What does it take to convert a coupe into a convertible? Mercedes-Benz has the answer in the C-Class Cabriolet.
The best things come to those who wait, so the saying goes. And with the cabriolet being the latest addition to Mercedes- Benz’s compact executive range, the wait is over. There is already a sedan, estate and coupe within the range, so a soft-top version was a natural next step. I have always been a fan of convertible cars, so I was keen to get behind the wheel of the C200, drop the top and feel the wind in my face.
I had already driven the C200 sedan which had left a good impression on me, so expectations were high for the cabriolet. While most of us assume the roof is simply chopped off and replaced with a convertible one, in actual fact, a lot of engineering goes on behind the scenes. There are structural, mechanical and aerodynamic challenges that come with turning a coupe into a convertible, namely to fit the motors that power the folding roof and the roof itself into the boot while leaving enough space for luggage. It is an engineering feat that also needs serious design work to keep the car looking good from all angles.
Indeed, the new C-Class Cabriolet features muscular lines and a very sporty shape, making it stand out from the crowd. This new breed of Mercedes-Benz is another step in the right direction for the brand as it shakes off its stuffy old-man’s image and appeals to a younger and trendier crowd.
Cabriolets definitely appeal to this new target market and, on looks alone, the C200 Cabriolet will win over many converts with its longer and wider stance, large air intakes and sleek shape. A diamond radiator grille, along with LED high-performance headlamps, a long bonnet and high beltline make the C-Class’ front-end striking indeed. At the back, wide shoulders, upswept LED taillights and a curvy rear end complement the front. My test car also came with optional AMG Line 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, which added another layer of sportiness.
Whatever body shape and exterior changes Mercedes-Benz makes to its new models, one thing that remains constant is the luxurious and plush interior. Here, the two-door cabriolet resembles that of its coupe sibling with its high-quality details and latest gadgetry. There is an abundance of black open-pore ash wood trim and a quaint analogue clock. Warm ambient lighting illuminating at various parts of the car’s interior welcomes you as you enter the cabin.
The great thing about driving a cabriolet is that it is two cars in one — with the roof up and the roof down. I am always eager to drop the roof as soon as possible and make the most of a convertible, weather permitting. I also enjoy watching the movement as the roof neatly folds itself up and slips into the trunk. Passing motorists are also intrigued with this as I have discovered numerous times.
Everything comes alive with the top down and you hear all sorts of noises you were previously insulated from. It is a little unsettling at first, but you soon get used to it. You can lessen the effect by having the windows fully up or use a new feature called an Aircap wind deflector. This is a hi-tech looking screen that pops up like a back window and cuts down the turbulence when you are cruising with the top down.
However, if you want the full hair-dryer experience, drop all four windows and the Aircap, and let the wind circle inside the car and wake up your senses. You could lower your seating position a little if it gets too blustery, but where is the fun in that? On the highway, you cannot last for too long anyway without putting the windows back up along with the Aircap, especially if you want to have a conversation with your passengers.
With or without the top down, this is an assured drive thanks to a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine that is capable of 184bhp and 300Nm of peak torque. This is German luxury at its best so the car feels smooth at all times and holds the road effortlessly. The transmission is slick, power comes quick, and it is a dream to drive. I had previously not been fond of the gearstick up on the steering wheel column, but I am now converted.
The technology is impressive inside and out, proving Mercedes-Benz still knows what drivers value and enjoy in their cars. I am not sure who said it, but a sage once commented that we should all own a convertible car at least once in our lives. Maybe this is your time.
MERCEDES-BENZ C-CLASS CABRIOLET C200
COE Engine: 1,991cc, 4-cylinder, in-line, 16-valve, turbocharged
Fuel consumption: 6.7L/100km
0 to 100kph: 7.8 seconds
Top speed: 233kph
Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast
This article appeared in Issue 780 (May 22) of The Edge Singapore.