cabriolet range starts from 45,865; E 400 4Matic AMG Line from 55,715; car as tested 63,375
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol
Transmission: all-wheel drive, nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic
Body style: two-door convertible
CO2 emissions: 194/km (VED 1,240 first 12 months, then 450 per annum for next five years, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 32.8mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 5.5 seconds
Power: 333hp at 5,250-6,000rpm
Torque: 480Nm at 1,600-4,000rpm

Our view:

There are many, many things we adore about this sumptuous and elegant Mercedes-Benz E 400 4Matic Cabriolet, but perhaps the German company's biggest single stroke of genius with it was the decision not to turn it over to Affalterbach and give it Mercedes-AMG E 43 badging. By avoiding any connotations of sportiness that are bequeathed by those three letters appearing on the rump of any Benz, it allows you to realise this might be the best, most rounded 'star appeal' car Stuttgart makes right now.

The reasons we say this are simple, but multitudinous. On its standard-fit Air Body Control (ABC) twin-axle air suspension, the E 400 is an absolute delight to travel in, no matter how you're driving it nor what manner of shocking road surfaces you're traversing. It gracefully glides along, smoothly and discreetly, with barely a ripple of discontent shimmering through its open-top frame. Sure, on the very worst tarmac, you might sort of perceive a tiny, tiny trace of scuttle shake, but it's so negligible as to be a mere observation, rather than a valid criticism of the car. Also, when you go to open the E 400's long doors for the first time, their reassuring heft tells you how much structural bracing and sound-deadening have gone into the make-up of this four-seater cruiser to ensure that its folding roof is a positive characteristic, rather than a detriment.

It also handles better than you might expect it to. The 4Matic all-wheel drive provides plenty of traction, the big 19-inch 245-section front, 275-section rear tyres offer up masses of grip, the steering's truly lovely and in Sport or Sport+ modes, the air springs do a fine job of keeping the E 400's 1,935kg of mass well in check. Again, you're not going to head straight for the E-Class Cabriolet if you want a Mercedes that's blood-fizzingly thrilling to drive, but you're also not going to be terrified by the appearance of a series of snaking corners if you do decide to go for this grandiose convertible. It's fine machine to steer quickly along a challenging road.

The drivetrain is also a lustrous jewel. Some people don't get on with the 9G-Tronic gearbox, asserting that it has way too many ratios for its own good, but we've never had a problem with it - and certainly not when it's paired to this glorious 3.0-litre V6. Running in a 333hp/480Nm state of tune for the E 400, the motor's judged just perfectly: quiet and silky at low revs, decently punchy in the midrange (making a mockery of the car's aforementioned two-tonne kerb weight) and possessing a nice, hard-edged snarl to it if you decide to spin the needle right round the rev counter. That the E 400 is more than decently quick - a 5.5-second 0-62mph time only tells a small part of this car's broad-ranged performance story - is merely a pleasant bonus.

But it's the over-arching refinement of the E 400 we'll take away with us - and the practicality, coupled to the usual, stunning E-Class aesthetics. The interior not only looks and feels first-class, with its Widescreen Cockpit array of banked 12.3-inch TFT screens and beautiful construction materials, but it seems like it could genuinely seat four adults for a fair amount of time in little discomfort. Indeed, it doesn't appear any less capacious for passengers in the back than the far more expensive S-Class Cabriolet , but then it pulls off the neat trick of feeling far more special and exclusive than the C-Class Cabriolet, itself hardly a car which comes across as cut-price or underwhelming.

And, whether you've got the hood up, the windows and Aircap (an electronically rising bar on the windscreen's header rail and a similarly electronically rising wind deflector aft of the back seats) cosseting you from the elements you experience during top-down motoring, or - as is the correct and only truly acceptable way to drive a four-seat convertible like this - all the windows and the roof down for every single second it's not hammering down with rain, then the E 400 provides a magnificent driving experience. It wafts along with an effortless superiority that makes it thoroughly endearing from mile dot. Indeed, we did nearly 350 miles in the Mercedes - 95 per cent of which were hood down, resulting in some rather embarrassing sunburn on our thinning pate as a result of surprisingly scorching UK spring weather - and every single one of them was an unmitigated pleasure.

Hence why we think this particular E-Class Cabriolet is a near-perfect execution of a luxury four-seat convertible and why it deserves full marks overall. It looks wonderful. It has an exceptional cabin. Even with a few optional extras, it costs 63,375, which doesn't seem a lot for this sort of unerring quality in this day and age (case in point: the week after the E 400, we had a Bentley Bentayga Diesel with a scandalous 61,000-worth of options on it). It drives magnificently for its primary function, which is comfort, and rather brilliantly for handling, which is an unexpected dynamic bonus. And it makes you feel great, every time you slip behind its three-pointed-star-bearing steering wheel. Yep, for once in our lives, we've never been happier to NOT have the letters AMG apportioned to a Mercedes... because the E 400 Cabriolet is all the better for it.

Alternatives:

Audi S5 Cabriolet : Both this and the BMW below are C-Class rivals, not competitors to the E-Class - but there are no direct German alternatives. S5 Cab is pleasant enough but it doesn't ride with the grace of the air-sprung E 400.

BMW 440i Convertible : Has the performance to match the E 400 and it feels (almost) as big inside, but - as with the Audi - doesn't come across as anything like as classy as the Merc.

Porsche 911 Targa 4 : Really, if you want a German open-top to feel a bit more special than the E-Class, you'll have to go for the Targa - and accept some significant practicality compromises and a higher price to boot.


Matt Robinson - 23 May 2018



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2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.








 

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