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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - E-class - E250 CGI Cabriolet

Our Opinion

We like
Sharp styling, outstanding comfort, value
Room for improvement
Tall drivers have restricted forward vision, V8 variants too expensive

20 May 2011

ENTRY-level Mercedes-Benzes traditionally have been a little down on performance.

The most dramatic example was the 1991 180E sedan with just 82kW of power, but many would say the 2005 CLK 200K was somewhat underdone (especially for a sexy convertible), offering 120 kW for a price of $97,600.

Its successor in Australia is the E250 CGI. With 150kW of power and 310Nm of torque on tap, no one will call it under-engined, although as enthusiasts tend to say, too much power is never enough.

Next step up is the $110,335 E250 CDI (think ‘G’ for gasoline and ‘D’ for diesel) which matches the petrol engine’s power while supplying a massive 500Nm of torque.

To get its cars to market at the right price point, Mercedes-Benz Australia once skipped on equipment for the entry-level offerings.

The aforementioned 180E had no tachometer, for example. Once again, such criticisms cannot be levelled at the E-class cabriolets with even the E250 packing Daimler’s innovative new pushbutton Aircap automatic draught-stop feature, Speedtronic cruise control (with brake intervention), Avantgarde interior, bi-xenon directional headlights, daytime driving lights and that wonderful roof that goes up or down in less than 30 seconds at any road speed up to 40 km/h. Try that in your Austin Healey Sprite!

Step up to the E350 ($141,685, 3.5-litre V6 engine, 7-speed automatic with paddle-shifters) and you get Daimler’s ingenious Airscarf neck-level heating system.

This has obviously been developed for arctic weather because it required the mildest setting for a cool day in the Victorian alps, but getting warm air blown onto your neck from vents built into the head restraints is definitely a novelty.

Many enthusiasts, for whom much of the joy of open air motoring is being in touch with the elements, will rarely use either of these trademarked Daimler features.

More vital (and standard across the range) is the automatic roll-over protection bars housed in the rear head restraints in combination with crash-responsive front head restraints and nine airbags.

GoAuto’s solitary safety quibble concerns forward visibility for drivers of even a little more than average height. So large is the housing unit for the central mirror and sensors for the automatic wipers and lights and so steep is the rake of the reinforced A-pillars that it was necessary to lower the seat as far as it would go to gain the right kind of view.

Mercedes’ designers have conjured an impressive amount of interior space for four adults. At the push of a button, the front seats glide forward and then back to their original position to allow access to the rear seat. With the roof up you get 390 litres of luggage capacity, reducing to 300 when it’s folded away.

The Avantgarde spec cabin includes leather upholstery and bespoke Nappa hide for the steering wheel and gearknob. There are four sports seats. Niceties such as stainless steel sill plates and ambient lighting for the centre armrest, front foot wells and door handles contribute to the feeling that you are getting your money’s worth.

By the time you climb to the dizzy height of the $189,135 E500, the very concept of value for money seems irrelevant.

Dizzying, too, is the list of standard equipment. You can turn up the Harman Kardon® Logic 7® surround sound system as the inflatable air chambers incorporated into the seats massage your body and ego.

Triple-zone climate control, a reversing camera and even the normally expensive option of metallic paint (with nano-ceramic paint technology, no less) are included. Polished stainless steel tailpipes and 18-inch AMG alloys may help to ease the difficulty of paying $200K or so to get one of these droptops parked in your driveway.

The V6 E350 has 200kW and 350Nm, while the flagship V8-engined E500 delivers 285kW and 530 Nm. Predictably fuel efficiency and carbon dioxide emissions go hand in hand with engine size.

The E250 CGI and CDI are labeled BlueEFFICIENCY and use 8.3 and 6.2 litres per 100km respectively with emissions of 192 and 162 g/km. The E350 scores 9.8 and 229 g/km and the E500 is 11.0 and 257 g/km.

Scuttle shake – that sensation of a slight twisting in the body, especially at lower speeds when turning into steep driveways or on a rough road – is the bugbear of convertible cars.

The Mercedes engineers have succeeded in almost eliminating it and the vehicle feels pleasingly solid but there are still traces of scuttle shake.

It is, however, far superior to most other vehicles in the category, including the BMW 3-Series, and a marked improvement over its CLK predecessor. The dynamics are excellent with outstanding chassis balance and a comfortable ride.

The test vehicle was the diesel-engined E250 CGI and there was never any sense of being shortchanged in any respect. Experience of the more powerful V6 and V8 variants on the national press launch suggests that while these obviously have stronger performance, few prospective customers will find the turbocharged 1.8-litre petrol cabriolet lacking in urge.

The E-class Cabriolet may be described as pretty in an era when few justify this adjective. The pronounced rear fenders combine with the shorter wheelbase and rakish snout to give a purposeful, sporty appearance that evokes the marque’s proud heritage of building desirable cabriolets.

The smart fabric roof comes in three colours: black, dark beige and dark blue. With the roof up, the elegance of the lines is, if anything, accentuated. Frankly, it is difficult to see the point of an expensive retractable steel roof when a fabric one can be made to work so effortlessly, fit so well, shut out noise and look smart at the same time the term ‘ragtop’ becomes a misnomer.

In summary, the Mercedes-Benz E-class Cabriolet has great appeal. GoAuto sees the best value in the two four-cylinder variants because the heart of the appeal of a convertible car is not rocketship performance but the choice of al fresco motoring.

The 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine which has been around for six years now is still a beauty. But now that Mercedes has relinquished Kompressor technology in favour of turbocharging in tandem with direct fuel-injection, its 1.8-litre petrol four-cylinder engine is a winner.

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