The 2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet range starts out at great and goes to phenomenal. Pardon the gushing, but as long as a buyer can afford it, any version can be treasured for years.
This is the first time the company has built an actual C-Class Cabriolet (the Benz term for convertible). Now is the ideal opportunity, because the current platform — which debuted with the 2015 sedan — makes the best C-Class ever.
It takes an eccentric to dislike this car’s exterior styling. By showing restraint, the designers have created something that has every chance of being as timeless as other Mercedes-Benz models down the years. The tail end, in particular, is tidy and well-proportioned. And the lines are equally successful with the roof in place or folded away.
Like the exterior, it’s safe to assume that only those with peculiar preferences will take issue with the interior. Some people aren’t fans of the touchscreen on the center console that looks like it might be a detachable tablet. But it doesn’t take long to accept it. The rest of the cabin impresses with its taste and class, and also how well it’s put together.
The C-Class is also so cleverly designed that even with the roof down, it’s still possible to have conversations at freeway speeds without shouting. The fabric top — which insulates occupants from exterior noises and weather conditions — only takes about 19 seconds to complete its operation and can be deployed at speeds of up to 30 mph.
Each C-Class convertible seats four and although few adults will relish a long trip sat in the back, it’s bearable for a short hop. The front seats are well-shaped and supportive, providing plenty of adjustment.
The trunk has 8.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the top up, able to handle a couple of golf bags and probably enough for the buyer who wants a compact premium soft-top instead of, say, a station wagon. The rear seats can fold in 50/50 split for a little luggage-carrying flexibility.
The C300 has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. That’s a useful amount of muscle and more than adequate against the competition.
The C43 AMG enjoys 362 hp and 384 lb-ft from a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6. The C63 siblings have a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 for 469 hp and 479 lb-ft, or — in the C63 S — 503 hp and 516 lb-ft.
The C300 and C43 have a nine-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles; the C63 versions use a seven-speed automatic, also with paddles. Rear-wheel drive is the usual setup, but all-wheel drive (which Mercedes calls 4Matic) is available in the C300.
We could eulogize all day about how the C63 versions can slingshot down straights and zigzag through corners. They are truly remarkable. And don’t be under the false impression that the C43 AMG is merely an exercise in marketing. It embodies a harmony of power, poise and relative affordability — as much AMG-type fun as it’s responsibly possible to have on public roads.
A soft top offers a driving experience that isn’t focused solely on speed and handling, yet the C300 still brings pleasurable power. Sprinting from stationary to 60 mph takes 6.3 seconds — only 2.3 seconds slower than the C63 S. And there’s enough torque to make a canyon road tempting.
Selecting driving modes is a matter of taste and conditions, but the Sport setting blends comfort, control and response. Even the steering is suitably tactile.
Because there’s no fixed metal roof acting as a structural member, there’s a hint of body flex over rough surfaces, but it’s far from deal-breaking.
A Knowledge for Thirst
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates fuel consumption for the rear-drive C300 Cabriolet as 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined — acceptable for this class. The all-wheel drive C300 4Matic achieves 22/29/25 mpg.
The AMG versions run to 19/26/22 mpg in the C43, while the C63 and C63 S both return 17/22/19 mpg.
Calling that “Rich Dad Poor Dad” Guy
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet starts at $51,825 for the C300. The AMG C43 is priced from $61,325, then it’s $73,775 for the C63 and $81,775 for the C63 S.
For context, the 2017 BMW 430i convertible has a folding hardtop and is priced from $51,295, while the soft-top 2018 Audi A5 Cabriolet starts at $50,575 and has all-wheel drive as standard. At the speedier/costlier end, the 2017 BMW M4 convertible costs $75,695, but loses at least 59 hp to the C63 S.
Standard features of the C-Class Cabriolet include the power-folding fabric roof, simulated leather upholstery, a wind deflector and Airscarf, which emits warm air through neck-level vents in the front seats. It really works. Heated front seats are also standard, along with keyless entry/ignition, selectable driving modes, LED lighting and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The safety department has forward collision mitigation, blind spot monitoring, a rearview camera and a seat belt valet — an arm that automatically extends to save twisting too far around to grab the seat belt.
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The options list is where the bottom line can swell. Among the extras are an air suspension (available only in the C300, it’s worth considering for the greater scope of comfort and control over the regular dampers), all-wheel drive (again, available only in the C300), satellite radio, upgraded Burmester audio system, navigation, leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, ambient cabin lighting, powered trunk closing, 19-inch wheels and Aircap — a small retractable wing at the top of the windshield to deflect oncoming air.
Advanced safety features include a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, 360-degree camera system and active parking assistance. It’s smart to grab as many protective items as possible. In particular, the surround-view camera system could easily earn its keep while maneuvering around with the roof up.
Converting to a Convertible
Of the premium open-top compact rivals from Germany, the choice might come down to which marque one tends to favor. There are no wrong decisions. Keep in mind that the C-Class Cabriolet spans between plushness and extreme sportiness.
Photo Credit: © 2017 Mercedes-Benz