A svelte drop-top companion to the E-Class range of sedans, coupes and wagons, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet is a luxury convertible that is offered with two engine configurations. Thoroughly updated for the latest model year, it now features fresh styling, cutting-edge safety technology and an improved cabin.
In place of the old model's stately but somewhat staid quad-headlamp setup, the new E-Class Cabriolet sports a single sleek headlamp per side. Muscular, vintage-inspired "pontoon" fenders add a dash of style to the flanks, while the roof consists of a traditional cloth softop rather than the folding metal setup that is en vogue on many of the Mercedes' rivals. It's thickly insulated to allow for Bluetooth phone conversations at high speeds with the roof up, and it retracts or raises in less than 20 seconds at speeds up to 25 mph.
Inside, things are as plush and refined as ever, with generous amounts of wood and chrome trim making for a decadent environment. Notable new touches include a three-spoke steering wheel, a classy, Art Deco-inspired clock and a reworked center stack with more intuitive controls. Mercedes also relocated the gear selector from the center console to the steering column, a move that will make those familiar with classic luxury Cabriolet feel right at home.
An available AIRCAP system uses a draft-stop mounted behind the rear seats to dramatically decrease windflow in the cabin when the windows are up, ensuring a peaceful driving experience. Mercedes' heated AIRSCARF neck-level heating system also makes an appearance in the E-Class Cabriolet.
Though it shares many components with the E-Class sedan, the Cabriolet is also closely related to the smaller C-Class, a fact reflected in its relatively modest size. Rear legroom considerably less than what passengers would find in the E-Class sedan, although there's still sufficient space in back for those under six feet.
On the technology front, Mercedes' COMAND infotainment system remains an integral part of the E-Class Cabriolet experience; controlled either by voice commands, a central knob or steering wheel-mounted buttons, it integrates the sedan's audio, navigation and Bluetooth-based connectivity functions into a single unit - a seven-inch display screen mounted on the dashboard.
An optional mbrace system adds a host of cloud-based goodies, including a concierge service, location-based traffic and weather updates, stolen vehicle location assistance, automatic collision notification and more. Available apps add internet browsing, Google local search with street view, Yelp reviews, Facebook access and news reports. Owners can even use an mbrance smartphone app to remotely lock, unlock or locate their E-Class Cabriolet.
A wide variety of optional extra can be spec'd to increase the two-door's luxury quotient, including premium Nappa leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a 14-speaker Harman/kardon surround sound system and a rear seat video entertainment system.
The E-Class Cabriolet is available in E350 and E550 models.
The E350 utilizes a direct-injected 3.5-liter V6 produces 302 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, while the E550 packs a twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V8 with 402 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque.
Both engines hook up to a smooth-shifting seven-speed automatic transmission and utilize a stop/start system that reduces fuel consumption and emissions when the vehicle is at a complete stop. In standard guise, the E350 and E550 send their power the rear wheels, but Mercedes' 4MATIC all-wheel-drive is offered on the former.
Mercedes-Benz has long been known for its safety features, and the E-Class Cabriolet will only add to that reputation. In addition to traction and stability control systems, the car boasts nine supplemental restraints including two-stage front air bags, a knee air bag for the driver and pelvic air bags which work together with full-length side curtain and front side air bags (rear side units are optional) to provide extra protection for front occupants in dangerous side-impact collisions.
Also standard is an "ATTENTION ASSIST" system that can alert the driver to the first signs of drowsiness, a factor that causes more than 100,000 accidents a year in the U.S.A steering sensor is coupled to smart software that uses 70 parameters to establish a unique driver profile during the first 20 minutes of driving. Between 50 and 112 mph, the system identifies the erratic steering corrections drivers make as they begin to get drowsy and triggers an audible warning and a "Time for a Rest?" message with a coffee cup icon in the instrument cluster.
New for the latest model year is Collision Prevention Assist, which uses radar to determine whether the E-Class Cabriolet is in danger of colliding with a vehicle or object up ahead. Active at speeds above 20 mph, it automatically prepares the brakes to apply the ideal leveling of stopping power once the driver hits the pedal.
Optional safety gear includes Active Lane Keeping Assist, a new technology that warns the driver if it detects that the E-Class Cabriolet is drifting into an adjacent lane and can apply steering inputs to remain on the proper course. Also available is Active Blind Spot Assist, which uses radar to detect if a vehicle is in the blind-spot area. It provides driver alerts and can also steer the car out of harm's way if the driver accidentally starts to merge into a vehicle.
Pre-Safe Brake detects impending collisions and can automatically apply 100 percent of the E-Class' braking force to avoid or mitigate the severity of the crash. It also includes Cross-Traffic Assist, which can detect potential collisions with vehicles approaching from either side of an intersection. Both are part of the Distronic Plus with Steering assist system, an active cruise control setup that can maintain a set distance from the car ahead and also keep the vehicle centered on straight roads or in gentle curves.
The E-Class Cabriolet is something of a tweener ride - it's similar in size to compact Convertibles like the Audi A5, Lexus IS C and BMW 3-Series, but carries more upscale amenities and a loftier pricetag. Potential buyers could also conceivably cross shop larger, more upmarket drop-tops like the BMW 6-Series and Jaguar XK.