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First Drive: Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

First Drive: Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet
Merc's new four-seat soft-top promises all-season functionality with its breeze-free cabin.

   



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| First Drive | Mallorca, Spain | Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet |

Mercedes-Benz's replacement for the CLK Cabriolet gets the E-Class badge and some clever wind-cheating technology. Slippery aerodynamics and BlueEfficiency engine technology help deliver excellent economy and emissions, while a new system dubbed 'Aircap' increases passenger comfort in all four seats with the roof down.

In the Metal

Given its E-Class badge the Cabriolet looks rather compact. Mercedes has retained a traditional fabric roof for packaging reasons - the company claiming customers prefer contrasting fabric roofs as it makes the fact it's a drop-top more obvious than folding hardtops. And if you're going to spend the extra money on a car you can open to the sunshine it's likely you'll want people to know about it.

Sharply styled up front, the rakish lines of the E-Class saloon and coupé work well with the Cabriolet's shape. Chrome highlighting around the interior denotes the cabin space, while double-bubble humps on the hood cover neatly integrate with the rear headrests. They're not just there for decoration either, as there really is space in the back for a couple of passengers if you need to travel four-up.

The interior follows Merc's usual functional look and feel, it undoubtedly solid and of high quality but lacking in any real flair. Brushed metal trim inserts help lift it a little, and the seats are supremely comfortable, but the cabin is a touch austere after the drama of the exterior styling.

What you get for your Money

All E-Class Cabriolets sold in the UK come with a new air-flicking system from Mercedes called Aircap. It works by raising a small deflector on-top of the windscreen and a small screen between the rear headrests to push air up and over the passenger compartment. Reducing drafts for all four passengers, it's an effective if inelegant solution. Safety is taken care of by nine standard airbags, a driver drowsiness monitoring system, Pre-Safe collision preparatory system and Bluetooth telephone connectivity. Two different trim levels are offered, SE and Sport, the former focusing on luxury and the latter coming with AMG body styling and interior details.

Driving it

Comfort and quietness are the two defining features of the E-Class Cabriolet, whether you've got the roof up or down. The performance from any of the five engine choices is good, with even the smallest 170bhp four-cylinder petrol unit giving the E-Class decent pace. For more effortless driving the bigger six-cylinder engines deliver lots of torque and the automatic transmissions deliver easy, smooth shifts. The V8-powered E 500 is an irrelevance in Europe, though it does sound great...

It's pretty difficult to find a weak spot in the engine line-up, with the smaller engines in particular over-delivering, though with the roof down at higher revs the E 220 CDI and E 250 CDI do betray their four-cylinder diesel status with a bit of clatter. I'm picking holes here, as in every other way they're impressive, particularly on economy - with over 52mpg on the official combined cycle.

Removing the roof off the coupé does result in some loss of rigidity, but given the huge opening the E-Class Cabriolet feels remarkably rigid. The suspension does a good job of balancing ride comfort and control, though the Cabriolet isn't a car that feels naturally adept at treading down twisting roads. That's as much down to its inherent comfort as it is the rather odd feeling steering, which has a lot of heft off centre but precious little in the way of feel. If you're looking for a sporting Mercedes then look elsewhere in the line-up: the E-Class Cabriolet is a cruiser. Which is exactly what its customers will want.

Worth Noting

The plentiful safety equipment lights up the dashboard of the E-Class like a Blackpool arcade, numerous warnings for lane changes and proximity to other vehicles being more of a distraction than an aid. If you can't see you're too close to the car in front then perhaps you should consider handing over your licence.

Summary

Featuring all the technology and class of the E-Class saloon and Coupé, but in an open-topped format, the new Cabriolet impresses. Comfort is evidently high on the agenda, which is hardly surprising in this market. Fantastic economy from the smaller diesel models is a big draw and the Aircap system allows you to enjoy more open top moments than you might were it not fitted. Clever as it is it's not the most elegant solution though, looking especially messy if you forget to retract it when driving around town. It'd perhaps make sense for it to rise and drop at predetermined speeds, allowing draught-reduced motoring on faster roads and stylish cruising around town.

Kyle Fortune - 12 Mar 2010



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2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.



2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 






 

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