2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet first drive review

With the arrival of the small CLA sedan three years ago as its entry vehicle, Mercedes-Benz has moved the latest version of its C-Class range up in size, style, and features.

Now the C-Class Cabrio soft-top convertible has been unveiled as the last of the four C-Class variants, following the C-Class sedan and coupe that are already on sale. (The fourth is a C-Class wagon, which sadly won’t be sold in North America.)

We spent parts of two days driving a variety of European-spec C-Class Cabrio models along the Adriatic Sea coast, from Trieste into Slovenia and back. We spent the most time in the new C43 model, which may offer the best balance of performance and tractability in the lineup.

Lineup parallels coupe

The Cabrio range, as you might expect, is broadly similar to that of the coupe it’s derived from—and it offers the same three engine options to North American buyers. The standard Mercedes-Benz C 300 Cabrio is powered by a 241-horspower turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that puts out 273 lb-ft of torque, paired to a 9-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and 4Matic all-wheel drive can be added as an option.

2017 Mercedes-Benz C 300 Cabrio (European version), Trieste region, May 2016

2017 Mercedes-Benz C 300 Cabrio (European version), Trieste region, May 2016

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The middle of the three-car Cabrio range is the Mercedes-AMG C43, the lower of two AMG performance variants. Its 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 is rated at 362 hp and 384 lb-ft, with the 9-speed automatic and all-wheel drive as standard. It gets a number of the AMG design add-ons, though not as many as the C63.

At the top of the range are the Mercedes-AMG C63 and C63S, whose 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 engines put out 469 or 503 hp and 479 or 516 lb-ft respectively. This year, the C63 comes with a 7-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive, though a beefier version of the 9-speed plus all-wheel drive will be swapped in eventually.

Airscarf eliminates buffeting

The Cabrio offers a handful of features unique to the drop-top version of the elegant Coupe shape. The power-operated soft top stows below a rear-hinged panel in front of the trunk lid that opens before the top opens, all of it controlled by a button on the console. Mercedes says the top is based on the same design as that of the pricier S-Class Cabrio, and can be raised or lowered at road speeds up to 30 miles per hour (a capability we didn’t need to test). The entire top-raising or lowering process takes 21 seconds.

2017 Mercedes-AMG C63S Cabrio (European version), Trieste region, May 2016

2017 Mercedes-AMG C63S Cabrio (European version), Trieste region, May 2016

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The switch to open or close the top is flanked by two other Cabrio-specific buttons, one of which raises lowers all four windows at once. The other activates an optional AirCap heating system that cuts turbulence in the passenger compartment by routing airflow over the heads of occupants.

That’s accomplished with a sort of wing that rises from the windshield header bar, like an automatic trunk spoiler, when the button is pushed. It’s paired with a mesh wind-blocking screen that rises from behind the rear seat. AirScarf neck-level heating is standard on all C-Class Cabrios, and automatic belt extenders present the shoulder strap to front-seat occupants when they close the doors.

The combination of the raised metal panel on its struts and a large vertical mesh screen behind the passengers isn’t particularly elegant from the outside, but the Aircap system works quite well. Buffeting is non-existent, and wind noise is lower than in other similarly sized convertibles we’ve driven.

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