FEW cars have the grace and pace of a Mercedes Cabriolet, not least when it’s the large E400 soft-top. Niche enough to have no real rival on the Australian market bar the $200,000 BMW 640i convertible, the all-wheel drive E400 Cabriolet is for the sun-loving image-conscious types with a penchant for class.
IAIN: There aren’t many positives to turning 40 but at least it’s now socially acceptable for me to drive a Mercedes E-Class. And why not the flagship E400 Cabriolet all-wheel drive?
JULES: It looks like you’re having a rich man’s midlife crisis.
IAIN: Don’t be silly, that’d mean a Porsche. A Mercedes E400 Cabriolet is far less predictable and this V6 four-seater oozes class.
JULES: It has a rear end to die for and what girl doesn’t like having a roof that folds at the touch of a button so she can show the world her tan and RayBans?
IAIN: You really have to make it to own one of these. It’s $157,500 before on-roads.
JULES: That’ll help it remain exclusive then. Couldn’t I get a ballistic Mercedes-AMG for that money?
IAIN: You could get a smaller AMG C43 drop-top for $120K or a hardtop AMG E43 for $160K.
JULES: Who buys the E400 Cabrio then?
IAIN: Few. Sales will be in the dozens each year. But that exclusivity would be a motivating factor to own one. You can get an E300 Cabrio for $35K less but it’s rear-drive and has only a four-cylinder. Similar style and kit, so a smarter buy if you plan to just cruise.
THE LIVING SPACE
JULES: I’ve not been in a top-spec Mercedes for a few years … just wow. Twin colour widescreens for the dashboard, black ash timber trim and simply beautiful aviation-style air vents. I’m in love.
IAIN: It does take getting used to. Unconventionally, Mercedes has the gear shifter on a stalk by the steering wheel, electric seat controls on the door and a touchpad as well as a rotary dial for the multimedia.
JULES: Certainly lots to learn. But you can do so in sporty leather seats and with the incredible 13-speaker Burmester audio pumping. I reckon E400 owners will be more Beethoven than Bieber.
IAIN: Let’s hope so. Those speakers are a bit blingy but my favourite touch is the Airscarf, where you enjoy a swirl of neck-level hot air from the head restraints. It’s possible to drive top-down in subzero temperatures. Really.
JULES: I prefer how it looks with the roof down but it’s impressively insulated with the soft-top in place too.
IAIN: Merc calls it an acoustic soft-top and it minimises wind and driving noise very well. Feels a lot more claustrophobic with it up.
JULES: It takes 20 seconds to fully open and close. It’s nice to watch — people look on jealously — but I remember taking a Mazda MX-5 soft-top down manually in two seconds.
IAIN: The E400’s a bit big for that. Anyway, I could get used to commuting like this. Half an hour of sun on the face while enjoying heated seats and the Airscarf. Bliss.
JULES: Pure Uptown Girl this. But it’s more Tiffany’s than Woolies for the weekly shop.
IAIN: Boot space is just 310L with the roof down. Not terrible but this is a large E-Class with no spare wheel.
JULES: Fine. I’ll sling the haute couture bags on the back seats. Problem solved.
JULES: With all-wheel drive, leather-trimmed comfort and an eager twin-turbo V6, I’d suggest a quick weekend away to the Thredbo chalet.
IAIN: You’re paying a lot more over the E300 for all-wheel drive and a V6 but if posing along snow-covered roads safely is your thing, what a great tool the E400 would be.
JULES: I’m a big fan of the Dynamic Select drive modes. Sport+ means rapid throttle response — who needs an AMG?
IAIN: Hits 100km/h in 5.5 seconds, despite being two tonnes with a driver on board. Don’t push too hard in the turns and you won’t notice the considerable mass. Its air suspension soaks up the bumps brilliantly.
JULES: Yep, it’s a cruiser rather than track hero. And all the clever anti-buffeting aids mean you can sit at 100km/h and still have a chat.
IAIN: The V6 mated to Merc’s nine-speed auto is a refined combo. Despite the expense, it suits the elegant nature of this rapid cruiser.
JULES: First thing, the doors are ludicrously heavy. I felt I needed staff to assist at times.
IAIN: Doormen at The Ritz would happily oblige. Small kids are less useful.
JULES: I like how drop-top motoring can be a family event here. Two child seats could squeeze in and the kids, obviously, loved the roof off. They were far more wind buffeted in the back, though.
IAIN: If you drive fast enough you couldn’t hear them complain.
JULES: The safety’s a big win. Nine airbags are great and I needed the 360-degree camera as there are so many blind spots when parking.
IAIN: And endless active safety systems. I’m a convert to the semi-autonomous features. Radar cruise control and lane keep assist at this level show how close we are to driverless cars.
JULES: Look, it’s a huge amount of money but you feel special driving the E400 Cabrio. A cliche but this is pure class.
IAIN: Agreed. It has all the performance you need in a big Cabrio. Save yourself $35K and get the E300 Cabrio, with the same good looks and similar spec.
MERCEDES-BENZ E400 4MATIC CABRIOLET
PRICE $157,500 plus on-roads (Expensive)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 3 years/unlimited km (average), $2680 for 3 years/75,000km (pricey)
ENGINE 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo, 245kW/480Nm (abundant)
TRANSMISSION 9-speed auto; AWD (high-spec)
SAFETY 5 stars, 9 airbags, 360-degree camera, rollover protection, active brake assist, evasive steering assist, blind spot assist, lane keep assist, cross-traffic alert (excellent)
THIRST 8.7L/100km (not bad)
SPARE None, inflation kit (poor)
BOOT 310L-385L (fair)