Mercedes-Benz C300 Cabrio road test and review
SUMMER holiday season is upon us and I need something suitable to cruise to the beach with my besties, any ideas?
Of course! How about a 1965 Ford Mustang, Mini Moke or, if funds are tight, a '90s Suzuki Vitara?
Erm, I was thinking something a bit classier and luxury filled, and less likely to pack up by the roadside.
In that case, and if you've got $100,000 at the ready, I've just tested Mercedes-Benz's new C-Class Cabriolet in C300 guise if that's more your bag?
Looks good, but what's with the $100k? Merc's C300 Coupe is only $83,355 before on-roads, surely it shouldn't cost $17k extra to lose the roof?
Fair enough. But there's the exclusivity of the model, a bit of extra kit over the coupe and the dreaded Australian luxury car tax bumping up that bottom line. You can get the lesser powered C200 Cabriolet for $85,900 before on-roads, but if you want to spoil yourself the C300 really has the goodies and style extras to turn heads on that beach cruise.
So the C300's number means it has a 3.0-litre engine then? V6?
Days when German cars' boot-lid numbers were relevant to engine size are rapidly dwindling. BMW's 330i uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder and it's the same deal with the Merc: the C300 features a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine good for 180kW and 370Nm, offering a 0-100kmh time of 6.4-seconds.
Quick enough I suppose, but hardly rapid in modern terms for my $100k.
Well, sir, there's always the Merc-AMG C43 Cabrio and C63 S Cabrio versions arriving early next year. They use a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 respectively, cracking 0-100kmh in 4.8-seconds and 4.1-seconds. You'll spend $120,000 or $180,000 on these AMG specials for the performance though.
See the C300 as rapid enough - this is a cruiser not a track star remember. Plus, the C300's sports exhaust still makes a lovely rasp (not quite AMG-good though), and will be a lot gentler on the fuel bills.
Point taken. Besides, I'm more concerned with cabin comfort and being able to use my cabrio with its roof down as often as possible. Sell it to me...
I tested the C300 in Victoria's Yarra Valley on an unexpectedly (I am from Queensland) cold day. It didn't really matter in this C-Class Cabrio. As you'd expect from the brand, extensive work has gone in to ensuring the open-to-the-elements cabin has its own cosseting micro-climate to encourage year-round topless driving.
And it works superbly. It's a 20 second job to lower the solid-feeling soft-top, and unlike the entry-level C200, my C300 scored electric heated seats and what's known as an Airscarf. This is neck-level heating for the driver and passenger where warm or even hot air is channelled through a vent in your seat's headrest, cocooning your neck in an invisible blanket of toastiness. It is rather lovely.
The car also has Merc's Aircap draught stop system which rises from the roof frame. This works with an electric draught stop behind the rear seats, dramatically reducing cabin turbulence. In fact, it's all a bit Transformers when you fancy some open-airiness, as all these extra parts smoothly emerge from the car to reduce the buffeting. If you have kids, playing with these buttons will occupy them for hours.
So I'm still able to have a chat with my crew when punting along in the Merc Cabrio?
Absolutely. Of course it's not as insulated and quiet as when the roof's up, but at three-figure speeds my passenger and I were able to chat away with just the occasional raising of voices. An old-school convertible - when there was what felt like a hurricane in the passenger compartment at speed - this is not.
Let's get back to the $100k bit. I'm expecting fruit and lots of it.
You do pretty well, but before the inclusions, it's important to appreciate the joy of any Merc C-Class cabin. This is why you pay for a Benz, and helps explain why the brand's Aussie sales are on an impressive surge.
You feel special in a C-Class - it's a "traditional" Merc model, and you can see, smell and feel the difference over - if I'm not being crude here - the cheaper and lesser Benzes, namely A-Class and CLA models which are aimed at younger shoppers.
The C-Class cockpit is a wonderful fusion of curves, man-made leather soft touch surfaces and classy practicality. In the C300 I took a shine to the Black Ash open-pore wood adorning the giant centre console, loved the analogue clock, the threesome of central round air vents and flat-bottom steering wheel. The well-bolstered leather seats too are deliciously soft.
There's a 590 watt Burmester surround sound system included, and my only grumble would be the door mounted speakers will be a bit blingy for some tastes.
I hear you, now get back to the toys...
Alright. Brace yourself. As well as what I've mentioned before you score AMG body styling, 19-inch wheels, 7-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate, radar cruise control, head-up display, digital radio, keyless start, steering wheel shift paddles and COMAND online with a 21.3cm TFT colour display, HDD navigation, touchpad, 10GB music register, voice activation and internet access. Phew.
Hmmm, quite loaded. Suppose it's pretty safe too?
It would be quite hard to crash it. You score some semi-autonomous stuff here in the active safety department: steering assist, pre-safe brake with pedestrian recongnition, and cross traffic, active blind spot and lane keep assists. Should you somehow roll your Cabrio, pyrotechnically fired cartridges shoot up to help provide a survival space. Q Branch would be impressed.
You'll tell me it's practical too?
In part. The 360-litre boot is deep with the soft-top roof up, but you're down to 285-litres with roof stowed, and that's VW Polo size. Rear seat backrests fold down completely or can be split 50:50 though, upping the practicality.
As for those rear seats - only two - a couple of adults can be accommodated reasonably. Leg room's a bit limited and the chairs are firm, but it's still a joyous place to travel with wonderful open-air views.
Sum up the drive experience...
On a decent surface the C300 is quite the smooth cruiser, but this car's 19-inch wheels do feel the bigger bumps. The four-cylinder takes a bit of persuading to come alive at times, but drop the gears yourself through the shift paddles and you'll discover oodles of torque to waft you along at decent pace. The 9-speed auto gearbox effortlessly works away in the background, and the car's general balance and road-holding has you forgetting it's a cabrio. It's pretty sublime.
You have a Dynamic Select driving mode selector, with Sport and Sport+ modes quickening your throttle response, holding gears at higher revs and sporting up your steering. Fun as this is, the real joy comes from leaving everything in Comfort and relaxing back in your leather-lined heated enclosure. This is lazy Cabrio life at its finest.
A winner then, even at $100k?
Visually stunning inside and out, effortless to drive and chockers with tech and safety gear, it's a sporting rag top par excellence.
Spending the extra over a C-Class Coupe or Sedan means you'd want to be travelling most of the time with that roof folded, and the C300 makes this possible year round as long as the rain's off. And really, everyone should own a convertible once in their life...
Model: Mercedes-Benz C 300 Cabriolet.
Details: Two-door, four-seat rear-wheel drive premium small convertible.
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 180kW @ 5500rpm and peak torque of 370Nm @ 1300rpm
Transmission: 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic with paddle shifters.
Consumption: 7.2L/100km (combined).
Performance 0-100kmh: 6.4 seconds.
Bottom line plus on-roads: $99,900.
What matters most
What we liked: Stunning interior, cabin's warmth and reasonable serenity at speed with roof folded, quality design and long list of safety inclusions.
What we'd like to see: More boot space to up the practicality, a rescinding of the luxury car tax to stop the Cabrio looking expensive next to its C-Class tin-top stablemates.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is every 20,000km or annually and capped service plans are available.