What is it?
The C Cabriolet is the latest addition to the now four-model strong Mercedes convertible line-up in India. Priced at Rs 60 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), it is also the most affordable of the convertibles to wear the three-pointed star. As is quite obvious, the C Cabriolet is the convertible version of the C-Class sedan. Both cars are built on the same platform and, in fact, are identical in length, width and wheelbase.
Mercedes designers have done a splendid job of translating the C sedan’s style on to a convertible form. The front-end is classy and the wedge-shaped tail (ala the S-Class Cabriolet) is nicely done. If there’s anything to bring up, it’s that fatter rubber and perhaps larger rims (these ones are 17-inchers) would have helped draw less attention to the slightly awkward mass of metal above the rear-wheel arches. But overall, the shape is the right blend of regal and sporty.
There’s also some scope for customisation with four body colours as well as four colours for the fabric roof on offer. The roof can fold/unfold in 20 seconds and what’s nice is that you don’t need to be at a standstill to lower/raise it; it’ll do so at speeds up to 50kph.
What’s it like on the inside?
From the driver’s seat and with the roof up, the Cabriolet feels just like the C-Class sedan. The dashboard is identical to the C sedan, which is a very good thing. In general, there is a level of richness to the cabin that makes it feel really special indeed. The shapely front seats are large, offer full electric adjust and also get cool ‘belt feeders’ that extend the seat belts towards the occupants for easier access on entry. However, those seated at the back don’t have it quite as nice. Sure, the large doors open wide, the front seats slide forward electrically and the thick carpets serve as a nice point of initial contact for the rear seat occupants. The backrest is also way too upright and there’s not much headroom with the roof in place. Fold the roof and the already limited boot space shrinks that vital bit further. Then again, practicality is not the prime consideration when buying a convertible.
Mercedes has brought in the C300 in one version only and it does come with quite a lot of standard equipment. On board is a Burmester surround-sound system, 3-colour adjustable ambient lighting, front seats with memory, park-assist (it will locate and steer the car into a parking automatically), LED headlights and satellite navigation. The Cabriolet also runs Merc’s latest infotainment system though a faster processor and a larger screen for the display wouldn’t go amiss.
What’s it like to drive?
The C300 uses a four-cylinder, 2.0-litre engine that makes 245hp and 370Nm, same as on the GLC300 SUV. While the power figures are not outstanding, performance won’t leave you wanting. The Merc will do the 0-100kph dash in a claimed 6.4 seconds and, given the room, can reach a limited top speed of 250kph. It’s a nice engine that offers the essential oomph. It pulls well from low in the rev range but saves the best for the last 2000rpm before the 9-speed gearbox intervenes with an upshift around 6500rpm. It’s also got a nice soundtrack to go along. There are no induced pops or crackles, but a very natural sounding rumble. But at times when you are really going for it, you can tell from the sound that this is a small engine being made to do big things. Then again, if you crave a convertible with a larger engine, Merc will sell you the V6 E Cabriolet or the V8 S Cabriolet.
Other elements work fine too. Merc’s 9G-Tronic gearbox is responsive to manual inputs when you time shifts right, but won’t acknowledge random tugs at the paddles. Five drive modes (including a customisable Individual setting) on offer primarily alter engine, gearbox and steering characteristics. Sport and Sport+ keep the engine in the mid-range and offer reasonable weight at the steering, while Eco and Comfort tone things down. Even in the sportier settings, don’t expect the C Cabriolet to drive like a sportscar. This is a luxury cabriolet first and darting in and out of corners isn’t part of its job description. Sure, the steering is neat and precise but the tyres will protest when loaded up in a corner and there is plenty of roll in the bends too. Again, if it’s a sporty Merc convertible you seek, you’d probably do well to check the SLC43 AMG.
What ties in well with the C Cabriolet’s positioning as a luxury convertible is its ride quality. The Indian car misses on air springs but the suspension still works quite well to absorb the rough stuff. Worth bringing in is that the C Cabriolet also feels quite rigid for a convertible. It’s only when you drive over a bad patch at speed does the body feel a bit loose.
Worth a mention is the C Cabriolet’s good level of refinement. The multi-layer fabric roof incorporates sound insulating material to minimise noise levels in the cabin, and it must be said, it does its job well. There’s no undue wind noise creeping into the cabin on the move. But what’s even more impressive is how well-contained wind buffeting is with the roof down. The Cabriolet gets what Mercedes calls Aircap, which uses an extendable spoiler atop the windscreen and a screen behind the rear seats to reduce turbulence in the cabin.
Should I buy one?
The C300 Cabriolet’s Rs 60 lakh price tag puts it right between the cheaper Audi A3 Convertible and the pricier but aging Merc E400 Cabriolet, so in a sense, it’s a fair proposition. The C300 might not be the raciest of convertibles but it is a car that’s refined and comfortable enough for everyday use. Yet, it is also one that offers all the romance of open-top motoring when the opportunity arises. It is a niche car no doubt but one that will charm you in to saying yes to it.