Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet
You know Mercedes-Benz’s E-class lineup strums the right nerve when we’re vouching for this four-seat convertible variant using its filial relationship to the lovely E400-badged station wagon. The entire six-cylinder E-class family—which also includes a four-door sedan and a two-door coupe as well as the AMG-badged E43 sports sedan—ascended to our 10Best Cars list for 2018, and for good reason: They’re so incredibly well built, stylish, and luxurious that you can’t help but think Mercedes could charge even more for them.
Where the E400 sedan stands as a stoic totem to German luxury-sedan competence and the coupe anchors the sporty end of the lineup, the cabriolet elicits a sense of “damn, I’ve made it” awe. Walking up to the cabriolet, pressing and holding the unlock button on the key fob, and watching the roof lower before your eyes, you’ll experience a feeling similar to walking into a Ritz-Carlton hotel suite while on vacation.
On other E-class models, Mercedes’ gorgeous interior design and fit and finish are private enjoyments for their occupants. Lower the cabrio’s roof, however, and they’re on full display for everyone. Buyers’ ordering choices have an outsize effect on the visual wattage, of course. Skip right past a boring black leather interior to the two-tone options such as the Designo Macchiato Beige and Titian Red nappa scheme ($4200, plus $3250 for the required Premium 1 package) or, as our car came optioned, the no-cost Macchiato Beige and Yacht Blue layout with $150 light-brown elm trim. Although we noticed the light-colored leather on the seats and steering wheel was already suffering some discoloration in this low-mileage test car, it unquestionably pops next to the navy blue leather lining the upper door panels, rear parcel shelf, and dashtop pad. Surely owners will be a cleaner bunch than the grubby ranks of auto journalists, anyhow.
Solid Goods, This
With its blue-colored soft top—another no-cost option; red, black, and dark brown also are available—our Iridium Silver metallic E400 looked French Riviera ready. Since there are no rivieras near our Ann Arbor, Michigan, headquarters, we cruised a lot of battered roads instead. (One of those roads does run alongside a river, briefly.) These more taxing environs might not have the E400’s glamour, but they certainly provided ample opportunity for the E-class’s fundamental excellence to shine.
Take, for example, the Benz’s stout underlying structure, which survives the cabrio’s roof scalping with minimal flexion even when negotiating steep driveway entrances. Leave the thickly padded, fully headlined top up, and you’d swear you were in a fixed-roof coupe, so quiet is the cabin at highway speeds.
And even riding on its available 19-inch AMG-branded wheels wrapped in summer tires ($500, along with the required $2500 AMG styling package), the cabriolet floats down the road in its default Comfort mode. Thumbing the console-mounted driving-mode switch to the Sport or Sport+ settings hardly degrades the ride, even though the adaptive dampers firm up in those modes. Benz’s Air Body Control air springs (a $1900 splurge that came fitted to our E400) allows a gentle bob or two from the body over big pavement heaves, no matter what setting the driver has selected.
With the top and side windows lowered and the speedometer reading a steady 50 to 60 mph, the Mercedes feels like a small, upscale speedboat. Catching glints of sunlight off the wood and chrome on the dashboard and hearing the gentle burble of the 329-hp twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6’s exhalations only reinforces the nautical sensation.
What’s the Hurry?
Should you prod the E400 to move out in a hurry, it will. The Sport and Sport+ driving modes poke a stick in the V-6’s responses and send the nine-speed automatic transmission scrambling for lower gears, cracking off zesty rev-matched downshifts along the way. Our E400 with 4Matic all-wheel drive reached 60 mph in just 5.2 seconds, and with its Michelin summer touring tires, it generated 0.88 g of lateral grip around our skidpad.
As in the similarly athletic E400 wagon, however, these capabilities rank as mere luxuries, something to experience should you want to but not the reason you’d buy this car. Nothing about the cabriolet begs you to drive it hard, even if it can be grabbed by the scruff of its electronically deployed windshield-header–mounted wind deflector and whipped about. The steering is remote, and your hands direct the wheel through pleasantly light and utterly feel-free arcs.
Pack three friends into the cabin and half of their stuff in the 10-cubic-foot trunk (some capacity is lost with the roof lowered), call up some yacht rock on the 13-speaker, 590-watt Burmester audio system, and enjoy the ride. Real humans, not just children, fit in the back seat, although the cushion is on the low side and the backrest’s upright angle vigorously enforces good posture. It isn’t even particularly difficult to enter the rear seats, whether the top is up or down. Tip a front seatback forward using a backrest-fitted lever, and it automatically powers itself forward.
This money experience, of course, costs money, although not as much as you’d think by expensive-roofless-toy standards. The rear-drive E400 cabrio starts at $67,295, while going for the all-wheel-drive 4Matic model ups that to $69,795. (The next size up, the similarly compelling S-class cabriolet, is nearly twice as expensive; the S560 cabrio is a distant $64,500 pricier than the E400 4Matic.) Piling on the $720 paint, $500 19-inch wheels, $2500 AMG body kit, $150 wood trim, $1900 air springs, $500 heated and ventilated front seats, $950 massaging function for the front seats, $350 illuminated door sills, $550 soft-close doors, and $9350 Premium 3 package (a full complement of active-safety features, a digital gauge cluster, and more) on our test car leaves your checkbook blushing at a nearly $90,000 proposition. And yet, as with every E400, that price feels entirely appropriate.