Replacing the Mercedes CLK, this new Mercedes E-Class is a comfortable five-seater convertible that brilliantly epitomises all the luxury and elegance of the Mercedes marque. There are similarities to the previous model: the refined drive, the sleek lines and the quick-folding fabric roof but, as with every new Mercedes model, there is also a great deal of innovation that enhances the style, comfort and performance of this new car.
Drivers of the CLK will, for example, notice that the car feels more spacious inside, and that the dashboard and other switchgear have been upgraded to more intuitive, E-Class models. Our favourite innovation, however, is something that makes the car genuinely as comfortable to drive with the rof down as up: Mercedes AirCap. This is a cleverly-designed wind deflector that keeps draughts at bay in the cabin, which rises automatically at speeds above 25 MPH.
If you're looking to hire a classic cabriolet, with oodles of elegance and enough room to convey you and your friends in comfort, then the Mercedes E Class stands head and shoulders above rivals such as the Audi A5 and the BMW 4 Series.
The most interesting feature of the car's exterior is undoubtedly the fabric roof. This is stowed in a special compartment behind the rear panel, which is separated from the boot area by a retractable cover. The clever bit about this is that, if you definitely don't want to retract the roof (if the British summer is being predictably wet, for example!) then you can slide the soft top cover rearwards and give yourself an extra 90 litres of boot space - increasing the total boot volume to 390 litres. The roof itself can be opened and closed fully automatically within 20 seconds - even when driving at speeds of up to 25mph.
We've already extolled the benefits of the roof, but it's worth reiterating that this is the most advanced fabric roof ever fitted to a Mercedes-Benz, and gives you unprecedented levels of insulation and noise reduction. Has to be experienced to be believed!
Helping you enjoy life with the top down is the AirCap automatic draught-stop, a buffer that automatically rises above speeds of 25 MPH and sends airflow over the car rather than into it - keeping the car's occupants toasty warm. An additional draught-stop between the rear seats completes the cage of warm air created by AirCap.
As for the styling, there are some cues taken from the old CLK present on our sleek black Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The rear haunches are still distinctive, for example, and it's still unmistakeably a Mercedes drop-top. What has changed, however, is that everything has been made smoother and more aerodynamic. There's also a new, bolder front end with more aggressive headlights and a sportier grille. The AMG Line trim adds a further dash of speed and glamour, creating an overall look that captures all the excitement and elegance of a convertible car. We love this new look, and we hope you will too.
The interior of this car is comfortable and well-designed, with lots of clever features to improve your drive. As with any sports cabriolet, however, it does come with the caveat that you should always put your tallest passengers in the front - while there is now much more space in the back it's still not an ideal place for large adults on long journeys!
All the seats in the car are made from luxuriously soft leather, and those up front even benefit from heated seats. Passengers can enjoy sounds from the DAB digital radio or plug in their own music-playing devices through the USB port or via Bluetooth. The latter also allows the car to read incoming text messages aloud - assuming you want to enable that feature, of course!
For the driver, there's Comand Online, which allows you to access the internet through the central 14.7cm TFT colour screen - perfect if you need to find a restaurant en route. There are also several really handy features to make the drive easier, including a new 3D camera, advanced cruise control, and Active Park Assist which takes over both the brake and the steering while you're parking - meaning that all you have to do is control the accelerator.
The Mercedes E-Class gives you a huge amount of style, comfort and performance for your money. It's a brilliant car for both the summer and winter months, allowing you to make affordable long journeys in an elegant vehicle that's been designed to deliver an engaging and enjoyable ride no matter what the weather. Features such as the AirCap demonstrate just how much Mercedes engineering has gone into finessing the experience, and you won't be disappointed in the result.
Our Mercedes E Class has an efficient direct-injection 2.2 litre diesel engine that produces 174 BHP and 400 nm of torque. It'll enable you to reach a top speed of over 140 MPH, and get you up to motorway speeds in less than 10 seconds - just what you need for those long cross-country journeys. What also makes it perfect for long journeys is its efficiency: the car will do over 56 miles per gallon, ensuring you keep your costs down wherever you go.
To achieve this exceptional efficiency, Mercedes have introduced include on-demand activation of the steering and fuel pumps, an intuitive alternator system and tyres with low rolling resistance. They've also tweaked the body shape to ensure it delivers outstanding aerodynamics.
Gear shifting is taken care of through a smooth seven-speed automatic transmission that allows for effortless performance and quick changes. You have the option of manually shifting gears via paddles on the steering wheel, but the automatic's performance is really superb.
The driving experience, in fact, is superb in all areas. Whether the roof is up or down, clever insulation ensures that road noise is kept to a minimum. It's so good that you can have a normal hands-free phone conversation even when travelling at speed. As well as being windproof, the 2.3cm thick fabric roof also offers great insulation and is completely waterproof - allowing you to drive in all weathers!
Handling is impressive, with relaxed and light steering and a ride as elegant as the car itself. It's also a very safe ride, with seven airbags, belt tensioners and crash-responsive head restraints for the driver and front passenger. In fact, the car has the most extensive safety equipment package in this vehicle category.