Mercedes-Benz E-class Cabriolet 2018

Fine Fabrics

The all-fabric cloth-top is a huge expanse of fabric, seemingly sourced from an America’s Cup yacht when viewed from a distance. Up close, however, you can see this is some very fine material indeed. Buyers of the new E-Class Cabriolet get their choice of four colors for the top: dark brown, dark blue, red, or black. The top is fully automatic, of course, because there’s no way Mercedes-Benz would expect you to do the work on your own. The top has so many square feet that wrestling the thing up and down, if it were manual, would resemble a scene from The Three Stooges.The sun lies low on the desert horizon, the trees and cactuses are throwing long shadows, and the landscape is doused with warm light. In less than 20 seconds, the soft top disappears behind the rear seats, and the engine—barely perceptible—springs to life. The beginning of a relaxed and indulgent drive into the Sonoran Desert?

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Mercedes-Benz calls it an “acoustic soft top” because it features sophisticated insulation that reduces wind and road noise when the top is raised. A side benefit is how the soft-top is robust enough in terms of heat loss, meaning climate control and passenger comfort are not a problem so the Cabriolet is suitable for year-round use. Mercedes-Benz points out that up or down, the trunk is still usable. They say there’s enough space to store luggage for a weekend getaway, and the 50:50 folding rear seats provide a pass-through loading area for hauling longer stuff.

Compared to the previous version, the new E-Class Cabriolet has a longer wheelbase and a wider track. This larger footprint benefits rear-seat passengers in particular. The rear seats are not a bench affair, but like the front seats are “sportily sculpted” for “individual-seat character.” Yeah, seriously, they said “sportily sculpted.” Oh, and the front seats have those automatic belt presenters that Mercedes-Benz has used for decades now, so you don’t have to contort yourself to reach the seatbelts.

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Hardly. This trip requires the utmost concentration: We are riding along on one of the final engineering drives for the Mercedes-Benz E-class convertible, a model Daimler calls the cabriolet. At the wheel are Christian Früh, development chief for the coupe and convertible C- and E-class models. In another of several prototypes on this drive, the pilot is Peter Kolb, testing chief for the new models. One car is a Europe-spec E200, with an 181-hp turbocharged inline-four making even less power than the 241-horsepower four found in the base U.S. sedan, the E300. Another car has a four-cylinder turbodiesel that’s so quiet you would be forgiven if you confused it with a six, but don’t expect to see that at U.S. dealerships, either.

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