Some pundits have said the convertible segment is dying. Mercedes-Benz thinks otherwise. Why else would it launch yet another open-top model? With the new E-class cabriolet, the lineup now features a remarkable six convertibles: the C-, E-, and S-class (including a Maybach derivative), the SLC-class, the SL-class, and the AMG GT roadster. And that’s not counting the zany Mercedes-Maybach G650 Landaulet, because only 99 will be built, none of which are destined for U.S. sale.
The new E-class convertible, making its debut next week at the Geneva auto show, is arguably the most beautiful. The shoulder line, which takes the expression of a crease in the C- and S-class, is artfully integrated on the E-class, with no sharp radii. The taillights are slim and horizontal. Even with the optional AMG Line styling package, the car looks subdued and elegant, although the standard trim looks better in our opinion.
This convertible benefits from the generous size of its new platform. Compared with its predecessor, the car is 5.0 inches longer and 2.9 inches wider and rides on a 4.4-inch-longer wheelbase. The rear seats are more spacious than before; they also offer available heaters. In a way, this is the first real E-class convertible since the W124 of the early and mid-1990s. That car was replaced by the CLK, which had far more in common with the smaller C-class. The outgoing E-class coupe and cabriolet continued that approach, sharing their track and wheelbase dimensions with the C. The new model, like the new 2018 E-class coupe, is based on the E-class sedan—for real. And that certainly helps to differentiate it from the C-class cabriolet.
Perhaps the only unfortunate part is that there’s no V-8 in the E-class lineup, except for the Mercedes-AMG E63 that won’t be offered as a cabriolet. U.S. buyers get a 329-hp twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6, sold under the E400 moniker. Down the road, there might be a 3.0-liter inline-six boosted by an electric supercharger and a turbocharger, offering more than 400 horsepower and marketed as the AMG E50. But such a model is still some way off; for now, the E400 is it. Its twin-turbo V-6 is paired with a nine-speed automatic, and 4MATIC all-wheel drive is optional for the first time.
The E-class convertible’s power-operated fabric top is heavily padded, has interior roof lighting, and comes in four colors: red, black, dark blue, and dark brown. The windshield frame is finished in polished or matte aluminum, depending on the trim. Judging from our prototype ride, it will be virtually impossible to tell the cabriolet from a coupe from the inside when the top is up. When it’s down—an exercise that takes just 20 seconds and can be performed at speeds up to 30 mph—the available Airscarf system, which blows warm air around the necks of the front passengers, combines with the Mercedes Aircap bar, which rises from the windshield header to create a less drafty environment in chilly weather.
Just one example of the Mercedes attention to detail: An optional version of the windshield wipers—carrying the somewhat unfortunate name Magic Vision Control—features specific programming for the convertible. When the top is lowered, windshield-washer fluid is dispensed chiefly while the wipers are moving downward, so the occupants don’t get sprayed. Of course the convertible will offer all the regular E-class sedan features, including the available digital instrument cluster, air suspension, and adaptive cruise control with steering assist.
Pricing hasn’t been announced, as the car won’t reach dealers until late 2017. We expect, however, that the E400 cabriolet will sticker in the mid-$60,000 range, positioned between BMW’s 4-series and 6-series convertibles and close to the Audi S5 cabriolet.