What Car? says...
Big, graceful convertible cars seem ten-a-penny these days, but few do it quite like the Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet.
The E-Class Cabriolet has long been the archetypal four-seat convertible, and the original 300CE of 1991 earned itself a reputation for being able to transport four people, top down, in comfort, luxury, and with more than a little panache.
That's the reputation the current E-Class Cabriolet has to live up to. This drop-top slots in between the smaller Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet and larger Mercedes S-Class Cabriolet, and aims to provide a car with greater luxury and space than the former, but without the vast and slightly unwieldy proportions of the latter.
To an extent, therefore, it is in a class of one. With the C-Class, Mercedes has arch-rivals from BMW and Audi to contend with, but neither of those manufacturers fields a soft-top quite like this in the luxury car class.
What’s to stop you just buying one of those smaller convertibles instead? It’s a question many buyers will ask, so read on to see if the Mercedes E-Class acquits itself well enough to justify its higher price.
This review will cover its performance, handling, running costs and lots of other factors which you'll be thinking about when you're choosing your new convertible.
When you've decided which make and model suits your needs best, make sure you get it for the best price by searching our free What Car? New Car Buying service. It could save you thousands of pounds and features some good Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
There are four engine options so far, all turbocharged: two 2.0-litre four-cylinders, a 191bhp diesel and a 242bhp petrol, badged E220 d and E300 respectively; and two 3.0-litre V6s, a 254bhp diesel (we have yet to drive this model) and a 328bhp petrol, known in turn as the E350 d and E400. The two latter engines come as standard with four-wheel drive.
While the E400 is the most potent of the lot, it isn’t an engine that will slap you in the face with its performance. Instead, it delivers its big hit of power and torque in a more subtle and less overt manner, picking up its skirts and heading for the horizon with very little fuss.
And yet, the lesser E300, which has to make do with two fewer cylinders, doesn’t feel a whole lot slower than the range topper. Mash your right foot into the carpet and the E300 completes the run from 0-62mph in just 6.4sec, and with Sport Plus mode selected, throttle response is sharp, gearshifts are slick and you’re even treated to the odd artificial parp when changing up.
Where the E300 lets itself down, however, is on refinement. At lower speeds, it can be hard to ignore the engine’s rather gruff four-cylinder thrum. It also lacks the low-down shove of the entry-level E220 d – an engine that is expected to be the best-seller of the range.
Granted, with only 192bhp, you could argue that the E220 d looks a bit underpowered on paper. However, the relaxed pace of the diesel engine feels suitable in a top-down cruiser – this is not a car to be driven aggressively. Roll on performance is also surprisingly impressive and will prove perfectly adequate for most E-Class Cabriolet buyers.
Whichever model you choose, there’s a spot of engine noise when you push the E-Class Cabriolet hard, but it’s kept reasonably under control. And the same applies wind and road noise; with the top down, the standard wind deflector system means buffeting is kept to a minimum, and even on the motorway it’s quiet enough to have a conversation with your passenger. Raise the roof – it takes 20 seconds and can be operated at anywhere up to 31mph – and the sense of quietness and isolation is even more impressive.
There are two types of suspension available: a standard steel-sprung system, which we haven’t had the chance to drive yet, and the optional air suspension system – not cheap, but worth the extra cost because it gives the E-Class a beautifully floaty ride that’s only ever troubled by the roughest of road surfaces, even when fitted with large wheels.
One of the advantages of this system is that you can stiffen up the suspension and adjust the steering, throttle and gearbox response at the touch of a button. You get to choose between four pre-set modes, but can also mix and match settings with an Individual mode.
However, even in Sport Plus mode – with the car at its stiffest and sharpest – the E-Class feels quite big and heavy, and a little uncomfortable if you try pushing it hard through a set of challenging bends. At the limit, its tendency is to push its nose wide gently and safely, and while it always feels stable and grippy, the numb steering means there’s little enjoyment to be had.
It’s better, in fact, to leave the E-Class Cabriolet in Comfort mode. This means you get even more body lean, but the flip side is that the suspension soaks up bumps and allows you to lope along in a more relaxed manner.
In the E400, of course, you get lots more traction thanks to the four-wheel drive-system, although the extra weight of this means the model feels a little less light on its feet than the smaller-engined cars.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Mercedes is on a roll with its interiors at the moment, and the E-Class Cabriolet is no exception. A huge tranche of wood or metal, depending on your choice of options, spans the width of the dashboard and extends along the doors. Above and below this sit high-quality plastics and glossy switches that operate with satisfying smoothness, and the whole thing is put together with the sort of class and solidity you’d expect.
Unfortunately, the vast 12.3in colour screen for the satellite navigation and entertainment systems that you see in the pictures only comes as standard on the E400. And while you can upgrade the 8.4in item that comes with the E220 d and E300, it’s a costly option. However, you do get a more advanced sat-nav, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot all thrown in, to soften the blow.
As you’d expect from a big, plush cruiser like this one, the seats are very comfortable, with plenty of support all round. Electric adjustment comes as standard on every model, and that means it’s a doddle to find a seating position that suits.
Seeing out of the E-Class Cabriolet is less easy, though. The high bonnet means the nose disappears from view, while the thick pillars can obscure traffic at junctions at roundabouts. With the roof down, rear visibility is obviously very good, but with it up, the rear windscreen is very small, limiting the view to a postbox-like slot. Fortunately, you get parking sensors front and rear as standard, which helps matters when manoeuvring.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Impressively, the E-Class Cabriolet offers the same amount of head room for rear passengers as the Coupe version on which it is based. The trouble is, leg room is reduced, as is the size of the seat base itself, meaning while you can fit adults in the back, you’ll only be able to do so for a short time before they start complaining. Space is much better up front, mind you, with plenty of room for the driver and passenger in every direction, even with the roof up.
However, while the boot capacity on offer doesn’t sound bad – 310 litres with the roof down, 385 with it raised – the space itself is wide and flat, meaning certain bits of luggage will fit easily, but others won’t. You can fold the rear seats forward in a 50:50 split, however, which is very handy.
You’ll find plenty of room to store odds and ends in the E-Class Cabriolet, with a vast bin in the centre of the car between the two seats, and another lidded compartment directly ahead. The door bins and glovebox are equally capacious. In the back, there’s a pair of cupholders located between the two rear seats, which is probably enough given that those seats will only ever be occasional at best.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet’s pricing makes it feel like something of an oddity. In some ways, it’s actually quite decent value, because the entry level models only cost a few thousand pounds more than the equivalent Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet, which is a smaller car with less space and a less swanky interior, and its rivals.
That said, as you move up the range into the six-cylinder, four-wheel drive cars, the prices rise exorbitantly, so you’re better off sticking with one of the four-cylinder engines. And of those, we’d stick with the E220d, partly because it provides all the performance most E-Class Cabriolet drivers will ever need, but mostly because it’s the most frugal option by far, and its carbon dioxide emissions render it the cheapest to tax.
Mercedes came an unimpressive joint 22nd out of 30 brands in our 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey. While it does offer a three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty, that isn’t exactly exceptional in the E-Class Cabriolet’s class.
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|RRP price range||£56,255 - £80,520|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||6|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||diesel, petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||29.4 - 48.7|
|Available doors options||2|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£3,778 / £5,839|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£7,555 / £11,679|