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Watch the new 4 Series switch from coupe to convertible.
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Lots of good coupes have been ruined by the chop-top conversion that opens them into a convertible.
Thankfully, fresh-air efforts have improved with modern technology and materials, so it’s no great surprise that the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet is more than just a flexi flier.
The first C-Class to be convertibilised is a four-seater with good cabin space, a reasonable boot and a folding canvas roof that’s both quiet and secure. It’s 120 kilograms chunkier than the C Coupe on the scales, and the boot is 40 litres smaller, but those are a small price to pay.
The family is now complete. In short, we have never offered such a wide C-Class lineup.
The Cabrio arrives in Australia in November and the starting price for a C200 should be a little under $80,000, with a $5-7000 premium over the equivalent Coupe versions of the C300, C43 and C63 S.
Mercedes-Benz Australia justifies the extra in equipment, including Airscarf ventilation and Air Cap wind-deflection systems, AMG sports pack, a quieter roof package, and special leather - which reflects ultra violet light to keep the seats cooler - on the three top models.
The Cabrio is not as rigid or sporty as the Coupe that provides the basic building blocks, something I only need the briefest comparison drive in a C43 coupe this week to confirm, but there is a C63 S with all the AMG theatrics you expect at the top end.
“The family is now complete. In short, we have never offered such a wide C-Class lineup,” Andreas Heidl, from the production management team, tells CarsGuide.
“The first very important thing is that it’s the entry into the Mercedes-Benz convertible family. Our focus was to build a more sporty and a more stylish car, not with all the luxury focus.
"You want to cruise with this car, to enjoy life. It has to feel sporty, but not as sporty as the Coupe.”
Work on the Cabrio was obviously focussed on the roof, which uses magnesium, aluminium and steel with a self-locking system instead of being pinned into the bodywork.
The ‘acoustic roof’ for Australia has an extra layer of sound deadening and it folds in 20 seconds at up to 50km/h, which is good but as quick as an equivalent Audi.
The top uses an electro-hydraulic system, and the work above the doorline adds 50 kilos. The knock-on effect is a 400-litre loss in boot volume, down from 400 to 360, and it drops all the way to 285 when the roof is folded down into its bag below the bootlid.
But there is a 50:50 folding back seat and pop-up rollover protection, as Benz claims its usual five-star safety rating including door-mounted side airbags because there is no space for curtain bags in the roof.
There is no obvious strengthening of the structure - unlike the old days when giant steel reinforcing beams were routinely welded into convertible floors - but Benz engineers claim it is very close in bending strength to the Coupe and not far behind on twist resistance.
“One imporant decision was that we wanted to realise a softtop and not a hardtop. It looks nicer, we offer it in four colours, and from a packaging point of view it works better,” says Heidl.
The Cabrio comes with a predictable walk up through the range, adding performance and bigger wheels and more stuff.
There is no C200 at the press preview this week in Italy, but Benz does roll out the 300, 43 4Matic and 63.
As always, it’s impossible to judge completely with cars that do not match the Australian showroom plan, but the C300 hits the sweet spot and won’t break the bank.
Two short-but-sharp days of driving includes everything that nature can throw at the C-Cabrio, from burning sunshine to thundering rain, persistent drizzle, twisty Italian coast roads and long loping runs up to the chalky white plateau just inside the Slovenian border.
At one point we even drive (very slowly) past the lush green paddocks where the famed Lippizan stallions - the white dancing horses - have been bred for centuries.
Starting with the C43 is not the best introduction to the Cabrio, although the wind protection, cabin sealing and operation of the roof are impressive. The front wheels wobble over some bumps, the AMG V6 is not that impressive, and it is not as responsive as I want.
That changes - dramatically - with an upgrade to the C63 S. It’s not just the ability to uncork 700Nm of toque and 375kW, which makes any AMG C-Class a fun run, but a more solid feel on the road and far better response in the corners.
When rain arrives there is time to confirm the cabin sealing, the operation of the wipers and all the practical stuff, although the view through the back window and over the rear quarters becomes very restricted. It’s also nicely quiet inside.
Finally, it’s time for the C300. It’s the the dux of the class, with more than enough performance - 180kW and 370Nm from a turbo four - to enjoy the car.
The engine sounds good, it rides well, turns well and stops well. It has all the equipment you would want or need and there is even time - with the roof down despite some light drizzle - to confirm that the air-protection systems keep the cabin well protected.
The first C-Class Cabriolet is everything I expect, and a little more in the C300. It’s a cruiser, not a bruiser, but that’s going to work well for the people who want to welcome the next summer with something a bit special.
The C-Class Cabrio has been a long time coming.
Until now, the open-air action at the bottom end of the Benz range has been a job for the CLK and SLK.
The SLK was only ever a two-seater, a kind of bigger but paunchier Mazda MX-5, that became totally unhinged with an AMG V8 under the bonnet. Fun, but not really.
The CLK should have been good, but always seemed narrow and tipsy and not particularly roomy. And driving with the roof folded away reduced the rigidity of the body far too much for more than quiet cruising.
So it was the E Class Cabrio that did the heavy lifting on the four-seater front, but it was also more costly and more matronly. Nice, for sure, but out of reach for people starting their life with Mercedes-Benz.
|C200||2.0L, PULP, 9 SP AUTO||$35,880 – 53,880||2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2016 C200 Pricing and Specs|
|C200||2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$36,888 – 59,868||2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2016 C200 Pricing and Specs|
|C63 AMG Edition 507||6.2L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$114,510 – 131,670||2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2016 C63 AMG Edition 507 Pricing and Specs|
|C180 Avantgarde||1.6L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$33,220 – 39,490||2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2016 C180 Avantgarde Pricing and Specs|