Of course we have seen the new 2014 E-class cabriolet. So why are we reviewing this model now? Trust us you, there isn’t a better time of the year to hit the Aamby Valley twisties than January in a drop top. Also, having not tested this one, we were keen on putting it through its paces, so we know exactly how much better the replacement car is, as compared to the beautiful baby you see here on this page.
So, on a perfect Saturday morning with the temperature hovering around a pleasant 18 degree Celsius we decided to head off for a rather unusual motoring experience. And unusual it was, even before we hopped into the car. The watchmen, who usually don’t care much about a variety of German cars being parked in our slot, had huddled around this drop top. It was just the beginning of a day which would see us getting as much attention as some A-grade celebrities.
Somehow, in the two door convertible shape, the E-class assumes a mystic magnetism. Not that the sedan is not beautiful, but the two-door drop-top shape has something about it which adds a distinct charm to this machine. Craning necks and popped out eyes abounded as we treaded our way through the chaotic Mumbai streets. This baby may have aged a bit, but it’s still got the looks to make people swoon – women more so, than men.
The E-class Cabriolet may share most of its lines with the four door sedan version, but under the skin the two-door car shares its mechanicals with the C-class. The design guys at Mercedes need to be credited liberally for having carved such an enchanting form out of the original sedan body type. In its topless avatar, the E retains every characteristic of its sedan sibling, and yet manages to have an alluring character of its own – it’s quite fascinating to witness the resemblance and the distinction work so magically well at the same time.
Traversing the ever spoilt road surface of the conurbation called Mumbai we soon realized that the underpinnings of this beauty aren’t quite as proficient in ironing the wrinkles out as its bigger brethren. The ride feels a tad rougher, and thanks to the soft fabric roof, the sound insulation isn’t as efficient either. The Cabriolet, in a bid to compromise the stiffness lost due to the absence of the tin roof, has a stiffer chassis, which adds weight. Then there is the electric motor which puts the fabric roof (which of course has its own weight) on top and retracts it. In effect, at 1765 kg the E-class Cabriolet, even after being shorter than its sedan cousin, is heavier by 33kg for the 350 petrol variant.
The only engine powering the E350 Cabrio in India is a 3498 naturally aspirated V6 with 272 hp of power delivered at 6000 rpm and 355 Nm of peak torque dished out between 2400-5000 rpm. Capable of attaining 100km/h in around 7 seconds, the E 350 is a swift car with an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h. The engine is married to the smooth 7G-Tronic transmission, capable of handling all that power astutely and with a quick thinking brain.
Now, even with all its power the E Convertible isn’t exactly meant to be an athlete. Drop tops are more about the experience of meeting the elements, about the idea of feeling the wind in your hair, about style, about making a statement, than getting from point A to B in the fastest possible time. Even with all its power and technology, the highlight of the E Cabriolet isn’t exactly its raw power or athleticism – it’s more about charm and attitude.
Thoroughly capable with a potent V6 thumping under its bonnet, the E 350 emanates a bassy note as you rev it. It doesn’t have the typical sports car burble, but a deeper, throatier note for your aural pleasure. The naturally aspirated petrol engine can be revved high, but it isn’t exactly where it feels at home. It enjoys being in the mid revs where a liberal flow of torque allows it to propel this beautiful piece of machinery ahead without having to bother about gearshifts.
As the speed picks up, your hair may start getting ruffled with the blast of air gushing through. To solve the problem, M-B’s unique Aircap system comes to rescue. Comprising of two components: a wind deflector above the front wind screen and a draught stop between the rear two seats, the system significantly reduces wind turbulence within the cabin. This not only keeps your hair in place but also helps the hot or cold air from the air-con to stay within the confines on the cabin for longer, enhancing occupant comfort.
The E-Cabriolet offers two driving modes to choose from – E and S. While the E stands for Efficiency, the S mode, with no prizes for guessing stands for Sport. It’s the typical premium German car story with the two modes – a lighter steering, softer suspension and low revs for E mode, and a tighter, more aggressive everything for the Sport mode.
The steering feel for the E-Cabrio is generally not very communicative. The E mode makes the steering light with the S mode stiffening things up. Though reasonably weighty and very predictable the steering is fairly insulated from the road data, which, in our opinion isn’t a bad thing for a car in this segment. The E 350 Cabriolet takes to the windy roads with confidence, and exhibits ample composure even when pushed around spiritedly. It’s no track attack machine, and there obviously is a fair bit of soft, feminine feel about the way it goes about treading switchbacks. Mind blowingly exhilarating the E350 Cabrio may be not, but it offers an amply reassuring drive when pushed around.
While most would think that the cabin of this soft top would be identical to that of its sedan sibling, they would be mistaken. This drop top throws quite a few surprises at you and you get in, and apart from the standard E-class instrument cluster and dashboard, there are quite a few specials in store for you. First, there is a special flip-open compartment on the central panel giving you access to deploy and retract the soft roof. The compartment also contains the button to engage the Aircap system described above. In addition, there is a special button to roll up or down all four windows at the same time.
Then you have a special seat belt access extender button. The longer front doors push the seat belt opening further behind on the convertible, making access to the seat belt difficult. Pressing this button serves the seat belt right next to the front passenger’s shoulder with the help of an extender. You also have lumbar support adjustment next to the central floating panel for both driver and the front passenger.
The soft roof made of a special, 4-layer, strengthened and noise insulated material takes about 20 seconds in completing its deployment or retraction act. The soft top can be deployed even on the move, with the upper speed limit for the show being 25 km/h. Retracting the roof fully exposes two units of sexy looking and great sounding aluminum finish Harman Kardon speakers, the chrome finished mounts for the roof struts and another chrome finish lining for the lid. Together the three elements lend a special feel to the rear deck of the machine.
Space inside is generous for the front two passengers, with the first two seats offering great comfort and support. Same, however, cannot be said about the back seats, which though useable by adults, don’t exactly offer liberal leg space. The backseats are angled upwards to make sure that the knees don’t brush against the backrests of the front seats. The trick actually works for average sized adults, and four adults can travel together on this car with light luggage, but not for more than a couple of hundred kilometers. Also, the backseat is meant strictly for two passengers as the central portion is raised with two permanently fixed cp holders. Boot space is reduced, thanks to the soft top stowing into the trunk. It still is reasonably good with a luggage capacity of 390 liters.
The features on the E 350 Cabrio are quite liberal – here’s a quick list of what you get
• Speed-sensitive power steering
• PARKTRONIC with Advanced Parking Guidance
• Mirrors package
• ATTENTION ASSIST
• Pelvis airbag
• Sidebag in rear left and right
• Multicontour front seats
• 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission
• Steering wheel shift buttons
• AGILITY control sport chassis
• Audio 20 incl. CD changer with 5.8” colour display
• Media Interface including consumer cable set
• THERMATIC 2-zone automatic climate control with digital display
• Harman Kardon Logic 7 Surround sound system
• Light Package
• Anti-theft protection package
• Memory package
• 18″ 5-spoke alloy wheels
• 3-spoke sports steering wheel in nappa leather
• Tyre pressure loss warning system
• Automatic front belt feeder
• Oval twin-pipe chromed exhaust system
More features and specialties of the E350 Cabriolet are described along with the pictures below.
Rimless windows, and an extra dose of chrome and aluminium and chrome inside the cabin makes the E Cabriolet an even more special experience
There is space strictly for two at the back. Unless you want to rest your bum on a pair of cup holders
Super sounding Harman Kardon speakers come as standard on the E 350 Cabrio
Parking brake is traditional Merc. Engaged by foot and released by hand.
The classy looking and very informative multi-dial instrument cluster
Drop the driver’s or front passenger’s seat to get access to the backseat. No separate doors here.
This chrome lever needs to be pulled to drop the front seats
Seat belts are extended via an arm for your convenience. Nice touch
Front windscreen houses the Aircap panel, which extends to reduce in-cabin turbulence
Hooks for the soft-top struts
Rear units of the Harman Kardon system get exposed as the top goes down
All the stages of the soft top retraction
The Comand system on the E cabriolet is a generation old. The upcoming model should get the all-new Comand Online interface
The button on the center console to extend the passenger side seat-belt arm
Compartment on the central floating panel for deployment and retraction of roof, Aircap and roll-up/down for all four windows
The soft top roof is made of a special material for strength, longevity and insulation
Priced at about Rs 73 lakh ex-showroom, the E-Class cabriolet is not meant for those looking at value. It’s an expensive, highly complex piece of machinery, which is meant for people who have the extra money to spare for the exclusivity it offers. It may not make sense for many, but trust us there isn’t quite a feeling which matches driving a car like this on the right day. And if you really think you’re special (or even if you don’t), the unusually high number of envious glances would make you feel that you really are.
Price as tested: Rs 73 lakh ex-showroom
- Engine 3498cc V6 petrol
- Power 272 bhp at 6000 rpm
- Torque 355 Nm at 2400-5000
- 0-100 km/h (claimed) 6.9s
- Top speed 250km/h
- Front tyres/wheels 245 / 40 R 18
- Rear tyres/wheels 265 / 35 R 18
- Boot capacity 390 liters
- Kerb weight 1765 kg