Stick Shift: 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

Stick Shift: 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

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Historically, the E-class earns the title as the top selling car from Mercedes-Benz. It’s no terrible surprise. Over its long life, its transformed and re-invented itself a number of times. Always holding our interest and keeping us guessing. It’s perfectly priced somewhere in the middle of the Mercedes line-up, boasts compelling performance, top-notch luxury, a beautifully appointed, spacious interior and showcases lots of the latest in Mercedes technology. Its come to us as a sedan, in wagon form, and lucky me, even as a convertible.

This last option is especially relevant as Arizona is almost a perfect convertible state. Throw in a coastline and lower the summer temps by a couple dozen degrees and you couldn’t ask for better. Still, eight solid months of ideal drop-top conditions make the new 2018 E400 Cabriolet a no brainer. We all live here for the good weather, so you might as well own a car where you can be exposed to it as much as possible. Just don’t forget to layer on the sun screen.

The new E400 Cabriolet is stretched 5.0” longer and almost 3” wider than previous models, the extra length going almost entirely to the back seat, where two adults can now enjoy the open air in spacious comfort. Let me emphasize, the E400 interior is sumptuous and lavish in both its design and attention to detail. Each button and control seems to have been assembled by a panel of experts all asking how they can make this the absolute best button, panel, speaker cover or whatever else possible.

Nappa leather seats are soft, wide and adjustable to suite any size human. They’re heated, cooled, multi-contoured and packed full of massagers. Airscarf, a menu item that blows warm air onto the back of your neck through vents in the front headrests will help you keep the top down even when the temperatures drop below 60. I only wish the E400 would route cold air from the AC through these same vents to help us out in the summer. Wood grain, leather and metal trim adorn the cabin, offering tremendous visual and tactile variety, without ever becoming too busy.

Behind a sporty steering wheel full of touch controls and flanked with paddle shifters, sits a bright, vividly colored digital display. Graphics and gauge layouts change to present different information and reflect the many driving modes available. This is helpful as each new E-Class convertible gets Dynamic Select, with driving modes for comfort, sport, sport-plus, eco and individual. Each tweaks engine response, shift timing and start/stop function with considerable effect.

This dynamic display flows almost seamlessly to a larger 12.3” widescreen display more central in the cabin that reads off navigation, media options, full cellular connectivity, vehicle settings, even a wide range of ambient lighting color options. Mercedes makes great use of ambient lighting in the E400 Cabriolet. LED’s are tucked away around door panels, the center console and around the back seats, casting a soft glow throughout the entire cabin in whatever color suits your mood. I ping-ponged between blue, green and red, finally landing on purple.

The convertible top folds back quickly, even if your still driving at slower speeds, which is tremendously helpful when you’re surprised by a sudden rain shower. There’s a trick windshield header Mercedes calls Aircap, where a wind deflector rises up to reduce buffeting. It’s fairly effective, allowing for easy conversation even at highway speeds. With the top up, wind and road noise is minimal as well. Bottom line, the interior space of the new E400 Cabriolet is an amazing achievement of ergonomics, space utilization, beautiful lighting, incredible sound and cutting edge technology. There’s even an air freshener capsule in the glove compartment that routes perfumed fragrance through the air vents. With all of this, their really is something to titillate all five of your senses.

Photo via: Mercedes-Benz

In the performance arena, the 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 gives you exactly what you need, but not much more. A capable 3.0L V6 Biturbo spins out 329 hp and 354 lg-ft of torque. Everything is micro-managed by a 9-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration is politely smooth and shifts are quite and soft. Unlike many multi-speed transmissions, the E400 didn’t have to hunt around much for the right gear at slower speeds, though their remained the occasional stumble. Engine noise is perfectly subdued in comfort and eco modes, only showing a little teeth when flipped into sport and sport plus. Riding on sophisticated air suspension, handling is always smooth and controlled. Despite its size, body-roll is kept in check and the always-on all-wheel drive system helps the E400 handle itself with unwavering poise.

A long list of safety features make the appearance you’d expect in the latest E-Class. What was less expected for me was how good the autopilot-cruise control function was. Switch on these assists and the new E400 will carefully stay in its lane, keep a safe distance from the car in front, brake and completely stop in heavy traffic and even change lanes all on its own. There’s even a feature called Speed Limit Pilot, which reads speed limit signs as you pass and automatically adjusts the cruise control accordingly. These are simply driving assists and never meant to completely replace you as the driver. However, they go a long way to enhance the driving experience overall, proving especially helpful over long distance trips.

There’s plenty more that could be said about the 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet. It’s a wonderful convertible with a beautifully designed exterior, cutting edge driving aides, amazing technology and soft, comfortable performance that can be adjusted up to provide the extra sportiness certain situations call for. Most impressive of all is an interior that’s on a level of luxury so painstakingly high, you can’t help but feel incredibly pampered each time you get inside. All of this at a price that can start in the mid 60’s range if you ditch some of the optional goodies. Everything said, you’ll be seriously challenged to find a better convertible for the money.

By: Brandon Randall

Price as tested: $89,735.00

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