What are you driving?
You can have a Mercedes-Benz C-Class in a variety of styles. These range from a coupe to a saloon to an estate or, in this case, as a cabriolet. The C-Class Cabriolet goes in to bat against other open-top cars like the Audi A5 Cabriolet, and the soon-to-be replaced BMW 4 Series Convertible. The latter will revert to a fabric roof like its nearest competitors. So, does a soft-top make any sense to drive and own in Ireland?
As with the rest of the C-Class range, you can have a wide variety of engines in the Cabriolet version, and this C 200 petrol version now comes as a mild hybrid system. The AMG Line specification also bumps the standard wheel size up to 18 inches and adds sports suspension with Mercedes' Sports direct steering. Since its introduction, the AMG Line specification has proven itself to be very popular, adding a sporty look.
You can get the full-fat Mercedes-AMG C 63 S as a cabriolet, though you'll need more than double what this C 200 Cabriolet will cost you. The 1.5-litre petrol mild hybrid system won't knock your socks off in the same way, but it does not lack in everyday performance. The 184hp output is adequate for most, though this car carries a little more weight than the coupe equivalent.
Being a mild hybrid means that it doesn't run on battery-only power at any stage. Instead, the 48-volt system has a small lithium-ion battery that the system uses to help the engine reduce its overall fuel consumption. Through an integrated starter generator the engine stops and starts more smoothly, and this can also feed up to an additional 14hp to fill in any gaps in the delivery of engine performance. Even so, it won't translate into highly economical driving; for reference, we averaged 9.3 litres/100km during our time with it.
Name its best bits
We operate on the rule that if the roof can come off (or down in this case), and the weather is in any way fine or even approaching double digits Celsius, then you ought to have a good reason for not enjoying open-top driving. The AMG Line specification includes what Mercedes calls the Aircap and Airscarf. The first of those comprises of a panel along the top of the windscreen that lifts at an angle when the roof is lowered to deflect air up and over the car.
The secondary part of this system is a wind deflecting mesh panel that elevates from behind the rear seats to reduce the amount of deflected air swirling back into the rear of the cabin. At speeds up to and slightly above 60km/h it does a stable job of preventing any noticeable wind buffeting inside the car. In addition to this, when it's colder, the Airscarf system blows warm air around the back of the neck of front-seat passengers. Along with the heated seats, it all combines to make open-top driving, even on a crisp winter morning, quite a pleasant experience.
Raising or lowering the roof takes 20 seconds, and you can do so while moving up to 50km/h. When the roof is up, the extra sound insulation layers in the fabric help to keep both road and wind noise levels down. But given the decent job that the wind deflectors do, you'll be equally happy having the roof down as much as possible. The rest of the interior features a high-quality finish and the latest infotainment system is good to use. The front seats in particular are very comfortable, making it easy to do long journeys in comfort.
Anything that bugs you?
With the roof stowed, there is an impact on boot space, reducing from 360 litres to 285 litres. However, it's still a useful enough size to swallow a few bags and other items. Anyone buying a cabriolet is likely to be aware of the sacrifices made when it comes to storage. What may be of greater concern is how tight things can feel for passengers in the back seats. Unlike the C-Class Saloon, the cabriolet is only a four-seater and even with the front seats moved forward, legroom isn't great. It's fine for small kids, but otherwise, the rear seats can quickly come consigned to being extra storage space for bags rather than people.
The ride quality is good for the most part, but the larger wheels of the AMG Line specification results in what can be a harsh ride at times. For some added comfort it's worth considering moving back down the spec list and choosing one of the models with the smaller 17-inch wheels.
And why have you given it this rating?
Buying a cabriolet like this is more of a subjective purchase, and many would-be buyers will be swayed as much by how it looks as by how it drives. There are some compromises to accommodate the roof mechanism, but it remains a reasonably useful car.
What do the rest of the team think?
If you're one of the few Irish buyers that are brave enough to buy a premium cabriolet, then you'll love the C-Class. It's of very high quality, it looks sensational and it drives in a pleasant fashion.
Shane O'Donoghue - Editor