– Trieste, Italy
Despite an internet’s worth of images showing happy people driving against backdrops of sunsets and seas, dropping the top on a convertible doesn’t guarantee perfect weather. Such was the case last week as I nestled into the driver’s seat of a 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 Cabriolet, the pitter-patter of rain audible on the three-layer cloth top overhead. I’d flown all the way to Italy to test Merc’s latest four-seat convertible, yet the clouds refused to break. Thanks for nothing, Mother Nature.
Which brings me to a sad point of reality: Most of the time, luxury convertibles like this one are driven with their tops up. Whether it be because of cold climates, rainy days, or fussy owners who won’t put the top down unless the temperature outside is just right, a lot of convertible cars rarely enjoy long stints of top-down motoring. And while I wasn’t expecting to primarily test the C300 Cabrio in this top-up setting (the accompanying photos were taken during the 15-minute window when it finally stopped raining, by the way), I learned that Merc’s newest Cabriolet offers a myriad of pleasantries and charms that are accessible regardless of roof position. After all, it’s still a C-Class.
The C300’s folding cloth top takes just 20 seconds to retract, and can be operated at speeds up to 31 mph.
From a design standpoint, the topless C-Class retains the model’s elegant shape and handsome styling, though the lack of a sloping roofline reduces visual interest at the rear. Following another C300 Cabrio on the roads of northern Italy, it’s easy to mistake the car ahead of you for any number of other luxury convertibles. But viewed from the front, the Cabriolet is as striking as any other new C-Class. It’s got that whole 70-percent-scale S-Class design working for it, with a prominent three-pointed star on the grille. Park the C300 next to a BMW 428i Convertible and the Mercedes will easily garner the most attention from onlookers.
The C300’s folding cloth top takes just 20 seconds to retract, and can be operated at speeds up to 31 miles per hour. There are three buttons on the center console just aft of the COMAND infotainment controller that handle convertible motions. The big one in the middle is for overall top movement, on the left is a convenient button to raise or lower all four windows, and to the right you’ll find the button for the optional Aircap system. Aircap raises part of the windshield topper to direct airflow over the cabin. It works wonderfully, but if I’m honest, looks silly when raised. Standard on all C300 models (well, except in Germany) is Mercedes’ excellent Airscarf system that directs warm air around the necks of front-seat passengers. The Cap and Scarf functions are fancy bits of tech that encourage top-down driving, reducing wind turbulence inside the cabin and keeping occupants comfortable. So yes, 60-year-old woman in Santa Monica who’s still rocking a 1980s-spec Bonnie Tyler hairdo, it’s safe to put the top down more than just once each quarter. In fact, my long-haired driving partner never once complained about hairdo distress during our limited top-down time.
The volume-model C300 is plenty pleasant, with adequate power and sharp dynamics.
At 3,957 pounds, the C300 4Matic convertible is only 187 pounds heavier than a comparable all-wheel-drive C-Class Coupe, so performance doesn’t suffer all that much. Mercedes’ turbocharged, 2.0-liter inline-four-cylinder engine carries over for Cabrio duty, making the same 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque as it does in other C-Class models. With a nine-speed automatic transmission and the aforementioned 4Matic AWD, hitting 60 miles per hour takes 6.3 seconds in the C300 Cabriolet – only four-tenths slower than the Coupe. If that’s not quick enough, Mercedes will sell you three flavors of AMG models: C43, C63, and C63 S. We’ll have a full C63 S review coming soon, but whet your appetite with this unsurprising bit of knowledge: it’s rad.
The volume-model C300 is plenty pleasant, with adequate power and sharp dynamics. Along the narrow ribbons of road that wind through northeast Italy and into the gorgeous, wine-soaked countryside of Slovenia, the C300 dances with confidence and agility. Light, direct steering is nicely matched with a supportive and comfortable chassis, the nine-speed automatic transmission largely imperceptible as it manages the 2.0T’s power. Both rear- and all-wheel-drive variants of the C300 will be available to U.S. customers when the car goes on sale this fall.
The C300 Cabriolet impresses with its outrageously quiet interior and plush accommodations.
Like other C300 models, the Cabriolet comes with the full suite of Mercedes driving technology, including the Dynamic Select control with its Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, and Individual settings. The more leisurely dynamics of the C300 don’t really warrant Sport+ most of the time – leave it in Sport or fiddle with engine and suspension controls in Individual to find a good balance. Sport+ rushes the transmission into unnecessarily aggressive shifts, and stiffens the suspension a bit more than necessary given the C300’s softer dynamics. Like the C-Class sedan, the Cabriolet can be optioned with an Airmatic suspension that does a nice job of mitigating harsh imperfections, but honestly, the standard steel-spring setup is just fine. In previous tests of C-Class models, I’ve actually found the base suspension to offer a bit more feedback than the more advanced (and expensive) Airmatic.
On a rainy Italian day, the C300 Cabriolet impresses with its outrageously quiet interior and plush accommodations. The thick soft top does a great job of keeping wind noise out of the cabin – it rivals the C Sedan for noise levels. Plus, even with the dark-colored roof fabric, there’s no feeling of claustrophobia inside the C300. Visibility is great, and you’re surrounded by natural wood, supple leather, and only the finest trimmings all throughout the cockpit. Oh yeah, it’s a C-Class, alright.
The goodness of the C-Class range stands true no matter the body style.
There’s no word on pricing just yet, but expect an MSRP around or just above $50,000. That’s ever so slightly more expensive than competitors from Audi and BMW, but that’s okay – a C-Class sedan already costs a tad more than the other Germans, and you get a much more premium interior and better styling for the added premium. That’ll likely be fine in the more lifestyle-oriented convertible class, where it’s all about luxury and grace, two things the C300 Cabriolet has in spades.
There's plenty to enjoy about the C300 Cabriolet. On a cold, rainy test day, this car proves that the goodness of the C-Class range stands true no matter the bodystyle – warm and inviting, comfortable and quiet, and yes, lovely to drive. For the buyer who only wants occasional carefree convertible motoring, that’s hugely important.
|2017 MERCEDES-BENZ C300 4MATIC CABRIOLET|
|ENGINE||Turbocharged 2.0L I4|
|OUTPUT||241 Horsepower / 273 Pound-Feet|
|0-60 MPH||6.3 Seconds|
|TOP SPEED||130 MPH (limited)|
|CARGO VOLUME||8.8 Cubic Feet|
|BASE PRICE||$52,000 (est.)|
Photos: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com