Based on the E-Class Coupe and due to make its U.S. debut at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet boasts an innovative techno touch aimed at making al fresco motoring even more comfortable -- and quieter -- regardless of the outside temperature. De facto replacement for the CLK-Class Cabriolet, both the E350 and E500 Cabriolet models will come standard with M-B's new "AIRCAP" system, which consists of an extendable deflector element on the upper portion of the windshield header frame that can elevate air streaming over the passenger compartment -- and all those within -- by nearly eight inches. It works in concert with a complementary rear "draft stop" deflector that further minimizes wind buffeting and lowers ambient noise levels. Mercedes says the AIRCAP design is the result of 2,000-3,000 hours of wind tunnel testing. It can be raised at speeds up to 100 mph and remains effective up to the car's 155 mph top speed.
Activated at the touch of a button, AIRCAP helps keep heat from the climate control system in the car for a longer period of time. The modest downside is that extending it exacts about a 1.2-mpg fuel economy penalty. The "AIRSCARF" neck warmer system originally introduced on the SLK-Class will also be available as an option on this new E-Class; but here, it adds a new pivoting nozzle that makes it more effective on front-seat passengers of all sizes. As for the Cabriolet's fabric soft top, it's also an impressive bit of work and significantly lighter than a retractable steel lid would have been. Nearly an inch thick, it's loaded with both thermal and noise-attenuating insulation material, offers one-touch activation, and raises/lowers in 20 seconds at speeds up to 25 mph. It also tucks away neatly beneath an automated tonneau cover, although stowing it does trim trunk capacity from 13.8 to 10.6 cubic-feet.
Beyond requisite structural enhancements, the 2011 E-Class Cabriolet includes an expansive suite of M-B safety features. Reinforced A-pillars and B-pillars work with dual pop-up rear mini-hoops provide optimum rollover protection, and this is the first Mercedes convertible to be fitted with front head airbags in addition to front, front side and driver's knee bags. Pricing has not been announced for either model in the new Cabriolet lineup which initially will consist of an E350 with a 3.5-liter/268-horsepower V6 and an E550 variant fitted with a 5.3-liter/382-horse V8 when sales start in May. There's a good chance an even-more-potent E63 AMG version may appear at some point in the future.