2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet feels like living the dream
With features like AIRSCARF and AIRCAP, you can tour around in this convertible well into the fall having top-down fun.
THE PROS & CONS
- WHAT’S BEST: All the goodness of the new C-Class sedan and coupe in a surprisingly versatile open-air configuration.
- WHAT’S WORST: As always, those damned run-flat tires, which you’ll have to dodge with careful analysis of the option list, or a post-delivery visit to your favourite tire store.
- WHAT’S INTERESTING: AIRCAP and AIRSCARF make this more than a fair-weather friend.
TRIESTE, ITALY: Mercedes-Benz has designated 2016 as “The Year of the Dream Car.”
So, we’re seeing sports cars like the SLC, and convertibles in all shapes and sizes which appeal to the heart, rather than the logical mind which is Mercedes’s usual point of attack.
Today, it’s the 2017 C-Class Cabriolet’s turn.
We will get this car in four levels of heat: Mercedes-Benz C300 4MATIC; Mercedes-AMG C 43 4MATIC; Mercedes-AMG C63, and Mercedes-AMG C 63 S.
To decode: the first two will be full-time four-wheel drive; the latter two rear-wheel drive.
The ‘300’ means a 241-horse, 2.0-litre turbo four; the C 43 a 362 horse 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6. Both have a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The C 63 models use a 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8, producing 469 horsepower, or 503 in the S version, bolted to Mercedes’s seven-speed ‘MCT,’ for Multi-Clutch Transmission. No mere ‘Dual Clutch’ here.
To complete the decoding, ‘Mercedes-AMG’ means the cars have AMG equipment on them, but aren’t full-on AMG models, i.e., they are built on normal Mercedes assembly lines, not in the AMG factory.
All variants are expected to arrive in Canada this October.
The car is based on the new-last-year C-Class sedan and coupe, which is generally an excellent thing.
Pricing has not yet been announced, but based on current prices for its siblings and guessing a premium of some seven to eight grand for the cabriolet model, I’m estimating $56,000 for the C 300, $68,000 for the C 43, $86,000 for the C 63 and $93,500 for the C 63S.All cabriolets share a couple of features, standard in Canada, which make that October launch date not as odd as it first might seem.
One is ‘AIRSCARF.’ A ceramic element in the front seatbacks is electrically heated, and a fan blows warmed air out a vent at the base of the headrest and down over your shoulders.
The weather in northeastern Italy in midsummer didn’t allow us to test this very thoroughly, but I know from previous experience that it really can extend the top-down hours well into the evening and lengthen the top-down season, too.
The second feature is ‘AIRCAP.’ A wing on top of the windshield header rises at the touch of a button to direct on-rushing air up over the car, preventing it from back-drafting into the cabin.
It is augmented by a mesh panel which rises up behind the rear seats.
Together, they do create a noticeable reduction in turbulence.
If it’s still too drafty, the roof pops up in about 20 seconds. You must be at rest to initiate this, but you can motor off at up to 50 km/h while it completes its little dance.
Remember, though, that for most of that 20 seconds, you have zero visibility to the rear.
Once up, the top feels very snug and quiet, and it’s nicely finished inside. Not quite a hardtop coupe, but not far off.
As usual with Mercedes-Benz, the option list is long.
One thing to note — the C 300 and C 43 come standard with all-season run-flat tires. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
It is very clever of Mercedes to make you buy one of the optional packages with proper tires. Your dental work and your sacroiliac will thank you.
The C 300 comes with a steel-spring, fully independent suspension. The optional AIRMATIC with air springs offers continuously variable damping for better ride and flatter cornering, and automatic load levelling.
The AMG models use a specific steel-spring setup, emphasizing sporty dynamics, again with variable damping.
All models have “DYNAMIC SELECT,” which enables the driver to choose from up to five different programs — Comfort, ECO, Sport, Sport+ and Individual, all more or less self-explanatory — adjusting suspension, engine mapping, transmission shifting, the standard idle stop/start function, and even climate control to achieve optimum economy, optimum performance, or various combinations in between.
As you would expect from Mercedes, a host of safety features is standard, with even more optional. Frankly, I think most of them are a waste of time and money, but emergency braking and pedestrian detection can be valuable.
Self-parking? Semi-autonomous driving? Fill yer boots; I’d rather drive.
The nine-speed automatic in C 300 and C 43 does a good job of choosing ratios; the shift paddles are almost unnecessary.
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The seven-speed MCT in the C 63 and C 63S is odd in that manual shifts with the paddles or automatically when in Sport or Sport+ mode are instantaneous yet smooth, but when left to its own devices in Comfort mode, the shifts are lazy, drawn out and, frankly, less comfortable.
So, which model should you choose?
First level of decision-making — do you expect to drive the car year-round? All of them are potential 365-day daily drivers, but the four-wheel drive models will be better during the more inclement weather.
So, C 300 twin-turbo four, or C 43 AMG?
Depends on how fast you want to go.
The base C300 has decent performance, although the four-cylinder engine gets a little gruff when pushed.
If cruising around and looking cool is what you’re after, it’ll do fine.
If you want considerably more pace and can afford the hit, you’ll enjoy the C 43.
If you’re choosing between the C 63 and C 63S, there is a tendency for buyers in the upper echelons to go big or go home.
However, the S version, despite its significant horsepower advantage, only scores a 0.1 second improvement in the zero-to-100 km/h sprint, and subjectively doesn’t feel that much quicker, either.
Personally, I think the C 63 is the better value, but it is your money.
Whichever model you decide upon, if you choose wisely from that lengthy option list, you’ll be getting a handsome, sporty, well-finished car with good ride and handling, genuine if hardly cross-country space for four adults, and top-down fun.
And, just in time for winter …
2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet
PRICE (estimates only): C 300 – $56,000; C 43 4Matic- $68,000; AMG C 63 – $86,000; AMG C 63S – $93,500.
TYPE: 2-door, 4-seat, compact luxury convertible.
PROPULSION: C 300 / C 43 — full-time four-wheel drive; C 63 / C 63S — rear-wheel drive.
CARGO: 285 litres rear seats up; 360 litres rear seats down.
ENGINE: C 300 — 2.0 litre four cylinder, double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, idle stop/start, turbocharged; AMG C 43 — 3.0 litre V6, single overhead camshaft per bank, four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, idle stop/start, twin-turbocharged; AMG C 63 / C 63S — 4.0 litre V8, single overhead camshaft per bank, four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, idle stop/start, twin-turbocharged.
TRANSMISSION: C 300 / C 43 — 9-speed automatic with paddle shifters; C 63 / C 63S — 7-speed Multi-Clutch manumatic with paddle shifters.
POWER hp / TORQUE lb.-ft: C 300 — 241 @ 5,500 r.p.m. / 273 @ 1,300 — 4,000 r.p.m.; AMG C 43 — 362 @ 5,500 — 6,000 r.p.m. / 384 @ 2,000 — 4,200 r.p.m.; AMG C 63 — 469 @ 5,500 — 6,250 r.p.m. / 479 @ 1,750 — 4,500 r.p.m.; C 63S — 503 @ 5,500 — 6,250 r.p.m. / 516 @ 1,750 — 4,500 r.p.m.
TOWING CAPACITY: not recommended.
FUEL CONSUMPTION: (Transport Canada): L/100 km) N/A; premium unleaded.
BRAKES: front / rear disc, ABS.
TIRES: C 300 / C 43: base: front — 225/45 R18; rear — 245/40 R18 all-season run-flat; optional: front — 225/40 R19; rear- 255/35 R19 performance summer; C 63: base: front — 255/40 R18; rear — 285/35 R18 summer performance; optional: 255/35 R19; rear — 285/30 R19 summer performance; C 63S base: front — 255/35 R19; rear — 285/30 R19 summer performance; optional: front — 255/35 R19; rear — 285/30 R20 summer performance.
STANDARD FEATURES: Everything under the sun, including you and your passengers; AIRSCARF and AIRCAP unique to Mercedes-Benz.
ACCESSIBILITY: Good front; reasonably decent in the rear thanks to easy-entry system.
COMPETITION: Audi A5 / S5 Cabriolet — lovely interior, a bit underpowered; BMW 4-Series / M4 Cabriolet — nearly identical specifications, yet Mercedes outperforms most in comparable model comparisons.
INTERIOR: Vast improvement over previous model.
PERFORMANCE: Adequate (C 300); excellent (C 43); stonking (C 63); not faster enough than little brother (C 63S)
TECHNOLOGY: Class-leading in every respect.
WHAT YOU’LL LIKE ABOUT THIS CAR: If this is the sort of car you’re looking for, pretty much everything.
WHAT YOU WON’T LIKE ABOUT THIS CAR: If this is the sort of car you’re looking for, pretty much nothing.