2020 Mercedes C 300 Cabriolet — The glamorous way to soak up rays

By Jim Prueter

(August 27, 2020) Research, customer feedback and more important and relative is sales that suggest convertibles have fallen out of favor with the car buying public and currently account for less than one percent of new car sales. By today’s standards of vehicle popularity, Thelma & Louise in the 1991 movie of the same name would more likely find an SUV with a massive panoramic sunroof their object of desire than the Thunderbird they famously took their fatal leap into the Grand Canyon. Likewise, for James Dean’s Porsche 550 Spyder and Steve McQueen’s Jaguar XKSS ragtops.

Even worse, it’s mighty slim pickins’ if it’s a functional four-seater convertible you’ve had on your automotive wish list. Both Mustang and Camaro offer one but forget about “functional.” You’ll be able to get a duffle bag or a few packages on the rear seat but it’s highly doubtful humans will ever occupy the scant space behind the front bucket seats. Both Mini Cooper and the Volkswagen Beetle convertibles have been recently discontinued, ditto for the Buick Cascada.

BMW offers a drop top in both the 4 and 8 Series but the 8 Series will likely set you back six-figures. That leaves your choice to either the BMW 4 Series, Audi S5 convertible or Mercedes E-Class or C-Class tested here. To be sure, M’Lord and M’Lady’s objects of affections where royalty must still be served via conspicuous consumption, can mull the choice of a Bentley Continental GT Convertible, Rolls Royce Cabriolet, or Mercedes S-Class. Class has its privileges.

Therefore, from my perspective the current C Class convertible known as a Cabriolet in Mercedes speak that was launched for the 2018 model year makes perfect sense for those desiring a functional four-seat convertible. It’s definitely upmarket, gorgeous to look at and decidedly meets the Thorstein Veblen characteristic definition of a good that’s “honorific.”

Kudos to Mercedes who continually succeeds in creating automobiles for desire among consumers to display status and prestige. The C-Class cabrio nails it.

There’s something to be said about a sunny day or warm summer evening with the top down and a relaxing, effortless drive with wind in your hair to wash away the stress of modern life. Sensual purity. That’s exactly how I felt during my weeklong testing of this posh four-seater.

From a practicality perspective, our C-Class is surprisingly more accommodating than both expected and when compared to its few competitors. Yes, full-sized adults will actually be able to comfortably sit in the back seats but for short hauls only. There’s still an issue with legroom that can’t be described as “ample.” Kids won’t complain, however. Similarly, trunk space is very much compromised and room for just one set of golf clubs. Traveling? I suggest soft sided luggage if its placed in the trunk.

The sport interior design with its individual integral-look front seats afford plenty of room for both passengers with excellent head, hip, shoulder and legroom. Seats are 14-way power adjustable so adults of most any height and size will find a comfortable seating position. A power massaging seat is standard.

The center console is characterized by an elegant flowing trim element in natural grain black ash wood with brushed aluminum trim about the instrument and door panels. The soft cabrio top can be operated by switches on the center console or from the outside with the vehicle key and the "Open/Close" buttons.

The interior is awash with plush, luxurious appointments thoroughly fitted with fine porcelain dyed leathers, meticulously machined and crafted metallic switchgear and operating controls, and large metal speaker grilles for the excellent Burmester audio system.  There's also an optional "air balance" package that includes a fragrance dispenser that pumps scent through the air vents.

The standard multimedia display above the center console has a 10.25-inch screen, however our cabrio was equipped with the new optional,12.3 inch fully-digital instrument cluster with the three visually distinguishable styles "Classic," "Sport" and "Progressive," also transforms the look of the central display when equipped with this option. Functionally, the system isn’t the easiest to use nor is it intuitive. While it looks futuristic, we miss some of the operational hard buttons that have disappeared for 2020. For instance, just scrolling through all the radio stations in the area is fussy and tedious. We also preferred the center knob that’s given way to the electronic gear selector that takes some time to learn.

Further, the touchpad that rests atop the center console-mounted wrist rest for the controller knob functions by drawing out letters for navigation destinations. True, its faster than dialing up letters one by one with the knob but you’ll still need to look at the screen to confirm that the information is correct.

There’s yet a third way to work through the vehicle’s operating controls and that’s with touch-sensitive pads located on the steering wheel that respond to swiping motions like the screen of a smartphone. They enable the driver to control the functions of the instrument cluster and of the entire infotainment system without having to take their hands off the steering wheel.

The infotainment system can additionally be operated via the touchpad with controller (new: haptic feedback) in the center console or by means of voice control. Vehicle functions such as the seat heating can now also be voice controlled. The optional head-up display is now adjustable over an even wider range.

Our C 300 was powered by the standard 255-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Move up to the next trim level, the AMG C43 that’s powered by a 3.0-liter turbo V-6. There’s also an available AMG C63 that comes with a fire-breathing 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 delivering between 469- and 503 hp. depending on which engine you choose.

We think most will be more than satisfied with the turbo four-cylinder that’s connected to a nine-speed automatic transmission. We were amazed how quiet the engine was and impressed with its quick acceleration, passing capability and precision shifting transmission. It feels sporty to drive and yet delivers a comfortable ride without compromising handling abilities. There’s a thumbwheel on the center console called “Agility” that lets the driver choose between Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus drive settings for different performance experiences.

Standard safety equipment includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and blind spot warning. Rear cross traffic warning is optional. Also standard is Attention Assist, which monitors over 70 parameters of driving behavior and notifies the driver that maybe they are on the threshold of drowsy driving. Buyers also get the Pre-Safe basic, which preps the occupants for a crash or rollover scenario; the system will cause the front seat belts to tighten, and the front passenger seat to adjust.

Our test cabrio came with the optional Driver’s Assistance Package that allows the vehicle
to drive semi- autonomously in certain situations. To do this it keeps a close eye on the traffic situation: improved camera and radar systems allow it to see up to approximately 1,640 feet ahead. We tried it numerous times during our test driving and found it to be more work than pleasure and detracted from our driving enjoyment.

Almost everything about our C-Class Cabriolet has been brilliant and beyond expectations. It’s an immensely satisfying vehicle to drive and enjoy whether in busy city driving, suburban, rural or highway, it never failed to please while eliminating the occasional driving tedium that can occur. Further, top down driving in perfect Arizona weather where I tested the vehicle made it easy to fall in love with.

Yet there’s practicality with the cabrio also. For those who were rendered to the back seats there are sure to be some grumbling with regard to the turbulent and blusterous wind that buffets the passengers. But Mercedes has an answer for that with the optional Aircap that raises and lowers large plastic wind deflector from behind the rear seats essentially eliminating the problem.

For cooler temperature top down driving there’s what’s called Airscarf, that gently blows an adjustable temperature amount of warm air onto your neck to keep you nice and cozy along with the heated seats.

As our week expired it was extremely difficult to give the C 300 Cabriolet back to our friends at Mercedes but we had to separate and Mercedes wanted their car back. Since, I’ve struggled with a bit of separation anxiety but who wouldn’t?

Vital Stats
Base Price: $53,950
Price as Tested: $63,985
Engine/Transmission: 225-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission.
EPA Fuel Economy: 20/29/23 mpg – City/Highway/Combined
Seating: 4

Where Built: Bremen, Germany

Crash Test Results: The 2020 Mercedes C 300 Cabriolet has not been crash tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Institute for Highway Safety.

Competes With:
Audi S5 Cabriolet
BMW 4 Series Convertible

Fab Features:
Superb open-air driving enjoyment
Loaded with advanced safety and operating technology
Silky-smooth engine, transmission