Mercedes has added a cabriolet to its C-Class lineup, which will battle the BMW 4-Series and Audi A5 equivalents for class honours. We’ve driven it to see if it’s any good
What do we have here?
Mercedes-Benz hasn’t had a cabriolet version of its compact-executive C-class since it was launched in 1993, leaving BMW and Audi to themselves to mop up any potential buyers. BMW has had a 3-series convertible since the first-generation which was launched in 1975 while Audi has offered the A4 (now followed by the A5) Cabriolet in 2003 (although the Audi 80 even preceded this).
While Mercedes had the CLK Cabriolet that was based on the C-Class, it was designed to look like an E-Class and sat in a higher price bracket than its nearest rivals. This car naturally became the E-Class Cabriolet (and Coupe) in 2009.
The all-new Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet is part of the fourth-generation C-Class that was launched in 2015 and is based on the two-door coupe that followed in 2016. It’s a two-door, four-seater with an electric folding fabric roof. There are two trim lines available – Sport and AMG Line – and four engines, two diesel and two petrol. For the first time in the UK, the C-Class is available with 4Matic all-wheel drive.
Here we have the C220d which has a 2.2-litre diesel engine linked to a nine-speed automatic gearbox. The open-top sports AMG front and rear bumpers with twin chrome exhausts and wears 18in alloys wheels. The fabric roof mimics the shape of the coupe to give it a sleek and attractive side profile, as does the swept back windscreen.
So has Mercedes left it too long for the C-Class Cabriolet, or like a fine wine, has it matured to perfection?
How does it drive?
The first thoughts of being in a Mercedes-Benz cabriolet is to be wafted along some beautiful coastal road in southern France, wind flickering through your hair while the world around you has slowed down and relaxed.
And wafting is something that the C-Class Cabriolet does well. It can be a little wallowy on times, but it’s well damped making it feel as though it's wallowy on purpose rather than just bouncing up and down on overly soft suspension. Bumps are suppressed brilliantly and the whole experience is just that Cote d’Azure image you had played in your head.
Well, that’s that then, a relaxing, comfy open-top Mercedes. No – and for good reason. The C-Class handles extremely well. Pop the car into dynamic mode and the suspension firms up, not to become uncomfortable but to allow you to play.
Turning into a sharper corner and you’ll feel a small shift of weight to the outside of the car, but it settles immediately and allows you to commit to the corner without fear of running wide. It’ll stay flat and true for the rest of the bend.
The steering is sharp and accurate, with a good level of feel and it's nicely weighted. There’s also plenty of grip to utilise.
Impressively for an open-top car, there’s little crashing over potholes and road imperfections and body shake is negligible.
Three buttons between the seats control the opening and closing of the roof and windows. One for opening and closing then the roof, one for deploying the wind deflectors and one for all windows to open or close together.
The fabric roof takes 24 seconds for fully open and will do so at speeds up to 30mph. For full wind in the hair action, then leave the windows down and don’t activate the wind diffuser. The wind diffuser works in two ways, there’s a band above the windscreen that raises up and a rear panel that rises between the rear seats.
Pop the windows up and activate the diffusers and you’ll have thought the roof had been raised, as wind disturbance is minimal, with any buffeting limited to the top of your barnet.
Should it be a sunny but chilly day, then strong fans, heated seats and Mercedes seat mounted neck scarf (called Airscarf) heater will do trick to keep you nice and cosy.
The roof can also be operated completely by the key fob, whether you’re wanting to open or close it. With the roof in place, there’s limited wind and road noise.
Sound insulation of the 2.2-litre diesel engine is impressive, having heard the same unit in other Mercedes cars (where it’s noisy). The engine develops 168bhp and 295lb ft of torque and is connected to a nine-speed automatic gearbox. The cabriolet gets to 62mph from standstill in 8.2 seconds.
It pulls well and consistently and it’s swift, rather than rapid. Gearshifts are seamless and the engine settles quietly into the background when cruising along an A-road or on the motorway.
What's it like inside?
It’s near as identical to the coupe that it spawned from, with the exception of those roof vanishing buttons between the seats and the neck scarf.
That means it’s a beautifully designed interior, with quality materials and all feels very well put together. The seat belt extends to greet you once you are seated, to avoid any unnecessary reaching back to find your safety belt.
As is the norm with sporty intended versions, there’s a flat-bottomed steering wheel, which is good to hold.
The centre of the dash is dominated by three circular air vents, a 7.0in colour infotainment screen which is controlled by a rotary dial between the seats, with shortcut buttons, and a gloss black trim finish. Chrome toggle switches add more class and something a little different as does the round analogue clock.
With the roof up or down there’s plenty of space. The seats are supportive and comfortable and offer plenty of adjustment, as does the steering wheel, so there should be no problem finding a good driving position here. Visibility is slightly restricted when the roof is in place due to a narrow rear screen.
A slight oversight appears to be that the central storage compartment isn’t secured when the top is down and the car is locked. It is deep though and offers good storage and contains 2 USB sockets. There are two cupholders in between the seats and well-sized door bins adding extra storage space.
The optional Burmester sound system was fitted to our test car, and not only looks brilliant with chrome speaker housings but sounds phenomenal. It can be turned up very loud and keeps an uncanny clarity even at high volumes, not that your neighbours will be thanking you.
Getting into the two rear seats is easy enough with the top up or down. Helped by wide doors, the front seats tilt forward manually and then slide electrically out of the way, resetting once you tilt the seat back into position.
There’s just enough room for six-footers but any taller and you’ll be struggling. The seats are a little upright but you do sit higher than the front passengers for a better view. There are two cup holders.
To get into the boot, you either need to open it from the key fob or via a button by the driver’s seat, as there is no external release.
With the roof up, the boot is deep and well sized. However, put the hood up and the top half fo the boot is where fabric top is stored, meaning some advanced planning is needed. The rear seats split 50:50 for added practicality.
Putting a diesel engine into an open top car is never something that will endear the C220d to petrol heads, or even those after uber luxury, but it has its benefits.
The first is the claimed super frugal economy of 61.4mpg on a combined cycle. Moreover, with C02 emissions of 123g/km of CO2, the C220d Cabriolet falls into the 24% BIK tax band. It’ll cost £110 for a years road tax.
The C-Class Cabriolet gets a three-year unlimited mileage warranty.
It’s been well worth the wait. The C-Class Cabriolet does everything you expect from an open-top Mercedes car, that’s a comfortable ride, luxurious interior and oozes class.
It’s also very good to drive and really takes the battle to the BMW 4-Series convertible. The 4-series benefits from a folding hard top but there really is little to choose between them, with the exclusivity of the Merc just taking the spoils for us.
Driver's Seat Rating:
4 out of 5
It's worth considering:
BMW 4-Series Convertible
Audi A5 Cabriolet
2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet 220d AMG Line Auto Stats