Autumn may be the finest season for open-air driving. Each moment is a full-sensory experience. The road unwinds before you, bathed in long rays of sunlight and covered in a multi-colored pallet of foliage. The cool air and open sky mix with the warmth from your heater and the unique scent of Fall. The sound of scattering leaves accents the endless whoosh of open air and thrum of the engine. Yes, Autumn is best experienced with the top down and the all-new 2018 Mercedes E400 Cabriolet seems most excellently equipped for the task.
It takes only 20 seconds to electronically retract the insulated, acoustic soft-top on this two-door E-Class and the job can be done at up to 30mph. Activate the heated seats and steering wheel, and you’re almost ready to cruise. Don’t forget to “put on airs” in this convertible. Mercedes pioneered the ventilated headrest they call AIRSCARF in 2004 and it’s been keeping necks warm in their convertible models ever sense. The new E400 Cabriolet also comes standard with AIRCAP, an electrically-assisted combination of two wind deflectors. One deflector sits atop the windshield frame while the other is hidden behind the rear seat headrests. The system is intended to reduce turbulence for rear passengers, but we found it greatly increased wind noise and our test subject reported only a mild improvement. Regardless of whether or not it’s deployed, the E-Class Cabriolet is one of the few convertibles we’ve driven that doesn’t require the driver to wear a hat.
Settle into the comfortable, sculpted, saddle brown leather seats of the E400, and you’re in one of the most elegant interiors this side of the 6-figure mark. When we call this car a mini S-Class, we’re paying it a huge compliment. The 12.3-inch infotainment screen is standard and our tester’s Premium 3 Package adds in a second 12.3-inch screen for the instrument cluster. The problem we had is that there’s just too many ways to change the same setting, and most of the time the easiest way is to never touch the central controller. The rotary knob is now flanked with buttons and topped with a touchpad for drawing text. It’s the most unintuitive component in the car. Thankfully, the multi-function steering wheel has two touch pads that the driver can use to scroll through menus and make selections. There’s also buttons on the center stack and console to control most functions. If the on-board Mercedes features aren’t to your liking, Apple Car Play and Android Auto integration are now standard. The aforementioned Premium Package also adds the entire suite of Mercedes driver assist functionality in addition to a crisp head-up display and the Burmester surround sound system.
With all the driver’s aids and luxuries of the cabin, plus the added ambience of cruising with the top down, it can be easy for the driving experience to become secondary. Piloting this E400 Cabriolet can fade into the background if so desired, but it can also rise to the occasion and become the central experience. The 3.0L biturbo V6 produces 329 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. Those figures might not seem like much for the 4,300 lbs convertible, but the low-end torque and 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system combine for a 5.3 second run to 60 mph. The smooth-shifting 9-speed automatic transmission doesn’t disappoint in Normal or Sport operation, acting seamlessly to keep the RPMs low or holding gears and snapping downshifts depending on setting. This big convertible, far bigger than the previous generation, broadcasts its heft to the driver but never feels anything but planted. Part of that settled demeanor comes from the optional AIR BODY CONTROL suspension. Mercedes uses multi-chamber air bags housed inside the traditional springs to offer 3 levels of firmness. The system also employs adaptive damping at each wheel to automatically adjust based on road conditions and drive settings. This level of refinement means that body roll is almost entirely nullified without compromising ride quality. This E-Class Cabriolet glides over rough roads as if it were the smoothest section of Autobahn. Dial the car up to Sport or Sport+ and the E400 can feel sporty, but you’ll never mistake it for a sports car.
This occasionally sporty demeanor extends to the exterior appearance. The Coupe and Cabriolet sit 0.6 inches lower than their Sedan counterpart. The optional AMG Line adds unique bumpers, side skirts, and 18″ wheels. It also includes ventilated front brake rotors and unique chrome-plated accents in the front grille. Our tester arrived fitted with this appearance package and the optional 19″ AMG Line wheel upgrade. The enhanced visual flair take nothing away from the elegant and sophisticated design of the new E-Class. In Lunar Blue with a blue top, this particular E400 Cabriolet stands out from the monotone crowd nicely. The brushed aluminum brightwork and glittering LED accent lighting are an added touch of class.
With room to seat four comfortably and a cabin that stays temperate and quite in all climates, the E400 4MATIC Cabriolet makes a good case to be used year-round. The 4MATIC system and split-fold rear seats enhance its practicality. But we wouldn’t have traded our Autumnal week with this Mercedes for anything. Capable of being driven spiritedly down your favorite road or settle back and relaxing on a scenic drive, the new 2018 E-Class Cabriolet welcomes all occasions.
|2018 Mercedes E400 4MATIC Cabriolet
|Lunar Blue Metallic||$720|
|designo Magnolia Flowing Lines Wood||$1,300|
|19″ AMG Twin 5-Spoke Wheels||$500|
|Illuminated Door Sills||$350|
|Heated and Ventilated Front Seats||$450|
|Air Body Control air suspension||$1,900|
|Premium 3 Package||$9,350|
|As Tested MSRP||$87,415|
Photos courtesy Mercedes Benz