Testing the pinnacle of the drop-top E-Class range
Mercedes-Benz E400Â CabrioletÂ 4Matic AMG Line
Engine: 3.0-litre, six-cylinder, twin-turbo, petrol
Torque: 354lb ft
Gearbox: 9-spd auto
Kerb weight: 1935kg
Top speed: 155mph
Fuel economy: 32.8mpg
CO2 rating: 194g/km
If youâ€™re already forking out for a premium four-seat convertible car, why not go the whole hog and choose the fanciest engine you can get? After all, wouldnâ€™t that premium-level drive feel just a bit too pauper-spec if you picked the wheeziest engine on offer?
Enter the new Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet, the laid-back and luxurious 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo pinnacle of the open-top E-Class range. With a healthy 328bhp, it embarrasses lesser four-cylinder turbo and petrol alternatives, and a big slug of pulling power from little more than tickover adds to the luxurious feel.
It only comes with 4Matic four-wheel drive, which is perhaps sensible, and you can only have it in sporty-look AMG Line trim â€“ think bigger wheels, chunkier bumpers and side skirts, plus a â€˜dottedâ€™ front grille.
See it in the metal and youâ€™ll surely think the most powerful engine is the only one to go for. Itâ€™s a huge car, far bigger than its predecessor and with as much impact as a regular E-Class executive saloon or estate.
And it doesnâ€™t just look big â€“ it feels heavy, too. Doors are weighty, the interior oozes substance and the fact the dashboard has controls that look like theyâ€™re dipped in metal only adds to the sense of heft. Mind you, take the leather and wood, add in a few options, and youâ€™ve a price tag north of Â£60,000 to more than justify this feelingâ€¦
It doesnâ€™t take long behind the wheel to realise what a special engine youâ€™re getting for your money. Having two turbochargers means itâ€™s effortless and the sound it makes when worked harder is charming. Itâ€™s as fast as the most potent hot hatches, but never really feels it, so effortless is it. Our only gripe is rather ambitious claimed fuel economy of over 39mpg â€“ youâ€™re unlikely to see anything like this.
What about the rest of it? It rides comfortably, as youâ€™d expect of a posh open-top Merc, aided here by optional air suspension. The only gripe we have is a slightly too busy ride at lower speeds â€“ choose large alloy wheel options at your peril.
Perhaps inevitably, itâ€™s not the sharpest car to drive, although it is perfectly predictable despite its slow steering and lack of feel. What will be of more interest to occupants is how quickly the roof folds â€“ around 20 seconds â€“ and how noisy it is with the roof down at speed: conversation is not a strain even at motorway speeds.
We also love the â€˜airscarfâ€™ vents that blow hot air around your neck on hold days, although the â€˜aircapâ€™ wind deflector that pops out the windscreen is less convincing: while it reduces turbulence inside, it also raises the level of wind noise significantly above 60mph. Oh, and donâ€™t forget that the boot shrinks by 65 litres with the roof down.
Right now, this is a car with few rivals. The BMW 6 Series Convertible is too old, the Audi S5 Cabriolet is too small. Itâ€™s an opulent machine, both in abilities but also in price. You could save money and go for the four-cylinder E300, but you wouldnâ€™t get anything like the same effect. You have to pay for it, but for a select few, the E400 will feel special enough to warrant it.