How Mercedes have made a proper four-seater out of new E-Class cabrio
First drive in Geneva: E-Class Cabrio
Cabriolets are inevitably a compromise. We all love that wind-in-the-hair feeling, but to achieve it often means putting up with restricted space and a less than cosy feeling when the weather gets bad.
Mercedes reckons they have cracked both problems with their latest E-Class cabriolet. It's 123mm longer than the car it replaces, and most of that goes towards rear seat legroom, making this a true four-seater.
As standard, it's equipped with an acoustic roof that insulates you from the elements completely.
The roof can be raised or lowered in 20 seconds at speeds up to 50kmh.
The new car is heavily based on the E-Class saloon, of course, so all the advanced tech from that platform is available, including the wide screen cockpit, driving assistance systems and remote parking.
It sits 15mm lower than the saloon, and both dynamic dampers and air suspension are available as options.
We flew into Geneva to try the new car and our route took us through France and into Italy via the Mont Blanc tunnel.
Our first test car was the 220d, which we'll get in Ireland in October. It's a smooth engine and well suited to this car. Even with the top down, there's virtually no engine noise.
There's some wind noise, particularly with the Aircap in place. This is a spoiler that can be raised above the windscreen to remove turbulence. It seems it's of more benefit to rear seat passengers.
What will be of more use in Ireland is the Airscarf system, which blows hot air around your neck. Both will be standard on Irish cars.
Like the saloon, the cabriolet is a smooth drive - more a GT car than a back roads sprinter - but with the roof down, it's a lovely drive.
After reaching the end of the first day's test route in the ski resort of Courmayeur, we took a cable car 3,500m up Mont Blanc, where Mercedes had winched a cabriolet up by helicopter.
It was surreal to see the car shrouded in cloud and the temperature in minus figures within minutes of leaving the sunny valley floor.
The following day, we had the chance to try one of the petrol variants, an E400, powered by a twin-turbo V6. This car won't come to Ireland - the only petrol option we'll get is an E200 with 184bhp. I drove the car through the Mont Blanc tunnel, although drove is perhaps not the right word as I let the car drive itself and it acquitted itself well.
This model is fitted as standard with 4MATIC AWD, which will be an option here, though it's not really needed. All Irish cars will have 9spd auto gearboxes.
Expect prices to start in the low 60s. It's not cheap car, but it fills its brief of luxury drop-top exceedingly well.