2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class cabriolet
2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class cabriolet. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class cabriolet

Ottawa, Ontario – It turns out not even a 5.0 magnitude earthquake can upset the over-the-road composure of the new 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet, as my driving partner and I discovered on a preview drive of the new 2011 E350 Cabriolet near Ottawa last Wednesday. During the 30-second seismic event, we didn’t even notice the ground shaking beneath our car.

To be fair, anyone driving a car that day would probably have missed the quake – unless the road collapsed in front of them, which it did in at least one location. Nevertheless, the new E-Class Cabriolet’s firm but compliant suspension and tight rattle-free body exhibited none of the cowl shake and windshield twisting that’s common to many convertibles, and it was obvious that the E-Cabriolet’s excellent build quality contributed to its solid ride over the less-than-perfect country roads in the Ottawa/Gatineau area.

2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class cabriolet
2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class cabriolet
2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class cabriolet. Click image to enlarge

Based on a modified C-Class platform, the all-new 2011 E-Class Cabriolet follows in the footsteps of the 2010 E-Class coupe introduced here last year and is essentially a replacement for the CLK-Class convertible which was discontinued at the end of the 2009 model year. Slightly longer and wider than the CLK, the E-Class Cabriolet starts at $67,900 for the E350 Cabriolet and $77,500 for the E550 Cabriolet. That’s considerably less expensive than its predecessors, the 2009 CLK350 ($78,400) and 2009 CLK550 ($91,400).

Like the E-Class Coupes, the Cabriolets feature a standard 262-hp 3.5-litre V6 in the E350 and the 382-hp 5.5-litre V8 in the E550, both matched to a seven-speed (7G-Tronic) automatic transmission with manual shifting capability.

Major competitors for the 2011 E-Class Cab are BMW’s (2010 model year) 230-hp BMW 328i Cabriolet ($56,800), 300-hp 335i Cabriolet ($68,400), and 414-hp M3 Cabriolet ($81,900); and Audi’s 211-hp Audi A5 Cabriolet ($56,300) and 333-hp S5 Cabriolet ($68,300) and S5 Premium Cabriolet ($72,000). With a variety of powertrains and horsepower ratings in this class, and differing levels of standard equipment, it’s difficult to make a direct model to model comparison. My guess is, in this price bracket, styling, quality and brand image will be the primary factors in the buyers’ decisions. Mercedes-Benz Canada E-Class Cabriolet Product Manager, David Sherrard, predicts the typical owner will be a well-educated male about 50 years old with children still living at home.

2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class cabriolet
2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class cabriolet
2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class cabriolet. Click image to enlarge

The new E-Class Cabriolet has the same basic rear-drive platform, styling and powertrain as the E-Class coupe, and along with its power retractable fabric roof it has extra reinforcing in the windshield pillars and body sides, and two pop-up roll bars behind the rear head restraints. The combination of its stronger windshield pillars and rear roll bars provides effective rollover protection for all four passengers – a sophisticated “tilting cone” sensor detects a possible rollover, and automatically deploys the rear roll bars in a fraction of a second.

The new E-Class Cabriolet also includes technologies designed to improve occupant comfort and reduce air turbulence in the cabin while driving with the top down. These include a new aerodynamic system called AIRCAP. With the push of a button, a retractable wind deflector at the top of the windscreen, called a lamella, raises 61 mm (2.4 in.) to direct air flow over the top of the passenger compartment. In conjunction with this, two rear head restraints and a mesh screen between them rise up to keep the air flowing over the top of the heads of the rear passengers. With AIRCAP engaged, there is a noticeable reduction in wind buffeting for front seat passengers and a less noticeable reduction for rear passengers. We found it works best if all four side windows are up to prevent wind buffeting coming in from the sides.

In addition, with the windshield lamella in the ‘up’ position, noise associated with wind buffeting is reduced. However, the mesh screen under the lamella creates a slight hissing sound at highway speeds, and that fine mesh screen acts like a bug trap on summer days. As the lamella can’t be raised while the top is up, cleaning out those bugs with a hose will require care to prevent the interior from getting wet. Still, the net effect of the new AIRCAP system is positive for top-down driving, and I expect we’ll see similar systems on other convertibles soon.

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