What is it?
The E 400 Cabriolet marks the return of a big, two-door, four-seat convertible to Mercedes-Benz India’s line-up. It’s not an all-new car but a model that, like the rest of the E-class range, received a significant update in 2013.
That link to the more common E sedan is hard to miss because the Cabriolet too has ditched the older car’s quad lamp set-up for a dual headlight arrangement. The sporty single-slat grille and curvier front bumper are new too. Changes at the rear include new tail-lamps with LED detailing and a revised bumper that now keeps the dual exhausts out of view. Thanks to the revisions, the smartly-proportioned E Cabriolet does look fresher while retaining all that made the earlier car such a pleasing sight, elements such as the classic pontoons at the rear. The contrasting shade for the fabric roof (still no folding metal roof here) adds its share of flair but, then again, the Cabriolet does look its best with the roof tucked into the boot. Lowering the roof takes about 20 seconds and can be done at speeds of up to 40kph.
Be it with the roof up or down, the E 400’s cabin makes for a nice place to be in. It’s a pleasing blend of colours and comes finished in rich materials. The dash itself isn’t particularly unique in design but the exposed double stitching does make it appear special enough. New to the E Cabriolet is Merc’s COMAND Online infotainment system that uses a synced phone’s data network to connect to the internet. You can use the system to stream internet radio on the go or browse websites and check news and social networking sites at long halts. It’s quite a handy system but feeding inputs via the rotary dial can take infuriatingly long.
Thankfully, the controls for the front seats' adjust are far more straightforward and let you fine-tune bolstering, lumbar support and thigh support to your liking. Access to the rear seats is also quite nice by cabriolet standards and space isn’t all that bad. Sure, full size adults won’t be happy in the back for all that long, but the seats are still useable for the occasional Sunday cruise about town.
What is it like to drive?
In its last iteration, the E Cabriolet was sold in India with a 272bhp, 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine. The E 400 of today features a 3.0-litre, twin-turbo V6, so there’s quite a bit difference under the muscular hood. Vis-à-vis the E 350, power is up to 333bhp and torque is up from 36kgm to a rather impressive 49kgm.
Correspondingly, performance is now more sportscar than boulevard cruiser – 0-100kph comes up in a none too shabby 5.3 seconds (claimed). The E 400 feels energetic at just about all points on the rev range, a range that culminates at around 6200rpm. As always, there’s an ‘S’ mode too but it won’t let you hold gear and doesn’t quite speed up the occasionally slow seven-speed gearbox either. Still, the big E is effortless in the way it picks up speed and will simply lunge forward when pedal is made to meet metal. That it will do so while emitting a dignified snarl is rather addictive. Choose to drive a notch down and you’ll also fall for the genteel nature of the engine. It’s creamy smooth and only mildly purrs when not called into full blown action. The engine is a huge part of the reason the E 400 is such a relaxing car to drive.
That this is not a car meant to make lap records also comes across in the manner it goes around corners. It’s not what you’d call sharp but still very fluid and surefooted when changing directions. The steering is also precise yet light and easy in town. What makes the E 400 even more rounded is its ride quality. The big Merc feel as absorbent as your average German sedan on most surfaces which, for a car like this, is a huge compliment. However, sharp bumps do catch the E 400 out and you’ll even hear the odd creak from the convertible body on really bad stretches.
Otherwise, the E 400 Cabriolet impresses with its ability to keep outside noise where it belongs. With the fabric roof in place, the cabin is sufficiently quiet. Even with the roof down, wind noise and turbulence are adequately curtailed by a nifty deflector that rises atop the windscreen at speeds above 40kph.
Should I buy one?
The E 400 Cabriolet will not be the only car in a typical buyer’s garage so we’ll refrain from judging it as such. This is a special car for special occasions. And for that purpose, it works wonderfully well. What makes the E 400 Cabriolet more likeable still is that it offers a lot more than just a folding roof. This is a genuinely elegant, luxurious and powerful car but one that’s comfortable and easy to live with too. In that sense, the E 400 Cabriolet has wider appeal than the other, more focussed convertibles on sale in India.
Unfortunately, the E 400 Cabriolet is not cheap with a price tag of Rs 78.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). But if you are willing to spend that kind of money on a third or fourth car, the E 400 is quite the buy.