Saturday 3 December 2016

Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet is a class act when the sun shines

Criticisms fail to dampen spirits

Published 02/10/2016 | 02:30

Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet
Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet

I started to write this in a car park near Dublin airport as the rain poured down. I'd just come in from sunny Manchester (yes, sunny) and was waiting for my daughter to arrive back from Prague. Yet again, I had been looking forward to both of us enjoying a drive south with the hood down on my Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet.

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I know it is hardly summer-driving season, but I was disappointed over the week at how few genuine opportunities we'd had to drop the black hood and enjoy what makes the car so different - open-air driving.

That has been not just disappointing, but frustrating. So much so, I think, it would put me off buying a car like this. I think if I had €62,000 to spend, I might buy the C-Class Coupé version - and still have change.

But I'd be torn between the two. Even though the Coupé is one of my favourite cars right now, this Cabrio looks better and has more appeal.

Some of my seasoned motoring-journalist colleagues summed it up: "That's a great looking car." It's not the sort of response they would give to too many motors, I can tell you. This is deserving of having 'Class' in its name.

But before we get carried away, there were a couple of drawbacks I came across that I need to highlight.

I was disappointed the roof let in so much noise; other, and less expensive, rival models I have driven seemed to be far better insulated.

Don't get me wrong: I like the idea of knowing there's something going on out there, that I'm not in a silent, cocooned cabin. The swish of wind is part of the drive but I thought this was a bit excessive.

I also found the steering not so much woolly but strangely two-toned. Sometimes it didn't have that feel of letting me know precisely where it was, and other times it felt really bolted on. It was as if it operated at two levels.

Both drawbacks did affect my enjoyment a bit. Which is why I'm raising them here. But not to any great extent, I have to say.

Indeed, it would be completely unfair to highlight them without simultaneously emphasising how much we - my daughters and I - did enjoy this on a number of drives (not all three of us at the same time; there simply isn't enough room at the back).

Sadly the opportunities to drop that hood were limited. It is not until you try to avail of reasonable-length fine periods that you realise how scant and scarce they can be. The weather always seems to be good somewhere else. Driving hood-down in Ireland is akin to range anxiety with electric cars - you always have an eye on the horizon.

Yet neither wind nor rain could detract from just how well the Cabrio looked. I think it's better in the flesh than in any of its pictures.

The cabin is one of the real modern classics; not just the C-Class lay-out but the luxury they have managed to append. The cranberry red leather is sumptuous.

This is the sort of car you get a bit excited about, not so much for its dynamic or engineering prowess but for its ability to be modern and classic at the same time.

It is the sort of car (and perceived lifestyle) you might envy others having when you draw alongside them at the traffic lights with the summer sun shining and the hood down.

Funnily enough, I think it is mechanically set up for cruising the highways more than the byways or city routes.

With its nine-speed automatic gearbox and diesel engine barely ticking over as a result, it floated to Wexford and back; to Tullamore and back; to the airport and back, etc.

Even though its 2.1-litre diesel has been around for a long, long time (it will gradually be replaced over the coming years with a brand new 2-litre), somehow or another they have managed to curb its rougher edges to make this feel and sound smoother.

The car may not have the outstanding dynamics of the BMW 3/4-series, but it adds something that none of its rivals manage nearly as well: the looks and the luxury of a posh, compact drop-top.

It's an eye-catcher for all the right reasons; it doesn't try to be too smart but at the same time, it is smart.

No one, except me, seemed in the slightest bit deterred by the price. It does cost the same sort of money as a large executive saloon. I realise, of course, it is a niche buy and those buying it have no qualms about paying for such luxury.

On that basis, the only other area for which it can't make a convincing case for me is the vicissitudes of our Irish weather.

Facts & figures

Mercedes C-Class 2dr Cabriolet, C220d AMG-Pack diesel 9sp automatic; 2,143cc, 170bhp; 4.9/4.6litres/100km; 123g/km; €270 tax. Price with options: €62,502.

Spec includes air con, Collision Prevention Assist Plus, 17ins alloys, Comfort pack, Garmin Map Pilot (nav), cranberry red leather upholstery, heated front seats, intelligent light system, parking pack, rain sensor, reversing camera. Options include AMG interior/exterior packs, 18ins AMG alloys.

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