This car is one of the most comfortable ways to enjoy open-top motoring.
Over the past little while, the manufacturers we once knew to produce the purest, most engaging, and safest vehicles on the road have taken their perfection to the next level. While maintaining all of these characteristics, the lineups from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi have also become more saturated in order to cater to every possible niche out there. Of course, the three-pointed star is aimed at the most elite of drivers, with their vehicles maintaining the highest standard of excellence. We borrowed a 2016 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet, now equipped with what’s possibly the best new six-cylinder powerplant available in North America.
The E-Class has always been a volume seller for Mercedes-Benz, and has become even more popular now that the CLK line has merged with the E, creating the E-Class Coupé and Cabriolet. These two are actually based on the outgoing C-Class (chassis code W204) platform, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This is a very rigid chassis and the car is actually very dynamic to drive. In the looks department, the E400 Cabriolet we tested is stunning, both with the top up as well as down. Carefully sculpted lines stand out against the aged competition, and the car appears bigger than it actually is.
We tested the E350 Cabriolet last year, and the only real change this year is the new powertrain. The 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6 is the same motor we previously sampled in the new C-Class as well as the entry-level CLS400. Other models in the Mercedes-Benz family will start seeing this motor as early as later this year. In the E400 though, it spits out 328 horsepower at 5500RPM, and 354 lb-ft of torque at just 1400RPM. This is up from 302 @ 6500 and 273 lb-ft @ 3500 on the outgoing E350 Cabriolet. Power delivery is seamless as it can be, but the E400 moves with much more urgency than its predecessor.
This is a car made for the executive or businessperson who doesn’t want to step up to the S-Class Coupé just yet. It’s not intended to be quite as sporty as its main competition, but has its merits in smoothness and ultimate comfort. As such, the steering is dialed in for comfort, with easy input and the isolation of electric assist. The cabriolet doesn’t handle quite as well as the coupé, but if open-top motoring is a priority, it’s not a poor choice in the slightest. Ride quality is very good, with the dampers absorbing all potholes and road imperfections effortlessly. Sedan and coupé models of the E-Class are available with 4MATIC all-wheel-drive, but the soft-top version remains rear-drive only.
Mercedes-Benz takes quietness very seriously, and this is especially evident when driving a soft-top convertible. Typically with this body style, the cloth top means road, wind and tire noise is very prevalent. Somehow, Mercedes has managed to isolate the driver from nearly all external sounds. The E400 is quite possibly the quietest ragtop I’ve ever driven. The all-season tires are relatively quiet, and the only time any noise is really evident is when the car is first started, because the direct-injected engine clatters a bit on cold starts.
Interior appointments are exceptional, unsurprising considering the brand’s history. For an $80,000 car (as-tested), my E400 Cabriolet felt almost up to par with the previous-generation S-Class. The leather seats are supple and adjustable in every way imaginable, including adjustable side bolsters, lumbar support and thigh support. The driving position is perfect for a large coupé; coincidental because we also had the 2016 BMW M6 in the garage at the same time as this E400. For added comfort, the seats are also heated and ventilated, so the driver and passenger are always in the utmost comfort no matter what Mother Nature decides to drop on you.
All E-Class models were last given a heavy refresh for the 2014 model year. This facelift included heavily redone front and rear fascias, new grille, headlights, and serious interior upgrades. This COMAND infotainment system is identical to the one in the CLS400, and is one step from the latest one in the new (W205) C-Class. I actually prefer this one, because it doesn’t make use of the intrusive touchpad like the newer system does.
With this latest cabriolet, Mercedes has ensured that the top-down motoring experience can be used well into the colder months. The AIRSCARF™ technology pushes warm air out from just beneath the headrests, creating a “scarf”. Another button located near the roof controls raises the rear headrests and wind-blocker a few inches to create an air cushion. This means that when driving in chilly autumn weather at highway speeds with the top lowered and all four windows up, the cabin of the E400 stays quite warm. Add in the effective dual-zone climate control and heated seats and you have one serene cruiser.
The 2016 E400 Cabriolet starts at $71,300, and comes nicely equipped at that price. Our test car had the $1,700 Sport Package checked off, which adds multicontour front seats, a sport steering wheel, sport braking system, and the 18” five-spoke AMG wheels. The $5,000 Premium Package, which I expect most E400 buyers to opt for as well, adds keyless go, AIRSCARF technology, the Harman/Kardon Logic7 stereo, Parktronic with active park assist, LED lighting, and adaptive high beam assist. Our tester also came with the $1,200 Climate Comfort front seats, which brought the total to $79,200.
The E400 is actually in an interesting position for the Canadian market. It’s closest two competitors are the BMW 435i Cabriolet and the Audi S5 Cabriolet. The Audi is a sport-oriented model with a supercharged V6, and the BMW is the top-trim 4-series available without stepping up to the M4. The 6-series is closer to the E-Class in physical size, but its $99,000 starting price puts it in a higher segment. The E400’s advantage is in the sense that because its two main competitors are aimed heavily towards sportiness rather than supple comfort, it has a huge monopoly in this regard.
As good as it is, the E400 Cabriolet isn’t without its flaws. For instance, if you turn off the stereo using the center of the volume knob, which in most other vehicles will just mute/pause your music, it will turn off the entire COMAND system. This also means that the navigation system is shut off, as well as Bluetooth phone function. Secondly, the compartment at the top of the trunk allocated for the convertible top digs into available cargo space significantly. When dropping a family member off at the airport, we discovered that the trunk is incapable of swallowing two carry-on pieces of luggage.
For just under $80,000 as-tested, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet is one of the most comfortable ways to enjoy open-top motoring in the bitter Canadian climate. Because our test consisted of single-digit fall weather, we had the chance to put its versatility to the test. The reality is, we don’t get many truly usable convertibles in our part of the world. Mercedes-Benz has historically proven that they are capable of producing a car that drives well, maintains the brand’s standard for safety, and looks the part. The E400 Cabriolet is all of these things, and then some.