Back in 2002/03, 16 years ago now I worked for Mercedes-Benz in a Sales role so I have a love for the brand and their cars dating way back. Imagine my excitement then when Bart at Mercedes Benz of Coventry agreed to work with me to produce some content for my Instagram page and my blog here, starting with not one but two cars to compare.
The cars in question are the E-Class Cabriolet and Coupe in E300 and E350d specs respectively and I collected the Cabriolet first from their fantastic new showroom, well worth a visit if you are passing by. I was greeted by friendly and accommodating staff on my arrival and shown to one of their modern and comfortable handover bays where Bart showed me around the car before sending me on my way to enjoy the car for the weekend.
Not being time limited with this loan I wanted to do something special with at least one of the cars so what better than to head to Wales where you are guaranteed great roads and great scenery and more often than not, rubbish weather. Perfect for a convertible test then! You may think not at first but owning a cabriolet in the UK requires more than
an ability to remove the roof. Our changeable climate and often chilly temperatures mean for a soft top to be viable it needs to offer more than a wind in your hair experience. The E Class Cabriolet excels here. With wind deflectors raised, done electronically at the touch of a button, there is little wind intrusion in the front of the cabin although the same cannot be said for the rear seat passengers as my three year old soon discovered. The heated seats warm up to a temperature I’ve not experienced before
That’s not to say it isn’t good to drive. It is good fun on a twisty road with good body control and more than happy to hustle along at speed but it does so in a solid, well damped and relaxed manor. The E Class is a big car and it does feel it but it uses its weight to provide a confidence inspiring feeling rather than allowing the weight to upset the handling balance. If anywhere would show up a cars misgivings it was these Welsh roads but at no point did the Merc feel anything but at home. Not only do you need great handling on these types of roads but you need some usable power to be able to enjoy them and the cabriolet came with the 2.0 litre Turbocharged petrol E300. Around 240bhp giving a 0-62 time in the 6’s of seconds, it isn’t a car that’s going to pin you back into your seat but it makes brisk progress and makes a lovely sound. Think A45 AMG but whispered with the odd crack of downshifts when pressing on. The engine is well suited to the car with smooth power delivery and it is as happy to be cruising or pressing on in equal measures. I spent many happy hours exploring the E300 Cabs abilities in Wales and on day two with the car took it on some roads more familiar to me where the story was much the same.
I swapped into the E350d Coupe wondering how different the two cars would be. Whilst both cars work on the same basic principles of being comfortable, luxurious and still good to drive the Coupe immediately felt just a little big sharper to drive. The difference isn’t night and day but there is a difference especially on really twisty roads. Strangely the coupe whilst sharper was also more comfortable when cruising, likely to be down to the adaptive air suspension fitted to the Coupe as part of the Premium Plus pack. The Cabs standard suspension rode well and adapted to cornering excellently but the air suspension gave the Coupe an even more distinct split personality. Comfort mode you float along where sport plus stiffens things up giving excellent body control on flat twisty roads and when the road gets extremely bumpy you can dial it back to sport which gives a nice balance of the two other options. Both cars have four driving modes from Eco to Sport Plus with a fifth individual mode to ensure than there is something for everyone in pretty much any situation.
The big contrast between the two cars were the engines. The E350d’s 3.0litre 6 cylinder diesel engine gives a very different experience to the E300’s petrol motor. With 260 ish horsepower and a 0-62 time of just under 6 seconds the performance looks similar on paper but the way it is delivered is completely different. The diesel car has huge amounts of torque which mean you have power at much lower revs and the sensation of speed is much greater despite only a 20 or so bhp difference in outright power. The E350d really is an effortlessly fast car in day to day situations. The downside to this engine is that it has a pretty narrow power band and really doesn’t thrive on revs which when mated to a 9 speed gearbox it does seem to need to change gear far more often than its petrol sibling and isn’t as suited to a B-road hoon as real petrol heads might like despite its impressive pulling power. The petrol car was happy to rev and the gearing felt more natural despite having the same number of ratio’s as the diesel car but did lack some of that much needed straight line punch. Economy wasn’t hugely difference either. As you would expect the diesel was a slower sipper particularly on a motorway cruise but in similar situations the difference was around 5-7mpg over the time I had the cars.
The cabins of both cars were wonderful places to spend time with an easy to use and attractive infotainment system and controls logically laid out. The design is modern and attractive to look at and of particular note is the ambient lighting which gives a real premium feel. Both cars have comfortable seats which are supportive in the bends but allow you to drive for several hours without feeling uncomfortable. Whilst rear room is tight compared to an E Class Saloon both can accommodate 4 adults providing the rear occupants aren’t too tall. Both cars have a good sized boot although with the roof down the cabriolets is hindered with the roof stored where your luggage would be. Whilst you wouldn’t buy either of these cars if you were in search of outright practicality it is a huge selling point that they are Coupe’s and Cabriolets able to genuinely accommodate passengers and luggage if required. Whether you prefer the coupe body style or the cabriolet is down to personal choice but with the roof up the cabriolets interior did feel very dark. The Coupe which had the panoramic glass roof felt more airy and the cabin was much brighter so if you were likely to be just an occasional roof down frequenter then the coupe with the opening roof might be a more appealing proposition than the cab. The coupe was also significantly quieter where whilst not invasive, you could hear more wind and road noise in the cabriolet.
Both the E Class Coupe and Cabriolet are luxurious cars with a sporty element to their drive. If you want a car that’s luxurious, comfortable, has beautiful design inside and out and isn’t shown up when the road starts to turn then either of these cars should be high on your shortlist. Which engine you choose comes down to the type of driving experience you like with effortless cruising best suited to the diesel and more spirited driving suited better to the revier and more acoustically pleasing petrol car. Both cars give you sportscar and cabriolet motoring with few of the usual compromises that come with a lack of practicality seen in many of its rivals. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with both of these cars and would recommend them to anyone in the market for this type of vehicle. And best of all, there’s the E53AMG variant for those of us that want all of these qualities with performance and sound turned up to 10. A car I hope to meet very soon.
A huge thank you to Mercedes Benz of Coventry to supplying me with these cars and particularly Bart for arranging everything. Their details are all below if you would like follow them on social media or get in touch with them. Also, be sure to follow me on here and on my Instagram page for all of my latest photographs and thoughts.
Mercedes-Benz of Coventry