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The Top Gear First Drive:First Drive: Mercedes-Benz E Class E400 AMG Line 2dr 7G-Tronic

£49,445

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Car specifications

Budget
£49,445
Brake horsepower
333bhp
Fuel consumption
37.7mpg
0–62 mph
5.30s
CO2
173g/km
Max speed
155Mph
Insurance Group
45A

Is that
Merc’s facelifted E-Class convertible?

Yes! Have a
 biscuit.

Will do.
What’s new?

Like the
new E-Class saloon, the updates are pretty darn comprehensive (chassis tweaks and more efficient engines) and include a lot more stuff as standard, which is how the
manufacturer is justifying a price increase. 

So go on - what’s
the new E500 like, then?

Yeah, about
that… Merc’s binned the big V8 in Britain, and replaced it with the E400, a
328bhp 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6. With a seven-speed auto (don’t bother with the six-speed
manual, it’s elastic and horrid), it’ll do 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds (0.1 seconds
down), 35.8mpg (4.8 miles more), has a limited top speed of 155mph, and emits
185g/km of CO2 (28 fewer g/km). It also sounds like Andre the Giant slowly
listing vowels. 

That
doesn’t sound too bad

It’s not.
But this is a non-AMG Mercedes, and even the powerful models have their own,
sedate notion of procedure – it’s all about effortless cruising, not psychotic
speed, so the gearbox is slow and ever so slightly dim-witted. That said, the
old 500 did have a naughty streak. Alas, this one doesn’t, but it’s still a
confident, powerful cruiser.

See more pictures of the Mercedes E400 cabrio 

What about
the AM…

…G? Sorry to interrupt, but we knew you’d ask and there won’t be one. Never has been, actually - no mass-produced E coupe or cabrio
has had the full Affalterbach treatment (Google it. I know you don’t believe
me). You can get AMG Sport trim though - £2,435 more than the old car in Sport
guise, and it comes with adaptive sports suspension as standard.

What about the more frugal engines?

The 2.0-litre
four-cylinder petrol has been updated to make it more efficient, and as before
there are two four-cylinder E220 and E250 CDI diesels, plus a six-cylinder
E350. The 350 would be our second choice. It’s smooth, torquey and fiendishly
quiet while managing 47.9mpg.

Dull but
worthy. Now tell me what it’s like to drive.

Very, very
good. It rides better than anything else in its class, and the updated electric
power steering (designed to be more fuel efficient) is weighty, and makes the
car feel stable and steady at ‘Bahn speeds. There is a touch of wallow through
corners, but this is a traditional boulevard-cruising Benz, not a focused
sports car. That’s what the SL’s for.

In fact, it
does cruising almost as well as the fixed head E-class. The acoustic fabric
roof is a little slow to heave itself up (20 seconds) but it’s bloomin’ quiet
at motorway pace. You only get a tiny bit of whistle around the wing mirrors
when you’re above 90mph (we tested it on a derestricted autobahn, law fans). 

It keeps the
new E’s futureland technology too. Entry-level SE models get an online sat-nav,
DAB radio and an Active Parking Assist system as standard, as well as a
Pre-Safe Plus system that detects a rear end shunt, applies the brakes and
stops you barreling into the car in front. Distronic Plus is an option, but
it’s a particularly good one – it steers, accelerates and brakes its way
through congestion automatically.

But can it
fit five?

Well, no.
But it is a proper four-seater. As in two actual humans with legs and arms and
heads can sit in the back with the roof up. And they get an automatic AirCap
when it’s down – it’s a sort of spoiler on top of the windscreen that deploys
automatically at 25mph (you used to have to do it manually) and stops annoying
buffeting. It does make the car look completely ridiculous, though.

Any other complaints?

Nothing
major, but you sit very low. Or rather the sides are very high. To the point
that it feels like you’re driving a roll-top bath, and because the flanks
obscure so much of your upper body, it looks uncannily like it’s being driven
by a bust.

Otherwise?

There’s an
honesty to this cabrio – it’s nice to drive a premium convertible that doesn’t
feel needlessly aggressive, targeted at fetal hipsters, or like it’s trying
too hard to compensate for someone’s… insecurities (yes, Audi. That means you).

The
styling’s fresh and friendly (though that crossbar on the grill is a tad
Cheshire), the safety technology can be a little intrusive, but it has its
heart in the right place, and the performance is more than you’ll ever use for
some light posing on a sunny day. It’s not a driver’s car, but it is a car
that’s nice to drive. And, providing you keep the speed under 25mph so the air
thingy doesn’t pop up, it cuts an unpretentious dash.

Get yours in October. 

See more pictures of the Mercedes E400 cabrio 

THE NUMBERS

£49,635, 3.0-litre biturbo V6, 328bhp, 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds, 155mph, 35.8mpg, 185g/km of CO2, seven-speed automatic gearbox, rear-wheel drive

SCORE

8/10

What do you think?

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