ROAD TEST: The Mercedes E400 Cabriolet is very much a car of the modern era

Mercedes E Class Cabriolet
Mercedes E Class Cabriolet
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The Mercedes E400 Cabriolet is, despite its relaxed, old-school vibe, a Mercedes of the modern era.

It eschews a big V8 engine in favour of a more efficient twin-turbo V6 and automatically positions itself as the pick of the range.

There’s a general rule of thumb with convertible cars that will usually see you straight. Buy the one with the biggest petrol engine you can afford. The reason? These cars usually cover fairly low mileages and are all about sensation and emotion; two subjective issues for sure, but issues that are nonetheless unlikely to be fulfilled listening to the chug of a diesel engine up front. The Mercedes E400 Cabriolet features the biggest petrol engine in the E-Class Cabriolet range. No it’s not powered by a purring V8, but the smooth 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 isn’t a bad substitute and with 328bhp on tap, it’s hardly slow. In fact, it’s downright rapid, getting to 60mph in five seconds flat before running to an electronically limited 155mph.

There’s a choice between a seven-speed automatic and a six-speed manual, but it’s not really much of a choice all. Putting a manual gearbox in this car makes about as much sense as asking for an automatic in a Caterham 7. Instead you’ll feel much better with the admittedly somewhat dull-witted seven speed self-shifter. Likewise choosing the AMG Sport trim with its firmer suspension seems to be an exercise in missing the point. The acoustic fabric roof takes a relatively leisurely 20 seconds to do its thing but it’s very quiet at motorway speeds with the hood up.

Without wishing to pander too far to the superficial, it virtually defeats the object of a cabriolet car if it doesn’t look good. Fortunately the latest E-Class does. Now that the more angular design theme of this E-Class has bedded itself in nicely, Mercedes has taken to refining the detailing and giving the car a more cohesive look. The old car’s four separate lights have been replaced by a pair of elegant one-piece headlamp units.

So here’s something that’s smooth, assured, handsome, beautifully built and which – as long as you specify it correctly – rides as it should. It’s not cheap but other than that, it’s distinctly short on caveats.