What Car? says...
It’s a big investment buying a swanky convertible car such as the Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet and it's hard to justify on an objective level. So just think about it this way: you’ve put in the hours, you’ve dealt with the stress and office politics (just) and you've spent far too many sunny weekends inside poring over spreadsheets.
For all your efforts, you’ve just banked a healthy cheque and, well, why not treat yourself? Seeing as you need to make up for all that lost vitamin D, this droptop version of the Mercedes C-Class Coupé would actually be the healthy option and, as long as it seats four, you'd be able to make up for the lost time with your dearly beloved.
So there you are – no need to feel guilty any longer. Now you just need to know whether the C-Class Cabriolet is any good – or should you be looking at an Audi A5 Cabriolet or BMW 4 Series Convertible instead?
Keep reading on over the following pages to found out and get our recommendations on which engines and trims will suit you best. Whichever model you decide to buy, make sure you get it for the best price by using our free What Car? New Car Deals pages. They list lots of great new convertible car deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
With 120kg of extra strengthening to compensate for the missing roof, it’s fair to say – and hardly surprising – that the C-Class Cabriolet isn’t as light on its toes as the Mercedes C-Class Coupé. However, the differences are smaller than you might think.
The entry-level diesel, the C220d, feels reasonably brisk, although for not much more you could go for the more powerful C300d, which is that bit quicker. Although these engines are hushed at a cruise, they do generate more racket than equivalent diesels in the Audi A5 Cabriolet.
Even so, we’d still choose a diesel C-Class Cabriolet over the four-cylinder C200 and C300 petrols; these don’t really feel that much quicker or smoother to justify their extra thirstiness. There’s an entry-level C180 as well, but we suspect this will feel rather sluggish.
However, the six-cylinder AMG C43 is a different ball game; its sports exhaust emits a pleasantly fruity noise and, with 385bhp, it feels properly rapid. But, thanks to standard four-wheel drive, it isn't at all lairy, even in slippery conditions.
Which isn’t a statement you’d necessarily apply to the wonderfully exciting AMG C63 models. Whether you choose the 469bhp standard version or the 503bhp S model, these twin-turbocharged V8 monsters are hugely fast but, with rear-wheel drive, a tad wayward, too. They're awesome fun, though, so if you’re interested in the AMG versions, head to our separate review by clicking here.
In the bends, the regular cars (in AMG Line trim) grip well but aren’t particularly exciting. Granted, through fast corners, even these suffer from some body lean, but once settled into a corner they feel planted and stable. The C43 is better, but still doesn’t feel that thrilling in the bends. That said, the heavy BMW 4 Series Convertible offers no greater sense of fun.
The two C63 models come with adjustable suspension as standard, resulting in rather more pin-sharp handling. They also have reworked steering that offers much better weighting and consistency than the standard cars.
And what of ride comfort? Well, at speed over undulations, the suspension deals pretty ably with surface imperfections. On really scarred roads, you feel some thumping through your seat, so it's worth adding the reasonably priced adjustable air suspension that mostly helps to smooth that out.
There is a little bit of scuttle shake – that shuddering sensation through the body that often affects convertible cars – but it’s no worse than in rivals. There is a manual option on the C180, but we have yet to try it. Most models instead come with a smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic that’s even better than Audi’s dual-clutch versions. Just don’t expect snappy responses to manual inputs from the gearshift paddles.
The interior layout, fit and finish
With swanky-looking trims and man-made or genuine leather, the Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet’s interior looks and feels more special than in an equivalent BMW 4 Series Convertible even if it doesn’t impart the robust integrity of an Audi A5 Cabriolet. And the optional 13-speaker Burmester surround sound system is one of the best stereos on the market.
Every car comes with at least part-electric front seats – including lumbar adjustment and memory recall – and steering column adjustment to help you find a well-fitting driving position. All the controls are also easy to reach and the 10.25in infotainment screen, with sat-nav included, is mounted usefully high up on the dashboard. Unfortunately, it isn’t as intuitive as BMW’s iDrive system.
With the roof down, there’s very little buffeting in the interior and, with it up, the fabric lining does a great job of shutting out unwanted road noise. You get some wind flutter at 70mph from around the door mirrors, but it's not overbearing.
All C-Class Cabriolets have the clever Mercedes Airscarf system. This places air vents just beneath the headrests to blow warm air onto your neck. With heated seats also standard, you can enjoy going topless all year round.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Front space is excellent, even for the tallest of folk. For the two rear passengers, things are less appealing. With the hood up, head room is very tight for those above average height, and the lack of leg room and upright seatbacks mean that, for anyone other than kids, the back of a BMW 4 Series Convertible is a more appealing place.
With the roof up, the C-Class Cabriolet has a bigger boot than that in a 4 Series Convertible, with enough space for a couple of mid-sized suitcases. You can also drop the rear seatbacks to gain extra length, although the shallow boot opening prevents you from getting bulky items inside. If you retract the roof, it severely restricts the boot’s height and robs it of space, immediately rendering it far less practical.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet costs about the same as the BMW 4 Series Convertible but comes with a better level of standard equipment. This includes 18in alloy wheels, LED headlights, faux-leather seats, keyless entry, climate control, heated and part-electrically adjustable front seats, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, a wind deflector and the Airscarf system.
The standalone C43 adds four-wheel drive, adjustable suspension and even racier styling. The diesel models have some of the lowest CO2 emissions in the class – something that will appeal to business users. They should prove economical, too.
Euro NCAP has awarded the C-Class Cabriolet a full five-star safety rating and scores in each category stand up well against its rivals. Automatic emergency braking and a driver attention monitor are standard across the range, while an optional safety pack adds features such as blindspot monitoring and lane keep assist.
Mercedes did pretty well, if not spectacularly, in our most recent reliability survey, placing 11th out of 40 manufacturers, and while the warranty period is only three years, the mileage you can do in that time is unlimited.
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