A new look, and a new 3-litre twin-turbo engine for the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet. We take it for a spin in Dubai.[Not a valid template]
As with the rest of the Mercedes-Benz range, the E-Class Cabriolet has had a facelift for the new model year. But that’s not all – it’s also got a range of new engines, and this, the Mercedes E400 with its twin-turbo 3-litre V6, is the proud owner of one of said new lumps. It slots it, logically enough, between the naturally aspirated V6 in the Mercedes E350 and the V8-powered E500, offering another niche for those that like a V6 over a V8, but want a touch more power than the old 302bhp unit could muster.
Looks-wise, the new E400 follows the same pattern of upgrades as the rest of the Mercedes E-Class range, including the E300 we tested a few weeks ago. That means some suspension tweaks, and contemporised front end with new headlights and grille, and funky LED fibre optic rear lamps. The muscular rear end of the Cabrio is retained, which gives it a stylish, powerful air. There’s no doubting that it’s a looker. Our test car, in diamond white metallic with a red canvas roof, is quite the suave lothario. But can its hips swivel to match its smouldering stare?
Slightly weird analogy aside, the E400 Cabrio is an interesting proposition. Upon start up it’s immediately clear that it’s not trying to directly compete against the harsh-riding but dynamically impressive offerings from BMW. Instead, it feels more like Mercedes has gone back to its roots. This is a cruising convertible, with a brilliantly compliant ride, comfort you can relax into and enough gadgetry to hack into a government IT system. I’m particularly taken by Intelligent Drive, which as seen in the latest S-Class combines adaptive cruise control with a camera in the front of the car that will keep you between lane markings without your input. For slow moving traffic, of the type we get a lot of around these parts, it’s brilliant.
Roof-down, ingress by the wind is commendably minimised, although with the Arabian summer not quite finished I confess that it stayed up most of the time. Not that it was an issue – the insulation levels are such that, despite the canvas ceiling, I sometimes forgot that I wasn’t in a coupe.
So, for bumbling around town, the E400 is darned impressive. But there’s more to it than that. By eschewing the almost mandatory hard-top of the moment and sticking to a folding bit of material, Mercedes has saved considerable weight, which is a great help when it comes to handling dynamics. Throw it into a bend and after the merest hint of body roll that comes with the compliant ride, each corner will stoutly defend itself against physics and keep things stable, in line and predictable. The steering is light enough to be comfortable but has enough heft and feel to give a sense of tight control over what the car’s doing, and it’ll whip from left to right beautifully, the nose keen to follow your direction and the back happy to follow without feeling like it’s going to lose its mind.
Then we come to the new engine. And it’s a beauty. 328bhp is squeezed through the seven-speed transmission to the rear tyres, like icing through a bag. It’s not lethargic, it’s not snappy, it’s controlled and allows for both accelerating onto highways without causing whiplash and pin-point adjustment in the twisties. It’s got a subtle but characterful woof when you put your foot down too – just hinting at an AMG-like note without being quite so overtly brawny.
Not, it’s not as sharp and eager as a BMW, but it’s not trying to be. This is a car perfectly suited to its inherent character. It’s got that top-down, relaxed swagger and a ride to match, and all the tech to make everyday life easier, but with the new engine and suspension tweaks it’s got the potency and handling to put a smile on the face as the wind tousles your hair.
|Engine:||V6 / 2996cc / twin-turbo|
|Power:||328bhp @ 5250-6000rpm|
|Torque:||354lb ft @ 1400rpm|
|Transmission:||Seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive|
|Wheels:||17-inch, front and rear|
|Tyres:||235/45 R17 front and rear|