It was raining heavily the afternoon I arrived at Mercedes-Benz Malaysia’s headquarters to pick up its new 2016 C 300 Cabriolet — not quite the ideal driving conditions for a convertible. But even the monsoon season could hardly put a damper on the few days I got to drive the car.
Standing out in a vibrant blue that emphasises its sportiness, the Cabriolet is arguably the first that Mercedes Benz has produced for the C-class, which already has a coupe, a station wagon and the sedan under its umbrella.
A beauty to look at, the C-class front design is brought to a sportier level with lowered suspension and the coupe-like compact rear end. Mercedes-Benz’s distinctive curved line at the side that extends over the rear wheel arch adds an expressive element to the silhouette.
A lot of effort has gone into the fabric soft-top, which has the option of adding a multi-layer acoustic top to reduce noise and offer better climate control. The roof can be opened and closed in 20 seconds, while the car is moving at 50kph, by holding down the controls located near the arm-rest. A great function is the button that winds down all the windows at once, which is convenient when the top is down.
Mercedes-Benz’s Aircap wind deflector works perfectly, undoubtedly a glamour and comfort-plus point for leisurely rides as coiffed hairdos remain relatively unscathed for the driver and front passenger. However, the same could not be said for the back-seat passengers, who will bear the full brunt of convertible ride conditions.
From its exterior to the elegant interior, the Cabriolet is designed to offer a luxurious cruising experience. A sophisticated and highly competent driving machine, its 2.1-litre four-cylinder engine is capable of 0-100kph in 6.4 seconds, with a top speed of 250kph, although slightly noisy. The C 300 has an output of 180kW and 370Nm torque, and comes with a nine-speed automatic transmission, which transitions effortlessly as the speed increases.
This is helped by the car’s light body shell. Retaining the same lightweight construction of the C-class coupe, there is a high proportion of aluminium, while the wings, bonnet, boot lid and soft top compartment covers are made of light alloy.
The driving is smooth, though the car’s responsiveness when accelerating is more gradual. In the Comfort and Sport driving mode, acceleration tends to plateau at around 160kph, somewhat resistant to higher speeds unless the accelerator is radically floored. The suspension, which is 15 millimetres lower than the saloon version, is designed to absorb impact and maintain stability. Nevertheless, there tends to be a sense of stiffness and on our uneven roads, the choppiness can be felt even more.
The car’s peak performance is in the Comfort mode, which is more than sufficient for a great drive. In the Sport and Sport+ mode, steering gets a little heavy and makes handling sharper and somewhat less responsive. It does power up sufficiently, but bear in mind that the Cabriolet is really made for high-speed cruising and not speed-seeking thrills.
The car’s luxurious interior is definitely the highlight. Sophisticated and a forerunner for sporty elegance for its class, it is the well-thought-out details that impress you. Soft, heat-reflecting leather seats are customisable in five different colours to suit personal styles. A spacious arm rest leads to the matte silver chrome switches for operating the soft top, and beyond that the controls for the multimedia system.
Mercedes-Benz marries luxury details such as the centre console outfitted in wood-grain material, embedded classic analogue clock and elegant fixtures with technologically advanced features that create a sense of autonomy for the driver or passenger. These include customisable interior lights, light timing and brightness level options and the automatic seat-belt extenders.
While the back seats are typically narrow for a two-door car, it is not half as bad as some in terms of leg room and comfort, especially with the soft top down. Unsurprisingly, the worst feature of the C 300 Cabriolet is the boot space. It carries close to 400 litres in volume with the top up, but drops to around 285 litres when the roof is folded down. However, the problem is the shallow load space, which would likely fit only an overnight duffel bag, or perhaps a picnic basket. A baby stroller could not fit despite multiple efforts and had to be carried in the front passenger seat, all of which will make you think twice about a prolonged road trip.
Practically speaking, our tropical weather conditions put off most people from opting for a soft-top convertible. The German luxury carmaker has made an excellent effort in putting out what is clearly an all-round, well-designed Cabriolet that would sit among the best convertibles. Its sexy look aside, the car was a pleasure to drive — be it on our crowded urban roads, in narrow alleyways or across states.
The Mercedes-Benz C 300 Cabriolet retails at RM443,888 without insurance. Other models include the C 200 (RM358,888) and C 250 (RM388,888). For more information, visit www.mercedes-benz.com.my. This article first appeared on Jan 9, 2017 of The Edge Malaysia.