I am a bald man. Convertibles are not good for bald men. Hats are. Yet I loved cruising around with the top down in the redesigned 2018 Mercedes E400 cabriolet.
Part of the pleasure was going for a drive through Boulder Canyon in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, winding up a two-lane highway through valleys bursting with gold and red aspens in the shadow of peaks and cliffs raising up that great big mile-high sun like a trophy.
There aren’t many other convertibles that can actually fit four people, unless we’re calling the Jeep Wrangler a convertible. As much as Buick wants it to, the Cascada can’t. BMW has the 4-Series, but it’s tight for four. Range Rover has the Evoque convertible, but it’s like riding around in a vehicle that’s part duck boat, part clog.
The E-Class cab has gotten bigger in every way over the previous two-door, shifting from C-Class to S-Class proportions. It’s five inches longer, a few inches wider, a tad taller yet still 0.6 inches lower to the ground than the E-Class sedan, even with the available 19-inch wheels. The wheelbase is stretched by four inches, providing that sleek profile with sportier, more balanced handling.
The 329-horsepower biturbo V-6 engine packs plenty of punch, and that 354-pound-feet of torque mated to the 9-speed automatic transmission had no hesitation or uncertainty climbing steep roads with a nudge from the paddle shifters. At certain grades, it easily jumped ahead of even the sportier SUVs hogging the road. Even though it’s sporting, it should not be confused with a lightweight roadster. Power doesn’t punch until midway through the rev range. There’s an AMG C63 for more power.
The redesigned E400 balances sport and sophistication, power and comfort, in the kind of buttoned-down luxury meant for making excuses to just go for a drive.
There is a freedom of the impractical baked into the convertible; it disregards its own limitations as a sunny-day driver, and most owners love that punkish disregard. Still, it is unlikely to be driven in weather, even though it has 4Matic (Mercedes’ name for all-wheel drive) for the first time. While it kept us plenty confident zigzagging through the canyon on an arid September day, we would have been crawling later in the season when bald heads look the same as hairy heads — with snow caps on.
The all-season proposition is further eroded by the soft top. We couldn’t imagine taking it out in freezing temps. But Mercedes can. The E400 cabriolet has something called Airscarf, which is a neck level heating system emanating from the driver and passenger headrests. It has three speed settings and is adjustable up to 36 degrees to accommodate different driver heights and preferences; set it to blow on the back of the ears if the lower neck is too sensitive. Scarves are for dandies, anyway, but a hot air scarf is for the supercool.
There is also Aircap, a power retractable rear windscreen to limit crosswind buffeting, which enabled us to admire the aspens aloud without raising our voices.
With the top up, the cabriolet is insulated in quiet warmth from the passing world. Should the weather change — a 30-degree change is not unusual in Colorado — the black-top tester goes bald in under 20 seconds, and at speeds up to 30 mph. Perfect for pulling out of the parking lot after work. Or away from the country club valet.
Trying to make it an everyday driver costs money. Equipped with the technology package and AMG styling trim, the tester came in at $88,740, a dramatic increase for the $68,800 base price of the 4Matic.
2018 Mercedes E400 4Matic Cabriolet
Vehicle type: 4-seat convertible
Base price: $68,800
Price as tested: $88,740 (excluding $995 destination)
EPA fuel economy: 20 mpg city, 25 highway
Engine: 329-horsepower, 3.0-liter biturbo V-6
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Bottom line: Sumptuous indulgence