First Look: 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet

Snow. Ice. Frigid temperatures. January in Detroit can hardly be described as a climate conducive to convertibles. Still, in order to help underline the year-round usability of the car, Mercedes-Benz will unveil its new 2011 E-class Cabriolet at the 2010 North American International Auto Show.

As the fourth body style in the revised E-class range, the Cabriolet -- along with the 2010 E-class Coupe -- effectively replaces the CLK. Styling up front is carried over from its other E-class siblings, but sheetmetal aft of the A-pillars is largely cribbed from the two-door model. Indeed, when the top is up, the E-class Cabriolet does a good job of emulating the Coupe’s racy roofline.

Unlike the convertible tops used on the SL and SLK roadsters, the E-class Cabriolet - like the CLK before it -- makes use of a traditional soft top instead. Mercedes-Benz claims the top, at 0.9 inches thick, is extensively insulated to help keep the cabin warm in wintry months, and to prevent noise. We’re told it’s entirely possible to have a hands-free cell phone conversation with the top up at speeds “in excess” of 125 mph -- but we wouldn’t recommend such a task.

A pair of technologies also helps keep passengers warm and comfortable during open-air driving. Airscarf, already offered on the SL and SLK roadsters, directs warm air towards passengers' neck and shoulders. AirCap – a diffuser deployed above the windshield to direct airflow out of the faces of rear seat passengers – is a new innovation and, for the time being, is exclusive to the E-class.

Like the Coupe, the E-class Cabriolet is available in E350 and E550 forms, with a 268-hp 3.5-liter V-6 or a 382-hp, 5.5-liter V-8, respectively. Look for both models to arrive at dealers stateside in the spring of 2011.

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