When would you need a convertible suited equally to the four seasons? Perhaps you’re skirting the Alps, zipping from Lake Annecy to Courmayeur on a summer’s day. Or maybe you’re in British Columbia, crossing the Coast Mountains from Vancouver to Whistler. You never know. That’s why Mercedes-Benz took its mid-sized convertible, the E-Class Cabriolet, and weatherized it with all-wheel drive, a wind deflector, and the brand’s proprietary neck-warmer. Like a devoted Scout the 2018 E-Class cabrio is always prepared for that stunning moment when sun gives way to snow, which we experienced on the drive that Mercedes-Benz invited us to across the Swiss Alps and into neighboring France and Italy.
Just arriving at dealerships in the USA the droptop (which starts at $66,300) gets Mercedes’ optional 4MATIC all-wheel drive system for the first time, offering extra traction in rain, sleet or snow. That means that the all-weather convertible ups the traditional fun factor providing a decidedly sportier driving experience than an open-seater normally would (or could). It starts under the hood: The E-Class cabrio’s 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 delivers 329 horsepower and enough pep to enhance the path to wherever your all-terrain destination may take you—curving mountain roads, single-lane traffic cutting through a sleepy resort town, and to be sure, long stretches of highway.
The car won’t make you drive if you don’t want to—its optional semi-autonomous Intelligent Drive system, which uses cameras and sensors to steer itself on straightaways and around some curves, is designed to let you sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery. All it asks is that you keep your hands on the wheel to show you’re paying attention. It’s one of the car’s many tech enhancements, most of which provide useful tools for drivers.
The car’s hot-cold dichotomy is evident in its cabin design. Mercedes’ AirCap system, which features a pair of wind deflectors positioned at the front and rear of the car, mutes road noise while mitigating the havoc convertibles normally wreak on your hair. You won’t need to raise the roof when the sun sets or slips behind the clouds, either—the AirScarf (aka Mercedes’ “neck-level heating system”) envelopes your neck in a pleasing blast of warm air. And let’s not forget the windshield: Mercedes’ Magic Vision Control applies washer fluid directly to the wiper in order to prevent water marks, scoring points with obsessive screen cleaners like us.
If you do want to test the noise-resistant layered fabric roof you can have it open and close in 20 seconds with the push of a button while the car is traveling up to 30 mph—very helpful when you’re entering a tunnel or you’re under a sudden shower. When it’s up, the convertible becomes luxury sedan-quiet, insulated from road noise and menacing skies. Unlike the convertibles of yesteryear, the E-Class cabrio doesn’t make you choose between comfort or thrills, and driving with the top up or down are both pleasurable driving experiences.
The four-seate gets the brand’s sleek 12.3-inch widescreen cockpit as well as soft, heat-reflecting leather upholstery, is the Goldilocks of the Mercedes-Benz convertible lineup: bigger than the C-Class cabrio but not as much of a production as the version derived from the flagship S-Class sedan. The new E-Class cabrio continues to grow, providing nearly four more inches of legroom than the previous generation, as well as a larger trunk and split-folding, through-loading rear seats to accommodate ski or surf equipment—or both. Adults can sit comfortably in the rear seat, which makes it all the more enjoyable.
Images by Josh Rubin