2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet First Drive
EngineTurbo 2.0L I4; Turbo 4.0L V8
Power245 HP / 273 LB-FT; 476 HP / 479 LB-FT; 510 HP / 516 LB-FT
Transmission7- or 9-Speed Auto
0-60 Time4.1–6.4 Seconds
Top Speed155 MPH
DrivetrainRear- or All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight3,726–4,078 LBS
Base Price$50,000 (est)
This is actually the first proper C-Class convertible. The outgoing E-Class cabriolet rides on a version of the previous C-Class platform and has always seemed somewhat ashamed of its more humble roots. Before that, there was the CLK convertible, which was based on but not named a C-Class. Now the growing C line takes full ownership of its convertible offspring.
We were of course drawn to the AMG versions, which really feel like the same car – the S is basically Nigel Tufnel's 11-reaching amp in automotive form, turning output up from 467 to 510 horsepower. The 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 under the hood of the C63 and C63 S will make anyone giggle when they mash their foot on the accelerator. The massive torque – 479 lb-ft in the 63, 516 for the 63 S – pushes you back into the seat and holds you there as if commanding you: Thou shalt go faster. Mercedes estimates the C63 S can go from 0 to 62 mph in 4.1 seconds; the plain old C63 will save you a few dollars but cost you 0.1 second in the same sprint. And the massive AMG brakes will answer many prayers after spirited acceleration runs.
The AMG seven-speed automatic transmission on both is flawless. It's perfectly calibrated and practically omniscient, holding gears when it needs to, ripping through them at other times.
Like the C63 coupes and sedans, the AMGs feel like bulls ready for the fight. They maintain fantastic grip through corners with little body roll. They tempt you to go faster.
While the cars tuned in Affalterbach grab all of the glory, the C300 is the more practical option, available with standard rear drive or optional 4Matic all-wheel drive. Its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder manages 245 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, and Mercedes claims it can go from 0 to 62 mph in 6.1 seconds. The output is ample for highway passing and around-town cruising, and although it lacks that rocket ship torque and mean growl of the V8, it still feels quick. The turbo four never whines like some small engines stressed to redline. Instead, the nine-speed automatic transmission smoothly winds through each gear, making acceleration feel effortless.
Even the mainstream car is stable and well-planted through hard, fast corners. As expected, the body moves around more than on the AMG models, but the difference is not significant. During one rainy day of testing, the all-wheel-drive C300 let me smoothly cut into country road corners without slowing down and it held its place effortlessly. The 4Matic system let me accelerate quickly out of the corner instead of having to try and feather the throttle to keep the rear end in place. The steering feels more easygoing, even in Sport mode, than on the AMG models but never too loose. The suspension and chassis are unfazed even over rough road, with the car maintaining a sense of poise at all times. Like the rest of the C-Class line, it keeps that everlasting Mercedes heavy feel but with much more attention to sportiness.
Perhaps the only annoying feature with either engine was the fuel-saving stop/start system, which, while it worked as it was supposed to, caused me to pause before darting across traffic. It felt unnecessary and was easily overridden by the push of a button.
Unlike some convertibles that bow to their hardtop siblings because of additional weight and reduced structural integrity, the C-Class cabrios sacrificed very little. The C300 comes in right at 3,725 pounds, about 100 more than the C300 coupe. Mercedes knew right from the platform's genesis it would build a convertible and engineered many light-but-strong features, such as the aluminum hood and rear decklid.
All three convertibles start off 15 mm lower than their coupe counterparts and include a sport suspension with firmer springs and damping that is optional on the hardtop. There is also the available Airmatic air suspension that is electronically controlled and continuously adjustable for both the front and rear axles.
Mercedes includes its Dynamic Select system, which allows the driver to set the ride, throttle mapping, transmission shift points, and steering feel to their liking with the flick of a switch, with settings ranging from economy to comfort to two sport modes, with an additional racing mode for the AMGs. The differences between settings are noticeable in both feel and sound. And there is no reason to ever drive the AMG versions without the active exhaust turned on.
Like the sedans and coupes, the C-Class convertibles have an elegant exterior with sharp creases. The high beltline, steep windshield, and long hood give these convertibles a classic coupe look with the roof up. Power is communicated through the large intakes on the grille and below headlamps that push back into the fenders. The AMG models add carbon-fiber trim on the trunk as well as a subtle spoiler. The 17-, 18-, or 19-inch wheels fill the wells and give these convertibles a planted stance. Even with the cloth top up, the cars look stunning.
There's also a simple elegance to the interior design. Most surfaces are covered with French-stitched leather; the high center console uses real carbon fiber on the AMG models and a dark wood grain, which I preferred, in the C300. The floating touchscreen at the top of the dash looks elegant but provides that practical advantage of keeping your eyes closer to the road. (Of course, there's a head-up display as well if you want to view key information without glancing away.)
The second row is comfortable for two adults, though when the cloth top is up, it can feel cramped back there because of the lack of headroom. The second-row seats have a 50/50 split and can fold flat to allow for more storage. Trunk space is limited, even with the top up and out of the way, but folding the seats down opens up more room. With the roof up, the C300 doesn't let in any road or wind noise. People in the second row can speak at a normal volume to those in front.
Mercedes adds its Airscarf to the C-Class convertible in order to tack on a few more months of cruising in cold-weather areas. These seat-mounted vents can blow three different temperatures on the driver's and front passenger's necks. An Aircap system, like the one found on the E-Class convertible, includes a wind louvre that pops up from the top of the windshield and a draft stop behind the rear head rests that extends to reduce turbulence in the cabin. The system basically controls nature or at least deflects it and works well to keep the cabin quiet. The point of all this being, unless it's raining, the top should be down.
Those are some of the little luxuries Mercedes customers expect, and they should because these cars will have a starting price north of $50,000 when they arrive in the US later this year. But Mercedes makes a persuasive case for its newest cabriolets. They're much more modern than any BMW 4 Series droptop and more substantial than the outgoing Audi A5 cabriolet. There's no need to disguise this car with E-Class badging or bodywork any longer; the C can be proud of its convertibles.
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