If you believe Mercedes, this C-Class Cabriolet is “sensual purity as the definition of modern luxury – hot and cool.” We’re not fluent in marketing speak and therefore don’t understand a single word of that, but the car itself is far easier to grasp. Here’s a posh four-seat convertible in the finest tradition, with a soft-top rather than a complex hard-top, and all the fancy tech and refined engines you’ll find in more sedate C-Class saloons and estates.
It’s one of many Merc convertibles you can buy, sitting beneath the E-Class and S-Class Cabriolets (the latter is basically a land-bound yacht) and across from the dinkier two-seat SLC, the artist formerly known as SLK.
If you need a bit of practicality, though, the C-Class cabrio is a far better bet than the SLC. It has a decent sized boot and actual back seats. Anyone sat in the back of a convertible might normally have grievances about their head being blustered wildly around once the car’s at an acceptable speed, but Merc has planned ahead and fitted the C-Class (albeit optionally) with something called Aircap.
It’s essentially the combination of a rail that whirrs up from the top of the windscreen and a big plastic wind deflector that pops up behind the rear seats, and together they combat nasty wind blowing around the cabin on the move. At least from the outside…
There’s also Airscarf, which gently blows nice warm air onto your neck to make going topless in winter a bit more bearable. There’s a shedload more tech on top of that, too, most of it the result of the latest C-Class borrowing a load of electrical gubbins from the larger S-Class. That allows lots of anti-crash tech to come on board, as well as something called ‘Energising Comfort’ that manages the mood of the those sat in the front via seat massage programmes and ambient lighting. It’s every bit as gimmicky as it sounds.
You might be forgiven for thinking they’d forgotten to fit engines, but the C-Class comes with a choice of four petrols and one diesel. The cheapest is a 1.5-litre petrol with 182bhp, the most exciting being the utterly nuts C63 AMG, with a twin-turbo V8 engine and a less strict tyre management strategy than Merc’s own F1 team.
While the C-Class has a traditional soft top, the addition of the folding mechanism and chassis strengthening means it weighs a decent chunk more than a standard car. Not to worry: despite being rear-wheel drive, the C is hardly known for loutish dynamics, and the Cabriolet inspires a more relaxed driving style anyway.
It’s surefooted, composed and easy to drive, especially given every engine comes as standard with an automatic gearbox. The only convertibles on sale that might prove more relaxing are Merc’s larger E-Class and S-Class and the Rolls-Royce Dawn. All cost a bit (or a lot) more than this one.
The exceptions are those AMG versions. The C43 comes with four-wheel drive and feels pretty grown up, but its sports exhaust sounds utterly bonkers, and in a car as classy as this, the noise is akin to the jazzy silk lining in a sober grey suit. A lot of fun, but only worth flashing to onlookers at the appropriate moment.
The rear-driven C63 lives on another planet entirely, its raucous 503bhp V8 borrowed from elsewhere in the AMG range and sounding boisterous at all speeds, not just when the mood takes you. A high-performance convertible might flirt with convention – sticking an overpowered engine in a roofless car hasn’t always ended well – but this one works remarkably well, and it’s a huge amount of fun to drive. So long as you can afford the tyre bill.
The big thing you’ll want to know about them all is how they overcome the traditional cabrio compromises: shake through the steering wheel and blustering around your head. The former simply isn’t an issue in the C-Class; we’ve driven very few convertibles that feel as solid as this one. Refinement is extremely strong with the soft-top up, too, and you could be conned into thinking you were in a fixed-roof coupe if you’d not seen the exterior.
That Aircap stuff, meanwhile, does a very good job of keeping the cabin calm, though only up to about 70mph. This is still a cabrio in which you’ll want the roof in place before you hit the motorway if you’ve any hope of listening to your music or passengers with any intent.
It also looks pants with the Aircap protrusions in place. The front contraption looks like you’ve strapped a rogue ski to the top of the windscreen, while the rear deflector gives the impression a large piece of plastic toast has popped up from the rear bulkhead. Lots of people buy cars like this for their looks – and to be looked at – so while the tech is no doubt effective, it’s not attractive. You’ll be pleased to know you can keep it all retracted at town speeds and still avoid too much turbulence inside.
ON THE INSIDE
It’s far more accommodating than other convertibles, but it’s still a bit tight in here. Full-size adults will only want to sit in the back seats for short journeys. Headroom isn’t the big issue; it’s the acute angles their knee joints will need to assume to squeeze their legs behind the front seats. Kids will be fine, though.
The boot is similarly compromised. It runs a decent way into the car, but its opening is much narrow than a C-Class Coupe’s in order to swallow the roof. Pack your stuff in squashy bags, rather than cases, and it should still be good for a trip away. If it’s a huge concern, Merc does at least offer two four-seat convertibles that are larger. Much larger in the case of the S-Class Cabriolet.
The rest of the interior is very good, and does a commendable impression of that S-Class. There are digital dials with seemingly infinite colour and design configurations, as well as a central media screen that sits right in your line of vision and doesn’t distract you from the road.
Merc is better than anyone else at this sort of stuff right now, and while the interior may look like a sea of buttons and screens on first impression, the ease with which you can use it all on the move is remarkable.
Ownership Experience: –
With prices starting at just over £40,000, the C-Class Cabriolet costs around £4,000 more than an equivalent C-Class Coupe. Its fuel economy doesn’t take too much of a dent compared to the saloon, too, which is welcome.
If running costs matter then the C220d diesel is doubtless the best choice, at least on paper – it claims nearly 60mpg, with 126g/km of CO2 emissions. But in a post-Dieselgate world, the C200 petrol might be a more pleasant choice, and it comes with some electrical help to cut emissions and boost acceleration. It’s not a proper hybrid, but it’s cleverer than entry-level petrols usually are. Oh, and it comes with the option of four-wheel drive if you want a fully all-season convertible.
Mercedes nails it. The C-Class cabrio is pleasant to drive but majors on open-top relaxation
Convertibles get no classier than this, and if tons of back seat and boot space aren’t vital, it provides nearly as much hushed luxury as Merc’s own S-Class Cabriolet.
Away from the AMG versions it’s all about being comfy and easy going, to the detriment of actual driving fun. But on a sunny day with the roof down that’s really not worth caring about – this car nails its brief of being effortless and relaxing to drive, and it crams in loads of desirable tech.
The AMG versions are much more exciting, the V8-powered C63 AMG especially, and we prefer it to BMW’s much more compromised M4 Convertible.