In this whirlwind motoring world where yesterday’s performance car heroes are tomorrow’s environmental enemies and the news is saturated with semiconductor doom and supply gloom, there’s no better detox than being lobbed the keys to something like the Mercedes-Benz E 350 Cabrio.
The big topless Merc feels like a car that lives in its own space, separate from all the political mumbo jumbo of the car world.
By and large, its formula has remained untouched over the years. Make the engine smooth and silent, give it generous luxury chops, cover it in pretty lines, and sprinkle tech updates to taste.
Two flavours of drop-top E are offered locally; the pictured 350 and the meatier AMG E 53. While most will likely gravitate towards the AMG,
don’t rule out the standard model. Ninety per cent of the time it’s probably the better tool.
The 2021 E 350 inherits the same updates Mercedes bestowed upon the rest of the E-Class range. The new-look nose works nicely with the sculpted doors and rear haunches(looking its best when the roof and windows have disappeared), with AMG Line trimmings now the default option. The cabin is a blend of old and new, headlined by the updated MBUX interface and swanky touch-pad-coated steering wheel.
Although it gets two less cylinders and two less driving wheels relative to the AMG, the 350 is a surprisingly quick thing. The idea of a humble 2.0-litre lugging around a big luxury cabrio is still a bit of a novelty, but it’s magnified here by the deft way it accelerates, 0-100kmh taking a claimed 6.1sec
It’s not as silky smooth as an inline six or as emotive as a booming V8, but the turbofour and its 48-volt EQ-Boost ‘mild-hybrid’ system nevertheless make for an overall fit-for-purpose mill. The nine-cog auto pairs well too, with quick upshifts and subtle downshifts. When the 2.0 is just percolating on the motorway or in traffic, it’s exceptionally silent. Jab it, and you’re rewarded with a bit of pointed intake howl, some mild pumped-in audio bollocks,
and a touch of occasional crackle on release of the throttle.
If only it were more muted on cold start-up. If you’re in an enclosed space, you might be forgiven for thinking it’s a diesel. For there
are more soulful and enthusiastic powertrains out there. But there are also few that feel more assured. The 2.0-litre gets kudos from me for being so comfortable in its own skin instead of attempting to do too many things at once. The three-pointed star claims a combined economy of 7.8L/100km is possible, and we managed 8.4L/100km, still commendable given the 350’s near two-tonne kerb weight.
It does a fair job of masking that weight in the corners too, so long as you operate well within its limits. As you’d expect, the 350 is calibrated to be much more on the soft side. So the focus is less on engagement and more on feather-light steering and cushy damping. Air suspension comes
as standard with multilink systems front and rear, and it does a solid job. Unsightly rebound is limited, and its performance on divoted and broken pavement underlines why air suspension is still the benchmark in the luxo-barge universe.
Inside, the traditional swooping dashboard layout comes paired to dual 12.3-inch screens and Mercedes’ updated MBUX interface, which is now capable of listening to ‘Hey Mercedes’ commands from each individual passenger. Augmented reality sat nav and a 360-degree camera also make an appearance, allowing Merc to flex its high-resolution camera muscles.
Really though, tech is the garnish on something like an E 350. The main point of interest, style aside, is comfort and space, and here the Merc excels. While the seats could be a little more plush, the amount of room in the front and rear is excellent (for a convertible) with the two back seats providing enough legroom for adults (although, word of warning, they’re quite upright). Boot space is a useful 360 litres, 65 litres less than in the coupe.
Mercedes’ signature Airscarf comes as standard, pairing nicely to standard heated seats for those days when cool weather isn’t enough to stop you from putting the roof down. The E 350 also comes with Merc’s own ‘Aircap’ as standard, which comprises wind deflectors on the top of the windscreen and behind the cabin. We didn’t think the Aircap was terribly effective, although that barely matters. The amount of wind bluster with the roof down is so negligible that you’ll want to be topless 24/7. Indeed, that’s the best way to enjoy the 350, the Burmester sounds cranking, the wind in your hair.
|Model||Mercedes-Benz E 350 Cabriolet|
|Engine||1991cc, IL4, T, DI|
|Drivetrain||9-speed automatic, RWD|