2018 Mercedes-Benz E-class Cabriolet

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There’s something intrinsically hedonistic about a convertible. They’re impractical in many climates, often too small inside to comfortably accommodate rear-seat passengers, and usually more expensive than their coupe or sedan siblings. Still, from To Catch a Thief to Thelma & Louise, they’ve captured the collective imagination as the vehicle of choice for those looking to evade the authorities and have a good time doing it. Mercedes-Benz probably doesn’t imagine that the drivers of its new E-classcabriolet will ever find themselves on the lam. But by chopping the top off its thoroughly respectable E-class coupe, it is surely hoping to inspire the serene smiles (Grace Kelly) and joyful cackling (Thelma and Louise) that can only come from feeling the wind in your hair.


Sisters from the Same Mister

With two-door E-classes having moved from a C-class–intensive architecture to one shared with the E-class sedan, the new E cabriolet is 5.0 inches longer and 2.9 inches wider than the previous model, creating more passenger space. The most important result of that increase is a genuinely usable rear seat. Four average-size adults can happily coexist in the droptop E400, provided the roof is open and the trip is of a reasonable length. The two rear seats can even have heated cushions, a luxury plenty of four-door sedans don’t offer.

This newest member of the E-class family shares most of its innards with the also new E-class coupe, including its twin-turbocharged V-6 with 329 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. That engine pairs with Mercedes-Benz’s familiar nine-speed automatic and, as in the coupe, can be had with rear- or 4MATIC all-wheel drive. The twin-turbo V-6 has exactly as much power as this largish droptop needs and not a bit more. A more powerful option—say, an AMG variant—would be welcome, but none currently is offered; the V-6 E400 is the only available cabriolet model.

As it is, the all-wheel-drive E400 4MATIC convertible we drove wafted easily through cities, over hilltops, and past right-lane laggards. It even held its composure through tightly curving mountain passes, but it’s much more at home on fast sweepers than in tight hairpins. The steering is accurate but provides little feedback from the road—although this car’s buyers likely won’t mind. The nine-speed occasionally lurches through its lower gears when accelerating from a crawl in city traffic, but otherwise it’s above reproach.

The same coil-spring suspension and adaptive dampers found in the E400 coupe are standard fare in the convertible. Eco, Sport, Sport+, and Individual modes allow the driver a measure of control over ride firmness, transmission programming, and throttle response. We drove a vehicle outfitted with the optional air-spring suspension, which also adds a Comfort setting.

Comfort mode is perfect for around town, with its welcome delivery of hovercraft-like isolation from the road. The E-class comes standard with 18-inch wheels, while 19-inchers are optional. Either way, the ride is silky smooth. If the path ahead turns winding, Sport mode adds an additional measure of control to limit the body’s motions. More aggressive drivers may enjoy Sport+, but we found its increased engine noise, sharp shifts, and touchy throttle response altogether out of place here.

The many similarities with the E-class coupe don’t prevent the cabriolet from feeling like its own animal. There is a trick windshield header, dubbed Aircap, from which a wind deflector rises to reduce buffeting. Mercedes has stiffened the front end and the floor to prevent body flex, and its acoustic engineers earned their keep with the multilayer power-folding fabric top; with the top up the cabin feels like a cocoon. Then there is the crown jewel of Mercedes-Benz’s convertible technology: Airscarf. Happily back on the menu after a brief absence due to a patent lawsuit, it blows warm air through vents in the front headrests, allowing those in cold climates to extend convertible season late into the fall. During our drive on a 90-degree afternoon, however, we wondered why Mercedes hasn’t routed cool air through those vents, too.

S-class Amenities

This new E-class can be equipped with so much technology and so many luxury features that the uninitiated may mistake it for an S-class. The seats are wrapped in heat-reflecting leather as standard, while nappa leather is available. Two of the several available interior trims feature natural-grain wood. Adjustable, 64-shade ambient lighting, an aromatherapy system, and massaging seats are on the options list, too. A package of optional active-safety technology allows the E-class to cruise autonomously for brief stretches—say, a minute or so—before it requests that the driver put a hand on the wheel.

The end result of the E400 cabriolet’s supremely competent engineering and cosseting appointments is a vehicle that a middle-aged Bertie Wooster might take to his summer home—agile enough to beetle through a hilly countryside but still befitting drivers of a certain status. Of course, this sort of transit comes at a price, and we won’t know the tally on the luxe options until closer to the car’s late-2017 release date. Still, there are few true four-seat, luxury convertibles. We’d recommend a droptop S-class, but it’s summertime, so the leisure class is in Saint Barthélemy and not reading this review. For the rest of us, the E400 cabriolet is all the luxury convertible we’d need.