Mercedes E-Class cabrio car for all seasons
Mercedes-Banz's E-Class cabriolet gives drivers the best of both worlds – good to drive, comfortable to own.
Recent years have seen the rise in popularity of the diesel convertible. Drop-tops are all about refinement and poise, and old-tech, clattery diesel motors lacked both attributes in spades, which is why manufacturers backed away from offering such a combination.
Now, though, the situation is a lot different. Smooth, quiet, low-vibration motors are the norm. As such, it's much easier to be decadent and frugal at the same time.
And this is all the more important at the premium end of the market. Think about it – do you really want to lower the roof on your high-end convertible if the reward is feeling as if you're being followed everywhere by a tractor?
BMW, Audi and Mercedes all possess fine diesel engines, and it's the latter's E-Class Cabriolet that offers a particularly fine blend of performance, refinement and style.
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Replacing the long-running and popular CLK, the convertible E-Class retains the fabric roof concept of its predecessor and boasts the same sharp-suited looks of its coupe cousin.
Stowing in less than 20 seconds, the roof leaves an attractive profile in its absence. On the reverse journey, it rises into place in an eerily-hushed manner. Mercedes claims the fabric roof offers the same rollover resistance as the fixed-head coupe, which is an impressive feat.
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Maintaining the decadent theme, the flagship E350 CDI diesel offers an impressive blend of performance and refinement. Although the V8 petrol variant attracts the most attention, in the real world the six-cylinder diesel is easily its match thanks to 231bhp and a muscular 398lb/ft of torque. That's good enough to sprint to 62mph from standstill in 6.9 seconds and, although not at the same time, return 40.4mpg on the combined cycle.
Just for good measure, if you wish to capitalise on the engine's talents, opting for the Sport model adds a subtle, but attractive, bodykit and noticeably firmer ride set-up that should please keen drivers. The presence of a chunky steering wheel complete with paddle-shifters connected to the standard seven-speed auto gearbox is another plus.
On the road the flagship diesel motor is well suited to the sports-biased E350 CDI. The engine's elastic power delivery ensures that you never run out of puff on the hills, while its relaxed nature allows you to cruise effortlessly on motorways.
The car's responsive gearbox quickly and seamlessly zips up through the gears to maximise fuel economy, while taking control yourself results in snappy responses whenever you choose to use the chunky steering wheel paddle-shifters. As for noise, at modest speeds there's the usual Mercedes trademark distant diesel thrum. Step up the pace, however, and the thrum changes to a purposeful growl.
A handy performer when you want it to be, this particular E-Class drop-top is a surprisingly effective machine. In the past few people associated Mercedes with sporting mainstream cars, but recent years have seen a subtle, but growing, trend towards sharpening up the range. Now, be it C, E or any other class, the driving experience is more engaging and enjoyable.
It's not all aboutdriving, though. The E-Class Cabriolet feels solid roof up or down, with scuttle shake virtually eradicated and an ability to ride bumps that's within touching distance of the E-Class Coupe.
And thanks to a spacious cabin, the impressive level of interior refinement and high quality materials can be enjoyed by four occupants. A genuine four-seater, the rear can accept two adults with the car's large doors and automatic sliding seats making access easy.
As befits a car in this price bracket the level of standard equipment is generous, with electric everything – including the roof – plus a host of safety kit and a high standard of in-car entertainment.
Combining V8 petrol levels of performance with the frugal nature of something much smaller, the E350 CDI is the right sort of compromise. Factor in the Sport variant's looks and its ability to both cosset and thrill in equal measure and it really is a car for all seasons.
MERCEDES-BENZ E350 CDI SPORT
Price: from �42,260 on the road
Engine: 3.0-litre, 231bhp turbo diesel
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic driving the rear wheels
Performance: 0-62mph 6.9 seconds; top speed 155mph (limited)
CO2 Rating: 189g/km