2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet
2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet. Click image to enlarge
Related articles on Autos
First Drive: 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabrio
First Drive: 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabrio (2)
Test Drive: 2010 Mercedes-Benz E 350 sedan
First Drive: 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
First Drive: 2010 Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG
First Drive: 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe
Used cars: Mercedes E-Class, 2003-2009

Manufacturer’s web site
Mercedes-Benz Canada

Join Autos’s Facebook group
Follow Autos on Twitter

Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

Photo Gallery:
2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet

Although I’m very fond of the C-Class sedan – and it’s the furthest my budget could possibly stretch into the German automaker’s offerings – I’ve always thought of the E-Class as being the “quintessential Mercedes.” Large but not unwieldy, elegant yet modern, it’s simply a big, beautiful Benz. For 2011, it reaches out to even more people with the addition of three new models: a new station wagon, diesel-powered sedan and my tester, the E-Class Cabriolet. Any car where the roof goes down is a fine one in my books, but in almost all aspects, this one takes it a bit beyond.

Two powertrains are available, and mine was the E350, which uses a 3.5-litre V6 and, like all E-Class models, a seven-speed automatic transmission. It starts at $67,900; for $77,500, you can move up to the E550, powered by a 5.5-litre V8. Both come with a fully automatic soft folding roof – something that, after a flurry of retractable hardtops, seems to be making a comeback. It has much to do with weight, especially given the pressure on automakers to reduce their overall fuel consumption and the direct link between vehicle weight and vehicle thirst, as well as rear-passenger and trunk room.

2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet
2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet
2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet. Click image to enlarge

My tester was further optioned with $8,650 worth of extra goodies, including an AMG sport package of 18-inch twin-spoke AMG wheels, body kit, sport steering wheel and multi-contour front seats; a Premium Package that added a Harmon/Kardon surround-sound stereo, media interface, parking sensors, navigation system, keyless entry and start and an Airscarf system (more on that later); and Distronic Plus, which monitors vehicles ahead and keeps a specified distance when the cruise control is on, or sends out warnings if the driver’s on his own and gets too close to another vehicle, to the point that it will stop the car entirely if possible.

The engines are the same as those found in the E-Class coupe, and like the two-door fixed-roof models, the cabriolets are rear-wheel drive only, without the four-wheel system found on the E-Class sedan. Seating is strictly for four people, and it’s a fairly tight fit for longer-legged passengers in the rear chairs.

At 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, the V6 is the little brother to the V8’s 382 horses and 391 lb-ft. It’s a deliciously smooth engine with linear throttle response, but it’s a heavy car, and zipping down a gear or two with the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters is the best plan when serious passing power is needed on the highway. The official fuel figures are 12.7 L/100 km (22 mpg Imp) in the city and 8.3 (34) on the highway; in combined driving, I averaged 10.8 (26). Premium fuel is the requirement.

2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet
2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet. Click image to enlarge

For all its size and weight, the E-Class certainly knows how to waltz. The seven-speed transmission is a great unit for smooth, seamless shifts. A button switches from the default “comfort” setting, which takes off in second gear and offers better fuel economy, to a “sport” mode that tightens up the suspension and transmission settings for more spirited workouts. The days of wobbly convertibles are just about over and the E-Class is a prime example of how to properly build one. Despite the lack of a roof, it’s rock-solid and doesn’t need to be handled with kid gloves; you can spin this one around corners just as if it was tied together at the top as well as at the bottom. The turning circle is tight and the speed-sensitive steering firms up nicely at higher speeds, while retaining the light feel you want when spinning it around parking lots at much lower trajectory.

It wasn’t all that warm during my week with the E-Class, and I really don’t like the cold, but what’s the point of a convertible when the roof is up? Sure, you can turn on the heater, but Mercedes takes that a step further with the combination of a standard AirCap and my car’s optional Airscarf.

Connect with Autos.ca