Traditionally, those who loved cabriolets have always had to look beyond their quirks and imperfections, which, incidentally were many. Awkward styling when roof is up, scuttle shake, inferior structural rigidity, having to go through a tedious mechanical procedure to fold the roof down, and dealing with wind buffeting once the roof was down, all had to be accepted willingly for the privilege of enjoying open-top motoring’s desirable aspects. However, over the years, with the massive advancements in design and engineering the gap between cabriolets and coupés have narrowed, aesthetically, dynamically and in terms of comfort and convenience.

The new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet exemplifies this better than any other drop-top in recent times. It looks as great as the E-Class coupé with the top closed, and is significantly more attractive with the roof down. From every angle, it looks as elegant as you’d expect a modern Mercedes convertible to be. The class and sophistication of the exterior is seamlessly carried over into the cabin, which is as impeccably built and as meticulously crafted in the choicest materials as the interior of an S-Class cabrio’s. While open-pore wood, plush fine grain leather and aluminium accents add to the cabin’s air of prestige, the twin 12.3in display, the latest infotainment features and touch-sensitive interfaces remind you of how modern and contemporary the innards are. It also features highly customisable ambient lighting, along with fragrance diffusing and ionisation systems much like the flagship S-Class coupé’s.

 

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Photos: Stefan Lindeque

Photos: Stefan Lindeque

Seats are comfortable, well-bolstered and ventilated up front with lots of legroom for adult drivers and passengers of above-average height. But what’s even more heartening to see is the space available for rear occupants. Thanks to the longer wheelbase compared to its predecessor, the new E-Class cabrio can now accommodate two average sized adults in comfort at the back. Cargo space is also reasonably good with 385 litres available in the boot with the roof up, and a handy 310 litres with the soft-top stowed.

Speaking of the fabric top, it can be electrically opened and closed in just 20 seconds, even at speeds up to 50kph. At the touch of a single button, all four windows wind down, leaving just the front windshield between you and the elements. Thanks to the ‘air cap’ system that creates a curtain of air above the windscreen, buffeting is minimal, making it easy to have a conversation without having to scream even at around 100kph. The E 300 also gets the ‘air scarf’ system that push warm air around your neck to keep you comfortable on wintry nights. The only disadvantages of the air cap at the front and the draught stopper nets at the back are that they take away from the convertible’s otherwise elegant looks. I found myself deactivating them many times, especially when driving at city speeds so that the car, and in turn I, looked good!

 

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Photos: Stefan Lindeque

The E 300 variant tested here has a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine under its bonnet that sends 245bhp and 370Nm of torque to the rear wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission. As you can imagine it’s no tarmac scorcher, but the 0-100kph progress, which is done in 6.6 seconds according to official figures, seems quite satisfactory and the powertrain does not feel wanting, but if you’re looking for a more adrenaline-charged experience behind the wheel, you should go for the E 400, powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6.

The E300’s suspension and chassis afford a ride that is befitting a premium convertible, while also contributing to the relatively composed and poised driving dynamics. The steering is well-weighted and the brakes inspire confidence despite the drop-top’s considerable size and girth. It’s no sportscar, but it’s also devoid of the many dynamic shortcomings that convertibles of olden days were plagued with.

 

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Photos: Stefan Lindeque

It also comes packed with the impressive safety and convenience features that won the E-Class saloon the coveted wheels Executive Saloon of the Year award last year.  These include Active Parking Assist, 360-degree camera, electric folding and auto-dimming mirrors, Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus, Active Brake Assist, Run-flat tyres, Head-up Display, Burmester surround sound system, Tyre pressure monitoring system, Lane Tracking package, Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist and  smartphone integration among others.

The latest iteration of Stuttgart’s mid-size cabriolet brings all the great qualities of the E-Class saloon into a package that manages to keep out the traditional deficiencies of a convertible. If that sounds like a winning combination to you, you’re not far from the truth.

 

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