Mercedes-Benz E-Class VS Infiniti Q60
- Great drive
- No spare tyre
- Fiddly steering wheel controls
- Tight rear headroom (with roof up)
- Great looks
- AEB even on this base spec Q60
- Grunty engine
- Not as engaging to drive as the Red Sport
- Restricted head and legroom in back seat
- Confusing double decker screens and media system
People that know what they’re doing have a habit of making whatever it is they do look easy. Jack Nicholson, Usain Bolt, J.K. Rowling – how hard can it be to act, run and write like a champion?
And you might think making a convertible car is easy. In fact, why even bother the designers? Just break out the gas axe, lop the roof off, perch a canvas top over the hole you’ve created; job done.
Yet despite the seemingly simple premise, it’s all too easy to get it wrong.
Happily, Australia wasn’t on the receiving end of the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet, a text book case study in getting it horribly wrong. Although we did cop the answer to a convertible question few people were asking, in the shape of the Chrysler PT Cruiser Cabriolet. And more recently there have been mutterings about the aesthetic success, or otherwise, of the Range Rover Evoque Convertible. Not to mention the necessity of its existence.
Which brings us to the sleek, subtle, and effortless charm of the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. A masterclass in getting a convertible design exactly right.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
One day Nissan's luxury sub-brand Infiniti could grow up to be as popular as Toyota's Lexus, but it'll take more than just time and brand awareness to get there – it will have to build outstanding cars that impress us, as well.
When I drove the top-of-the-range Q60 Red Sport at its launch a few months ago I called it the breakthrough car for Infiniti. Now we're testing the entry point into the line-up – the GT, which likes to imagine itself as keeping the BMW 420i and Mercedes-Benz C200 Coupe awake at night, but really rivals the Lexus RC 200t.
So, is the Q60 GT outstanding or should you ignore it and go straight to the Red Sport with its bigger engine and Sport + driving mode if you want to be impressed? And what is it like to live with when you've taken your race face off and need to pick up the toddler from day care, then do a load of shopping on the way home?
We found out pretty quickly when we lived with the Q60 GT for a week.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet fulfils its intended brief, with classic design, exceptional comfort, luxurious specification, flawless quality, and a sporting edge lurking just below the surface. The ‘entry-level’ E 300 is the pick, boasting a big chunk of the E 400’s equipment and performance for significantly fewer dollars. That’s how you get a convertible design right.
Does Merc's new E Class Cabriolet sit at the top of the mainstream luxury convertible tree? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Beautiful looks, good handling, but the driving experience of the Q60 GT is let down by a numbness and disconnection relative to what's happening under you. Refinement isn't on the same level as its BMW and Benz rivals, but the GT is a perfect match for the RC 200t, while remaining good value for money. If you have your heart set on an Infiniti Q60 then I'd skip straight to the top and opt for the Red Sport.
Would you buy a Q60 GT or pay a few thousand more for a Mercedes-Benz C200 Coupe? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
At over 4.8m long, nudging towards 1.9m wide, and around 1.4m high, the new cabrio is substantially larger than the model it replaces. And the increase in exterior dimensions is underpinned by a longer wheelbase and wider track.
Joining the existing E-Class sedan, coupe and ‘All-Terrain’ wagon line-up, sitting on a suspension 15mm lower than the sedan’s, and rolling on fat 20-inch AMG rims, the cabrio shares the two-door coupe’s muscular but refined look.
The exterior manages to combine gentle, rounded transitions between major surfaces with more sharply angled and aggressive elements like the ‘powerdomes’ running the length of the bonnet, a hard character line defining the lower third of the car’s flanks, and a neatly integrated lip spoiler on the boot’s trailing edge.
Lowering the roof does nothing to upset the car’s balanced proportions and athletic stance.
Inside, a cool combination of top-shelf leather and ‘black ash open-pore’ wood trim, is contrasted by brushed alloy and chrome accents on everything from the sports steering wheel and distinctive circular air vents (claimed to be “inspired by turbo engines”), to the door handles and ‘Comand’ multimedia controller.
Dominating the dash is a pair of 12.3-inch hi-res displays, presented in a single widescreen panel, the first housing a configurable ‘virtual’ instrument cluster, and the second, more central screen running a full suite of multimedia functions.
A row of more conventional rocker switches at the top of the centre console controls the air-conditioning and various driver-assistance systems, with digital read-outs underneath.
The overall interior look and feel is luxurious form matched by fuss-free function.
The Q60 GT is a head turner – literally. Whenever I was driving slow enough to notice, people were rubbernecking to look at the long, low-slung coupe. I'm sure most had no idea what brand of car it was, but in its 'Iridium Blue' paint the Q60 looked amazing with its curvy, sleek profile.
There's only one small issue – the RC 200t and Q60 GT are way too similar looking, right down to their 'signature' shaped c-pillars. I prefer the grille of the Lexus but the rear of the Q60. While there might be a bit of copy-catting going on, both are prettier than their BMW or Benz rivals.
The Q60 GT feels fairly large to drive and the dimensions don't lie – 4690mm end-to-end, 2052mm across with the wing mirrors unfurled, but low at 1395mm.
The cabin treatment is just as emotional as the exterior, with its dual screens, swoopy dashboard and sectioned off driver and passenger cells.
Extra length, and more specifically, a longer wheelbase usually means more interior space, and the new E-Class Cabriolet is no exception.
Seating is for four, and those in the front are provided with ample space as well as helpful touches like a feeder arm that automatically extends the seat belt out to the driver and front passenger (with override control via a button on the centre console).
There are also two cupholders, a decent glovebox, a lidded bin between the seats, and door pockets big enough for bottles.
Access to the rear, even with the roof up, is a civilised process, thanks to front electric seats that not only slide but rise and tip forward at the touch of a single release handle on the backrest.
Merc claims, on a like-for-like measurement, that rear legroom has increased no less than 13 percent (+102mm) and sitting behind the driver’s seat, set for my 183cm frame, there’s plenty of space. It’s also worth noting that sensors in the front seats’ adjustment system stop them from hitting a rear passenger’s knees. Clever, and polite.
With roof up, the solar panel otherwise known as my bare pate was just brushing the soft fabric lining, although headroom improved markedly with the roof down.
Backseaters are well catered for with a pair of cupholders between the seats, adjustable air vents, map pockets, and some oddments space near the outside armrests.
Boot capacity is a handy 385 litres, with a redesigned rear seat splitting 50/50 to offer through-loading space. An electrically controlled, retractable separator defines the space filled by the roof when folded (which still leaves 310 litres). Impressive.
In case you’re keen on towing with your new convertible, forget it, the new E-Class Cabriolet is a no-tow zone, and you won't find a spare wheel of any description because the tyres are run-flats.
The short answer is not very practical - but then no two-door sports car really is. So while the front two seats are roomy (although the optional sunroof restricts headroom) the same can't be said for the back seats – at 191cm tall, not only can I not sit up straight (because of the sloping roofline), I can't fit my legs in behind my driving position.
While those large doors open wide the roofline and the lack of rear doors means trying to insert a toddler into his car seat was painful and involved kneeling in the street, there were days we took our much less fancy SUV just because it was easier.
This is a four seater – with two cupholders in between the rear seats and two more cupholders up front. Storage elsewhere is limited, with tiny pockets in the front doors and a small centre console bin to hide your phone and wallet.
The boot is also on the small side at 341 litres – don't compare this to the 423 litre of cargo capacity in the RC 200t which is measured in VDA litres. That said, there was more than enough room for our weekly shop which fitted in snugly, although you have to hoist your shopping bags high to clear that boot lip.
Price and features
There are two E-Class Cabriolet models on offer; the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder E 300 ($123,500), and 3.0-litre, V6 E 400 ($157,500), each boasting a standard equipment list longer than Donald Trump’s register of alternative facts.
Highlights for the E 300 include ambient interior lighting (with 64 different colours!), leather upholstery (with horizontal quilting), AMG sports pedals (brushed stainless steel with black rubber studs), ‘Comand’ multimedia (with touchpad, 3D nav, and smartphone integration via Android Auto or Apple CarPlay), ‘Airscarf’ neck-level heating (in front), DAB+ digital radio, scrolling (directional) indicators, electrically adjustable and heated sports front seats (with three memories for seat and exterior mirror position), illuminated door sill panels (with Mercedes-Benz lettering), sports steering wheel (with flat bottom section), ‘Thermatic’ dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, the 20-inch AMG alloy wheels, ‘Aircap’ automatic draught-stop, ‘Agility Select’ (with five driving programs), keyless entry and start, ‘Multibeam’ LED headlights (with 84 individually controllable LEDs), ‘Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus’, and ‘Parking Pilot’ with ‘Active Parking Assist’. Phew…
Then, the E 400 adds Burmeister surround-sound audio (13 speakers, nine-channel DSP amplifier, and 590W output), head-up display (with virtual-image windscreen projection), and metallic paint.
Yes, the cost of entry is reassuringly high, but that’s a large basket of standard fruit.
The Q60 GT has a list price of $62,900, undercutting the Lexus RC 200t by $2000, but what you might find surprising is that the Benz C200 Coupe is only $3500 more than the Infiniti, while the BMW 420i in the Luxury grade lists for $69,900. Depending on how you look at it, either the Germans are affordable or the Japanese are expensive. Perhaps a bit of both.
What's for sure is that the Q60 GT's standard features list is substantial. There's 8.0-inch and 7.0-inch 'double-decker' screens, sat nav, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, six-speaker stereo, LED head- and fog lights, proximity unlocking, heated and power adjustable front seats and leather upholstery.
The Q60 Sport Premium is the next grade up from the GT and lists for $70,900, while the Red Sport is $88,900.
Engine & trans
The E 300 is powered by a 2.0-litre direct-injection, turbo-petrol, four-cylinder engine, producing 180kW/370Nm, and driving the rear wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission (with steering wheel shift paddles).
Step up to the E 400 and a 3.0-litre direct-injection, twin-turbo-petrol V6 sits under the bonnet, pumping out 245kW/480Nm, and driving all four wheels through the same nine-speed auto and Merc’s ‘4Matic’ all-wheel-drive system.
The Q60 GT has a 155kW/350Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine with drive being sent to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission. The same engine is also in the Q60 Sport Premium, while the Red Sport packs a twin-turbo V6.
Claimed fuel economy for the E 300 on the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 7.4L/100km, with C02 emissions sitting at 170g/km.
Not surprisingly the faster, more powerful E 400 is thirstier, ranked at 8.7L/100km, and 195g/km.
On a launch drive program covering around 300km of city, B-road and freeway running, we saw dash-indicated figures of 8.3L/100km for the E 300, and 9.2L/100km for the E 400. Not bad.
A switchable stop-start function is standard, and you’ll need 66 litres of 95 RON premium unleaded to fill the tank.
An official combined fuel consumption figure of 7.7L/100km is fairly optimistic and our combination of urban, city and highway running saw the trip computer reporting back to us with 9.1L/100km. Still, that's not too bad considering how much time was spent in city traffic.
The word that most accurately describes the E-Class Cabriolet drive experience is polished. From the supple ride to the flexible drivetrain (in both models) and smart design, this soft-top Merc is a beautifully resolved package.
Although peak power (180kW) arrives at a lofty 5500rpm, the E 300’s maximum torque (370Nm) is available from a more useful 4000rpm, and despite a 100kg weight penalty relative to its coupe equivalent, mid-range response is healthy. A standard sports exhaust (not fitted to the E 400) produces an agreeably spicy note, and you can expect 0-100km/h acceleration in the mid-six second bracket.
It may have more power (245kW) peaking at the same revs as its four-cylinder sibling, but it’s the E 400’s extra spread of torque (480Nm from 1500-4000rpm) that stands the top-spec cabrio apart. With all that pulling power available across such a broad plateau, the E 400 is genuinely rapid, with 0-100km/h achieved in the mid-fives.
The smooth nine-speed auto helps keep both engines in their performance sweet spots (manual shifts via the wheel paddles are sharp), while the ‘Air Body Control’ suspension, working in concert with an electronically controlled adaptive damping system (adjusting each wheel individually), delivers exceptional compliance, even on ordinary backroad surfaces.
A multi-layer, acoustic soft top keeps noise levels down, and can be raised or lowered in 20 seconds, at speeds up to 50km/h. And Merc is determined you should be able to enjoy roofless motoring year-round with a swag of gizmos on board to keep the elements under control.
The ‘Aircap’ wind deflector integrated into the top of the windscreen frame works in parallel with an electric draught stop behind the rear seats to minimise turbulence in the cabin, especially for rear seat occupants.
Raise the side windows and even at highway speeds top-down conversation is relaxed. In cool weather, the ‘Airscarf’ neck-level heating system in the front seats works seamlessly, the seat heating comes into its own, and even the climate-control system recognises when the roof’s down, adjusting its settings accordingly.
‘Agility Select’ offers five modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, and Individual) adjusting transmission shift points, steering ratio and weight, throttle response, and suspension tune.
We found the ideal open road ‘Individual’ combination (in both cabrio models) was suspension in Comfort, with the throttle, steering and transmission in Sport. Grip from the 20-inch Goodyear Eagle (run-flat) rubber (245/35 front - 275/30 rear) is tenacious, braking is progressive and powerful, and the ‘Direct-Steer’ speed-sensitive steering delivers good road feel. Eating up the corners and kays in the E-Class Cabrio is a pleasure.
One niggle. While points are awarded for the attempt to simplify steering-wheel functions, the ‘finger swipe touch controls’ for on-board computer, and other systems are frustratingly fiddly.
I had a feeling this would happen - the GT was disappointing to drive after the Red Sport with the latter's twin-turbo V6, sports suspension, better steering and excellent Sport + drive mode. There's lots to like about the GT, though – the grip is great from the wide Dunlop SP rubber (235 40 R19 front and 255 40 R19 rear), the chassis feels taught, acceleration is good and it's a gorgeous looking car.
But there's a sense of disconnection from the driving experience I couldn't get past, such as the numb feeling in the steering which needed constant re-adjustment. I also think the suspension felt over sprung and lacked composure over small bumps in the road.
The GT and all Q60s don't have the same level of refinement as the C200 Coupe or 420i, evident from the clunky feel of the door handles to the road noise intruding into the cabin.
I'm not a fan of the cockpit. Sure it's brave and expressively designed, but the double-deck screens are confusing, there's one for nav, while the other's for media... I think. Then there are things you don't need, such as a digital compass – actually there are two, one on the display and another in the instrument cluster, but there's no digital speedo.
That 2.0-litre engine is great, but the transmission is a mood killer with it wanting to change up gears quickly to save fuel, even in 'Sport' mode.
Here's a curve ball call for you – I've just stepped out of a, Alfa Giulia Super. Close in price to the Infiniti, same sized engine, but infinitely more rewarding and fun to drive – plus you get an extra two doors.
In terms of active safety the new E-Class Cabriolet showcases an imposing array of technology including ‘Adaptive Brake with Hold’ (plus brake drying and priming, with Hill Start Assist), ESP, ABS, ASR, ‘Brake Assist System’ (BAS), ‘Attention Assist’, ‘Driving Assistance package Plus’ (‘Drive Pilot’ - ‘Active Brake Assist’ with cross-traffic function, ‘Evasive Steering Assist’, ‘Active Blind Spot Assist’, ‘Active Lane Keeping Assist’ and ‘Pre-Safe Plus’), 360-degree camera (with dynamic guidelines), and a brake pad wear indicator.
Then, if all of the above can’t help you avoid a crash, passive-safety features include, roll-over protection (developed specifically for the cabriolet design), nine airbags (front, combined pelvic/thorax bags for the driver and front passenger, sidebags for rear occupants, headbags in the doors and a kneebag for the driver), an active bonnet (to minimise pedestrian impact injury), automatic-locking doors with emergency opening, central locking with interior switch and crash sensor, crash responsive emergency lighting, and a first-aid kit.
Both rear seats feature child restraint top tether points and ISOFIX anchorages, and all E-Class variants score a maximum five ANCAP stars.
The Q60 is yet to be rated by ANCAP, although it's good to see AEB with pedestrian detection is standard, even on the base grade GT. That said, it would be good to see blind spot warning and lane keeping assistance fitted as standard (as you'll find on the Benz C200 Coupe). It's not a lot to ask considering these comes standard on higher grades of the Nissan X-Trail.
There are two ISOFIX mounts in the back and two top tether anchor points.
Mercedes-Benz Australia’s warranty covers you for three years/unlimited kilometres, and the recommended service interval for the E Class Cabriolet is 12 months/25,000km.
Capped price servicing for the E 300 & E 400 Cabriolet runs to $456 for the first service, then $912 for the second and third, for a total of $2280 over three years.