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2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet First Look

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Mercedes-Benz builds a lot of cars, a lot of sexy cars, a lot of which go topless. Two of them, the compact C-Class Cabriolet and the decadent S-Class Cabriolet, bookend the 4-seat luxury convertible market. Meanwhile a trio of 2-seaters, the small and sporty SLC-Class (née SLK-Class) roadster, the classic SL-Class roadster, and soon, the intense, exotic AMG GT roadster fit the sports car bill. With each of these lovely vehicles being either all-new or extensively updated within the last 12 months, that leaves the mid-sized E-Class cabriolet as the oldest droptop in the lineup. It won’t be left out for long, however, and with the debut for its replacement just around the corner at the Geneva auto show, Mercedes brought us to Arizona to get a sneak peek at it, as well as to provide us some juicy details and even some riding impressions of the car from the passenger and rear seats. As for the driving impressions, well, we’ll have to wait for those.

The all-new E-Class Cabriolet is based on the winsome new W213-generation E-Class, which makes it a proper E-Class, not a blend of C- and E-Class components, as were the last E-Class coupe and convertible models. Both models ride on the same wheelbase, up 4.4 inches over the previous E-Class cabriolet, and feature the same front and rear end styling treatments with sport or luxury themes, as well as its basic suspension and steering setup.

Pure design

The E-Class cabrio also shares the coupe’s smooth body sides, which eliminates the coke-bottle contouring near the shoulder line of the body in the interest of what Mercedes touts as a purer look. About that latter point, especially with its smaller side windows and fabric roof, it looks sort of plain with the extra sculpting; even through the light camouflage, we could see that the new car’s contours shimmer less in the sunlight, and, and the straight-back shoulder line lacks the elegant downward taper of its brethren. It’s an ostensibly emotional car with a rather unemotional design—nothing that the right color and a nice set of custom wheels couldn’t fix, but in stock form, the C- and S-Class cabriolets definitely have the edge in style.

Mercedes told us that the E-Class cabrio’s roof will once again be offered in black, brown, dark blue and dark red, with several insulating layers to ensure quietness at all speeds. While it lacks the coupe’s extreme glass-to-roof-pillar ratio, all of the cabrio’s side windows fully retract—the coupe’s rearmost sliver of glass stays put—and thus create a lovely pillar-less side opening with the roof up that is nearly as pretty as when the roof is retracted under the rigid tonneau. The top’s electrohydraulic motor weighs less than 33 pounds and is not rigidly anchored to body but instead is used to counteract noise/vibration/harshness levels. Mercedes-Benz claims that the top has been subjected to no fewer than 20,000 opening/closing cycles. The operation itself requires less than 20 seconds to raise or lower, according to Mercedes, though it appears they’re playing it safe with that number; we observed that it took 17 seconds to lower and just 14 seconds to raise—not counting attendant lowering/raising of the side windows. And the entire ballet transpires in utter silence.

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2017

E400 only

The new E-Class Cabriolet will come only in E400 form, with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 that churns out 329 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. This same engine is found under the hoods of the 2017 E400 coupe and convertible models, but the W123’s automatic transmission adds two forward gears for a total of nine. Mercedes has pledged 0–60 mph acceleration improvements of about a second, plus better fuel economy for the new E-Class coupe, a promise that certainly will apply to its ragtop sibling, too. As with the coupe, both rear-wheel and “4MATIC” all-wheel drivetrains will be offered, as is the case with the C-Class cabriolets.

Structural compromises endemic to convertibles have been addressed in the form of “X” Bracing under the engine, and “V” bracing under the rear end. Stronger door sills, reinforced cross-members under rear seat and a reinforced rear cowl further serve to stiffen the E-Class cabriolet up whilst leaving trunk pass through, à la the C-Class cab. With total weight gain estimated to be around 330 pounds compared to the E400 coupe, according to Mercedes, a little math says the rear-drive E400 Cabrio will hustle from zero to 60 mph in about five and a half seconds, with another quarter-second or so more for 4MATIC models.

Also: Class of 2018 – New Cars Ready to Roll

No plan for AMG E63

Not quick enough? Too bad. Like its predecessor, the new E-Class cabriolet will not be offered as a full-bore Mercedes-AMG E63 model, and whether or not it (or the E-Class coupe, for that matter) will be offered as an E43 AMG model remains to be seen; if so, it won’t happen at launch. And if faster versions never happen at all, that’s perfectly fine; Mercedes has five other convertibles with variants that suit sportier fancies.

Out on the road, whether at the Nissan proving grounds, where much of the final validation was performed, or local streets and highways, the E-Cabs offered few surprises. Having recently spent a good deal of time at the helm of a Mercedes-AMG C63 S cabriolet, I felt much of the same sense of solidity, if not the overt sportiness, of its stablemate, from the rightmost seat. With the top down and the “Aircap” front and rear wind deflectors in place, buffeting is virtually nonexistent. In back, the rear seats proved to be adult-friendly in size (really) with wonderfully contoured cushions, though the seatback is rather upright.

The E-Class cabriolet arrives here later this year as a 2018 model. Mercedes wouldn’t get any more specific, but we do know that the just-unveiled E400 coupe arrives in dealerships this summer, and the convertible likely shouldn’t arrive too much later lest it miss altogether peak convertible selling season. The good news is that we’re told it will be priced close to today’s model, which at $62,525, is roughly $7K higher than the coupe. Check back in a month or so for official images and additional product information, but you can start saving now.


 

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