Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet first drive review: a true E at last

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet has a strange and winding 25-year history. It all started with W124-generation cars in the early 1990s, the first Mercedes models to bear the E-Class name. In the late 1990s, the E begat the CLK-Class Cabriolet for two generations, both of which were based on the compact C-Class but sold as high-style (and price) premium models. When Mercedes middle child droptop switched back to the E-Class name in 2010, this convertible still carried the dirty little secret that the platform was C-Class while the interior was modified E-Class.

For 2018, it becomes a true E.

That means it gets longer and wider, as well as more opulent and packed with more technology.

A capital E

The Cabriolet is the fourth and final body style in the redesigned W213-generation E-Class lineup. It started with the sedan, and moved on to the wagon, the coupe, and now the droptop. Closely related to the coupe, the Cabriolet shares that two-door’s 113.1-inch wheelbase and 190-inch overall length. Those numbers are 4.4 and 4.8 inches longer than those of the outgoing car, and it is 2.9 inches wider, too.

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class (E300)

2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class (E300)

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe

2017 Mercedes-Benz E400 Wagon first drive

2017 Mercedes-Benz E400 Wagon first drive

The extra length has the greatest effect on interior space. The rear seat gains an amazing 3.9 inches of leg room, and all seating positions add shoulder room as well.

With the top chopped and a bigger cabin area to cover, it was important to reinforce the E-Class Cabriolet’s structure. Mercedes added an X-brace to the front of the underbody and a Y-brace to the rear. More substantial rocker channels are the gift the convertible gave to the coupe. Additional sheet metal was added in the rear fender area over the wheel wells, and the front structure received a vertical brace in the shape of a W.

That’s not the end of the structural story. The E-Class Cabriolet’s unibody uses a combination of high-strength steel and aluminum to optimize both weight savings and strength. The wheel wells, hood, trunk, and fenders are all aluminum.

European vacation

To show off the capabilities of its new droptop, Mercedes invited Autozaurus to drive the E Cab like a well-to-do European owner might on summer holiday: through the French Alps to Italy and back through France to Geneva. Not a bad little drive, thank you very much.

American buyers get the E Cab in just one model to start—E400—though more powerful versions are almost certain to follow. The E400 features Mercedes’ twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6, here spinning out a silky 329 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. It sends its thrust through a smooth-shifting 9-speed automatic transmission to either the rear wheels or all four via Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system.

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

A steel spring suspension is standard. The E Cab sits 0.6 inch lower than the sedan. Mercedes makes a multi-chamber air suspension—two chambers up front, three in the back—available as well. It comes with electronically controlled dampers, and it can firm up the suspension to reduce body lean or soften it for greater comfort. Both of the cars I tested had the air suspension, as well as the optional 20-inch wheels and an AMG Line package with AMG body styling, a sport steering wheel, a black headliner, and aluminum pedals.

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