Mercedes-Benz E300 Cabriolet: The Convenient Convertible

Well-equipped, classy, comfortable and convenient for even wintertime top-down motoring, the latest Mercedes-Benz E300 Cabriolet is – on paper – an all-round improvement with elegant yet mildly retro-influenced design and improved infotainment, assistance systems and efficiency. Driving the new E300 Cabriolet in 25th anniversary guise, we didn’t like the cream steering wheel in particular, and found that the old one had a more assertive design, better seating, more familiar controls and maybe even a more involved driving experience.

Sat right in the middle of a broad range of two-seat roadster and four-seat boulevardier convertibles offered across the Mercedes-Benz range, the E-Class Cabriolet is the exhaustively well-equipped and luxurious second largest executive segment entry of the latter. One of the safest, most practical and comfortable ways to do open-top motoring, the E300 version tested also sits in the middle with the most highly developed four-cylinder engine in the E-Class Cabriolet range providing brisk pace, flexibility and refinement, combined with good efficiency and a lower annual registration fee bracket than bigger engine models.

Arriving last year and a quarter century years after Mercedes’ first E-Class convertible model, the new E300 Cabriolet has a tough act to follow in its well-rounded immediate predecessor. That said, the new model is a longer, wider and taller car with longer wheelbase for improved cabin space. Using more sophisticated aluminium and steel hybrid construction incorporating high strength adhesives, it nevertheless retains a similar weight at 1,780kg. And with added body strengthening, it well compensates for the body rigidity in the absence of a fixed-head roof, but at cost of additional weight.

Sporting a snoutier and wider single-slat grille with central tri-star emblem and flanked by slimmer, more heavily browed LED lights, the new E-Class Cabriolet also features dual bonnet ridges and slimmer and wider rear lights for a more potent aesthetic. Nevertheless, the overall look is of a less aggressive and road-hugging – even with optional 20-inch alloys – but is a smoother and more elegantly flowing design. Driven in 25th anniversary edition exactly as pictured, the brown paint – or Rubellite Red in Mercedes-speak – well accentuates the Cabriolet’s subtle contours and the vague hint of the nostalgic about its curvatures and stance.

Powered by the most powerful of Mercedes’ non-AMG 2-litre turbocharged direct injection 4-cylinder engines, the E300 develops a noticeably gradual more punch than 181BHP E200 and 208BHP E250 models. Refined and smooth, the E300 is a relatively low-revving engine and develops its maximum 241BHP at 5,500rpm, while generous 272lb/ft torque is available throughout a broad and accessible 1,400-4,000rpm mid-range band, during which overtaking and inclines are dispatched confidently quick. Quick spooling, the E300 suffers only very slight turbo lag from idle, but covers the 0-100km/h dash in just 6.6-seconds, and is capable of a 250km/h top speed.

Driving rear wheels through a 9-speed gearbox with a broad range of closely spaced ratios, the E300 benefits from consistent and versatile power delivery. The 9-speed unit also delivers improved performance in low gears and better efficiency in higher gears, than its 7-speed predecessor, including 6.8l/100km on the combined cycle. Gear changes slick and quick, but with emphasis on smoothness rather than outright speed, but more aggressively sporty or paddle-shaft manual gear changes can be engaged from the drive mode infotainment screen menu. Meanwhile brakes were reassuringly firm and consistent during test drive.

Refined and reassuringly planted on motorways as typical of Mercedes, the E300 Cabriolet also seemed a more rigid car than its predecessor, with no obvious signs of body flex at speed or through corners, as driven on smooth Dubai roads, rather than less the perfect Jordanian B-roads, where the outgoing E-Class Cabriolet was driven for previous review. Settled on what little depressions, crest and rebounds one came across, the E300 Cabriolet was comfortable in most cases over but the sharpest speed restriction bumps, even as fitted with optional staggered 245/35R20 front and 275/30R20 rear tyres.

Tidy into corners with good front grip and quick smooth steering, the E300 Cabriolet has a nice compromise between ride comfort and body control from its suspension settings, and was balanced and gripped well at the rear when leaned on and when one dials in power progressively. However with sudden mid-corner acceleration, its rear wheels would kick out into the beginning of a drift before electronic stability control quickly steps in. Driving with its well insulated top up, the Cabriolet is refined and quiet inside, while a powerful A/C and cooled seats even allowed some top down driving in the searing heat.

An even better convertible driving proposition for cold winter months, the E300 Cabriolet’s heated seats strong heater, neck-level Airscarf heating, and rear and optional front Aircap wind deflectors maintain a warm cocoon and minimize wind buffeting, even for rear seat passengers. Highly well equipped and convenient, its electric-operated roof opens and closes in 20-seconds, while a tight turning circle and around-view, reversing and parking monitors and assists make it maneuverable in confined spaces. Additional equipment includes a user-friendly connective infotainment system with touchpad controls and highly adjustable driving position for comfort and support.

Spacious in front and ergonomically laid out, the E300 Cabriolet’s elegant cabin features four round centre air vents, two huge cowled infotainment and instrument screens to prevent reflections, while controls and buttons are intuitive. Much best in darker colours inside, one felt that the 25th anniversary edition driven was somewhat overstated in terms of trim colours, which included light wood accents, brown/red dash and upper trim in conjunction with cream leather lower upholstering and steering wheel. In terms of technology, the E-Class Cabriolet is offered with a broad range of standard and optional driver assistance systems, including automatic remote parking ability.

Mercedes-Benz E300 Cabriolet

  • Engine: 2-litre, turbocharged, in-line 4-cylinders
  • Bore x stroke: 83 x 92mm
  • Compression ratio: 9.8:1
  • Valve-train: 16-valve, DOHC, variable timing, direct injection
  • Gearbox: 9-speed automatic, rear-wheel-drive
  • Ratios: 1st 5.35; 2nd 3.24; 3rd 2.25; 4th 1.64; 5th 1.21; 6th 1.0; 7th 0.86; 8th 0.72; 9th 0.6
  • Reverse / final drive ratios: 4.8 / 3.07
  • Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 241 (245) [180] @5,500rpm
  • Specific power: 121BHP/litre
  • Power-to-weight: 135.4BHP/ton
  • Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 272 (370) @1,400-4,000rpm
  • Specific torque: 185.8Nm/litre
  • Torque-to-weight: 207.8Nm/ton
  • 0-100km/h: 6.6-seconds
  • Top speed: 250km/h
  • Fuel economy, combined: 6.8-litres/100km
  • CO2 emissions, combined: 154g/km
  • Fuel capacity: 66-litres
  • Length: 4,826mm
  • Width: 1,860mm
  • Height: 1,428mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,873mm
  • Track, F/R: 1,605/1,609mm
  • Overhang, F/R: 841/1,112mm
  • Aerodynamic drag co-efficient: 0.29
  • Headroom, F/R: 1,034/925mm
  • Shoulder room, F/R: 1,424/1,228mm
  • Boot capacity, maximum: 385-litres
  • Unladen weight: 1,780kg
  • Suspension: Multi-link
  • Steering: Electric-assisted rack & pinion
  • Brakes: Ventilated discs
  • Tyres, F/R: 245/35R20 / 275/30R20 (optional)
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