Sadly two of my three days in this car were pouring rain, and all three days saw unseasonably low temperatures. Still, I made the most of it, making sure the top was down whenever possible.
Operating the top is as simple as it is quick. I doubt anyone will have any issues with this. I found the Aircap to truly be helpful, though a bit noisy. The car was very comfortable one evening at 49°F driving on freeway with windows up, seat heaters on, and neck warmers blasting. Under the sun in warmer temperatures the car was dreamy. Wind buffeting was not a problem, as I found my mohawk to be unmoved and in line.
The suspension is what you’d expect of a luxury car: a pleasure at any speed and over most surfaces, even cobblestones. The car really has great lines, which is why I’m lost when it comes to the wheels. They’re AMG wheels but they’re still understated for this car.
I had the chance to play with the Distronic Pulse radar, which can bring the car to a complete stop on its own. The first few attempts were with a max 30 mph setting on a city street. Admittedly it did raise my anxiety level, and yes, my foot was right there over the brake pedal, just in case. In each scenario, the car braked from its speed and came to a controlled slow stop about ten feet behind the car or truck in front of me. On the freeway, the Benz slowed as I approached a slower moving car in the right lane; after moving to the passing lane, it accelerated back to the set speed.
I found the seats to be comfortable, even without adjusting the air support gadgets in the seat. Everything, with the exception of the iPod connector, was within easy reach. There’s little room to speak of in the trunk, especially with the top down. Whether you’re talking luggage or shopping bags, be forewarned that such items will most likely be relegated to the back seat. While it is true that this car has a usable back seat, there is still little room for the legs of rear-seat passengers, who had better hope for shorter-legged front-seat riders.
Kelly Ryan Murphy, Creative Director
I drove the E350 home one early May evening at 10:30 p.m., when it was 54 degrees. I had the windows up, the air deflector at the windshield deployed, the seat heater on, and the Air Scarf on the highest of its three settings, and I was very comfortable. There was just a slight breeze on the top of my head, but the cocoon that Mercedes set out to provide to the passengers of the E-class cabrio worked quite well. For those people who really, really want to extend the top-down season, this ability will be key. Mercedes-Benz’s obsession with creating this perfect top-down environment, though, provides a strong clue to this car’s purpose in life: for four people to waft along in comfort and safety, not for a keen driver to storm back roads.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
There are sports cars and there are fashion statements. This Benz lives in the latter category. How do I know? Hauling 4000 pounds with only 268 hp is not the stuff of sporting fantasies. Speed is limited to only 130 mph. The tachometer and clock share equal emphasis in the cluster. Air deflectors meant to keep hair nice block the view out the back. The top is engineered far beyond merely keeping rain off your shoulders. And the E350’s rear seats are large enough to accommodate real adults, who are less tolerable of wind in the face than spirited children. The part I don’t get is the soft top that, in this case, must be just as heavy and just as consumptive of trunk space as a metal roof. Chalk it up to fashion.
Don Sherman, Technical Editor
I’ve been told the various air deflectors, including the one unusually mounted on the windshield’s header, are designed to help route airflow over the heads of rear-seat passengers. Nifty, but from where I sat (behind the wheel), I didn’t really notice much difference. Same goes for the Airscarf feature — my jacket has a tall collar, which blocks airflow unless I raise the headrest to its tallest (and most uncomfortable) position.
As Don suggests, the E350 is most assuredly a fashion statement (and a beautiful one at that), but its price tag is virtually a dead ringer for the asking price of an Audi S5 Cabriolet, which is a little more engaging to drive and almost as sumptuous inside. Better yet, you’re also given all-wheel-drive, which makes it a more of a true four-seasons convertible than a series of air deflectors.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
Along with the Infiniti G37 and the BMW 3-Series, the E350 convertible is among the best-driving four-seat convertibles on the market today, but keep in mind that that’s a bit of a left-handed compliment. The ride can be harsh on some of Michigan’s worst roads, but I think the tradeoff is worth it. I’d much rather have this Benz than a wet-noodle Toyota Camry Solara or Chrysler Sebring, but I think I’d prefer an more affordable and raucous Ford Mustang GT droptop most in this category. The E350 handles fast driving on undulating back roads quite well, but it’s still better suited to more relaxed excursions, such as taking the family to get ice cream on a weekend afternoon. Which is exactly what I did – two days in a row. The rear seats are good but not great. Aircap makes no detectable difference to front-seat passengers, besides increasing levels of top-down wind noise, but rear-seat passengers reported a slight lessening of wind in their hair.
Here’s further proof of Don’s contention that this car is more fashion statement than sports car: It is almost pointless to paddle your own gears when hustling down curvy back roads, because the transmission is slow to react and seems to do its own thing anyway, unless you’re asking only for an occasional solitary downshift.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
As Don Sherman and others have noted, the E350 is more of a cruiser than a sports car, or even a sporty car, but it’s hardly a Chrysler Lebaron. Steering is precise, turn-in is quick, the brakes bite hard, and the suspension is firm yet comfortable in that inimitable German fashion. Like everyone else, I put the top down even though Michigan’s idea of a nice spring night is 45 degrees and damp. The top takes its time folding into the rear enclosure, going through several steps with retractable-hardtop-like complexity. Even though I did not activate the air scarf until the end of my commute home, I found the Mercedes more than livable at speeds up to 55 mph.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet
Base price (with destination): $57,725
Price as tested: $70,195
Burl walnut wood trim
Power top with remote operation
AIRCAP draft management system
COMAND system with central controller
In-dash 6-disc DVD/CD changer
In-dash memory card reader
Auxiliary input jack for MP3 player
Dual-zone automatic climate control
10-way power front seats
4-way lumbar support
4-way power steering column
Split-folding rear seats
Sirius satellite radio
Electronic stability program
Driver drowsiness warning program
Active head restraints
Tire pressure monitoring system
Options on this vehicle:
P02 package — $6450
– Heated and active ventilated front seats
– Bi-Xenon lighting package
– Keyless ignition
Distronic plus package — $2650
– Parktronic with parking guidance
– Distronic plus with pre-safe brake
Appearance package — $1990
– Multicolor front seats
– Shift paddles
– Agility control suspension
– 18-inch AMG twin 5-spoke wheels
– Cross-drilled brake rotors
– Rubber studded pedals
Irodium silver exterior paint — $720
Mbrace — $660
Key options not on vehicle:
17 / 25 / 21 mpg
Size: 3.5L DOHC 24-valve V-6
Horsepower: 268 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 2400-5000 rpm
Curb weight: 3883 lb
18-inch AMG aluminum wheels
235/40ZR18 front, 255/35ZR18 rear Continental
ContiSportContact3 performance tires