The British response to the beginning of summer is one of unbridled optimism. As early as April, we’re often pulling out the family barbecue, heading to our nearest beach or, let’s not forget, making the rather irrational decision of buying a drop-top.
That’s right, despite the UK's notoriously unreliable weather, when it comes to European sales of drop-tops, we’re second only to Germany. So, it makes sense that Mercedes would want to secure a piece of this lucrative market by developing a convertible version of its popular C-Class.
Like its saloon, estate and coupé brethren, the Cabriolet comes with a wide range of engines and trim choices, but we suspect the entry-level diesel models, like the C 220 d we’re testing here, will prove to be the most popular.
Under its bonnet sits a 2.1-litre diesel engine that’s good for 168bhp and 295lb ft of low-rev pulling power. When we tested the Coupé version of the C 220 d earlier this year we found the engine powerful enough for most situations and, combined with Mercedes’ new nine-speed automatic gearbox, it claims an impressive 61.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 121g/km.
What is the 2016 Mercedes Cabriolet C 220 d like to drive?
With 120kg of extra of strengthening to compensate for the missing roof, it’s hardly surprising that the Cabriolet isn’t as good to drive as the Coupé. However, the difference is less stark than you might imagine.
The Cabriolet feels stable and well balanced, with our test car's stiffer AMG Line suspension doing its best to disguise the extra weight. Granted, through fast corners there is some body lean, but once the car settles into a corner it feels planted and stable.
Yet despite the sporty AMG Line trim, it’s best to treat the C 220 d as a cruiser rather than a sports car. With the roof down there’s very little buffeting in the cabin and, with it up, the fabric lining does a great job of shutting out unwanted noise. At higher speeds you get a fraction of wind whistle from around the door mirrors, but it’s far from unacceptable.
Around town, the Cabriolet is equally adept. In Comfort mode the steering is light but precise, while the suspension deals pretty well with surface imperfections. On really scarred roads you feel some thumping through your seat, but if our experience of the Coupé is anything to go by, the optional (£895) air suspension should smooth that out. There’s no obviously signs of scuttle shake – a shuddering sensation that often affects convertibles – and the new nine-speed auto gearbox also shifts gears seamlessly.
That said, when you do finally get the opportunity to put your foot down, the gruff-sounding diesel engine taints what would otherwise be a very refined package. Outright performance certainly isn’t a problem, but during acceleration the engine sounds coarse. The engine in the rival BMW 420d Convertible is hardly whisper quiet, but it’s less intrusive.
What is the 2016 Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet C 220 d like inside?
With swathes of gloss aluminium and manmade leather, the C-Class Cabriolet’s interior looks and feels more special than an equivalent BMW 4 Series Convertible’s. And the optional 13-speaker Burmester surround sound system is one of the best stereos on the market.
Unsurprisingly, the Cabriolet can’t match the Coupé when it comes to space. The addition of an electric hood significantly reduces the head room in the back and the limited rear leg room also make long distance trips a challenge for more than just you and your passenger.
Boot space has also been vastly reduced compared with the Coupé. With the roof up there’s a relatively generous 355 litres of space, but with the rood down, space reduces significantly. You’ll have difficulty squeezing in anything bigger than a medium-sized suitcase, although the same goes for the rival BMW 4 Series.
As standard, the C 220 d comes equipped with an impressive array of kit including keyless start, a Garmin Map Pilot navigation system, a self-parking system, heated front seats, LED headlights and Mercedes’ Airscarf system that can blow warm air around your neck. Meanwhile, for £1495 extra, optional AMG Line trim adds an sporty looking bodykit, bigger alloy wheels, a diamond front grille and 15mm lowered sports suspension.
Should I buy one?
The 4 Series Convertible might just have the edge over the C-Class Cabriolet in the handling stakes, but the Mercedes is the more complete package. It’s more comfortable, classier inside and is also more economical than its German rival.
If you’re looking for strong performance, the more powerful C 250 d is the one to go for, but we found the C 220 d to be plenty quick enough for a car that excels best as a top-down cruiser. It’s just a pity the engine isn’t a little quieter.
What Car? says...
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Audi A5 Cabriolet
Mercedes-Benz C 220 d Cabriolet
Engine size 2.1-litre diesel
Price from £40,080
Torque 295lb ft
Top speed 144mph
Fuel economy (official combined) 61.4mpg
CO2/BIK band 121g/km/24%