I’m what my doctor calls “sensitive to temperature.” I freeze in a gentle wind and sweat profusely as soon as the thermometer ticks above 72. That – and the havoc it wreaks on my hair – is why I’m no convertible enthusiast, as cool as I might feel driving one. But Mercedes designed the new cabrio version of its C-class sedan to lay my reservations to rest.
Just a few days ago, my drive partner and I were enjoying a placid, sunny day on the Adriatic coast, lacing our Mercedes C300 cabrio through the Slovenian countryside and Trieste, Italy, a prosperous seaport on the Slovenian border. The car, a two-door four-seater in polar white, cut an elegant figure against the region’s rolling meadows and plentiful grape-bearing vines.
The convertible version of Mercedes’ smallest sedan, the C300 is undeniably cute, but not like its Daimler AG parent company’s cheerful and considerably less expensive smart fortwo cabrio. Nor it is as mature, or pricy, as its larger E- or S-class counterparts. It’s the kind of car that Clueless heroine Cher Horowitz would have driven, if she were rewritten as a Gen Z’er.
It’s no coincidence that behind the wheel, I even feel a bit like Mlle. Horowitz – fun, self-assured and ready to pick up three of my best friends on the way to school. The C300's small, 2.0-liter turbo engine packs lots of power – 241 horses, to be exact – and comes standard with Mercedes’ new 9G-TRONIC nine-speed automatic transmission, which basically means we glide over patches of less-than-pristine Slovenian pavement without a hitch.
Suddenly, the sun darted behind the clouds, casting a pall over the lush Slovenian meadows that left me shivering. That’s normally when I would hit the controls to close the roof. (The cabrio’s soft top opens and closes automatically in just 20 seconds, at speeds up to 31 m.p.h.) Instead, I pushed the button to activate the air scarf.
Now, what’s an air scarf? you’re likely wondering. It’s a vent located on the headrest of each seat that blows hot air on the back of your neck, and it comes standard. It is as comforting as the first hot chocolate break of the ski season, or a hug from your mother, or a Jacuzzi with torque. Our car also had the optional AIRCAP automatic draft stop system, which also reduces drag to your hair thanks to an electric wind blocker behind the rear seats. To paraphrase one German Mercedes executive speaking to us reporters in Trieste, a cabriolet can never be a fully rational car but it may as well have a “feel-good climate system.”
So, gray day? No problem.
Speaking of ski season, the C300 is happy to accommodate, with ample trunk space and rear seats that fold down to fit a couple of golf bags or snowboards, depending on what kind of person you are, or aspire to be. With the top up, the cabin is exceedingly quiet and won’t give you much road noise, even if bumping along on gravel. When you arrive at your destination, it will feel light and easy to park.
The C-class cabrio comes in two high-performance variants, the 4.0-liter V8 biturbo AMG C63 and the 3.0-liter V6 biturbo AMG C43. Both models are part of the AMG badge’s initiative to scale up to 48 models by the end of the year, adding 10 new cars with five deriving from the C-class.
Starting at north of $50,000, it’s a car to which one can aspire. And the C63S version even more so. I don’t know why you’d need 503 horsepower in a four-seater convertible, but the beauty of it is, who cares? The C-class cabrio launches in the U.S. by early fall – a shade late for convertible season but better late than never. But it gives you enough time to decide whether you want your top in blue, red, brown or black.