Mercedes-Benz cabriolet for fun in the sun

Over the years I’ve been guilty of heavily criticising Canterbury’s changeable climate.

I make no apology for that, the ‘four seasons in one day’ temperatures that we get here can be frustrating.

Take last weekend when I was driving Mercedes-Benz’s C200 cabriolet, the weather was so foul I barely had any opportunity to drive with the roof lowered, only briefly experiencing open-air motoring.

However, in spite of our fickle weather, sales of convertibles here don’t seem to be waning. Those who I know that own a convertible enjoy them even though there are just a few glorious days in a year when driving with the top open really suits.

The C200 convertible is part of a wide-ranging C-Class line-up. It arrives here in three variations, well I should say three different engine options. There’s a hearty 4-litre, 375kW V8, a 3-litre, 270kW V6 and the turbocharged 2-litre, four-cylinder which is the subject of this evaluation. All are petrol-fuelled.

The 1991cc turbo engine is the same as that which I’ve experienced many times in the Mercedes-Benz line-up, and it is characterised by its healthy power outputs (135kW and 300Nm) and smooth operating manner. It is harnessed to a nine-speed automatic transmission, the combination is reactive, power flows freely and response to driver input is constantly encouraging.

That is something that I’ve come to enjoy with this engine, it is wholeheartedly honest and works with freedom through the transmission.

Even though it is far from being the most powerful configuration (280kW in AMG form), it is a mainstream engine which punches way above its weight. Its performance figures are testament to that, the car will accelerate to 100km/h from a standstill in 8.2sec and it will make an overtaking manoeuvre in 5.1sec (80km/h to 120km/h).

These figures provide the driver with a satisfying feel. At the same time the C200 doesn’t gobble fuel unnecessarily, Mercedes-Benz claims a 6.8-litre per 100km (42mpg) combined cycle average. That sits well with the 8.8l/100km (33mpg) figure constantly sitting on the test car’s fuel usage readout.

The C200 also has a variety of drive options that the driver can choose to suit his/her style, all are self-explanatory – eco, comfort, sport, sport plus, or you can load in your own preferred protocols. Personally, I preferred the standard sport setting, it still allows the engine freedom without being overly flighty such as it is when in sport plus setting.

I took the test car through the flowing scenic route of State Highway 72 branching off near Hororata and enjoyed the C200 cabriolet’s quiet motion of speed, sound is well isolated, and you can’t always say that about convertibles, it travels with grace and dignity.

It also feels rigid in the body, the lack of a solid roof doesn’t affect the strength of the structure. The C200 feels taut and firmly planted, a lot of the latter has to do with the quality of the rubber; huge, sport specification Continental tyres (225/45 and 245/40 x 18in) have unyielding grip along with positive feedback. Steering feel is light rather than firm, but that matters little, it is directional and it responds positively to cornering pressure.

While its driving dynamics sit well with the convertible’s look, it’s best remembered that in this form (and the coupe) it is only a four-seater, there are only two seat belts in the rear, if you want a C-Class and seat five you’ll have to choose between the sedan or the wagon.

The C200 convertible lands here at $89,900, the test car was carrying a few extra bits and pieces which raised the price to $94,790. And that is something a C200 buyer will need to appreciate, there are a multitude of specification enhancements and buying choices that can personalise or enhance the car. Even in standard form it is well-equipped and, of course, the roof raises and lowers with the flick of a button.

While the C200 cabriolet will be far from Mercedes-Benz’s biggest seller, it is there to keep sales rolling along, the German brand is experiencing boom times down under.

Price – Mercedes-Benz C200 cabriolet, $94,790

Dimensions – Length, 4686mm; width, 1810mm; height, 1409mm

Configuration –  Four-cylinder, rear-wheel-drive, 1991cc, 135kW, 300Nm, nine-speed automatic.

Performance –
0-100km/h, 8.2sec

Fuel usage –6.8l/100km