2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet first drive review Page 2

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Three distinct personalities

Mercedes designed the coupe and cabrio models together, but the mass saved by eliminating a metal roof is outweighed by structural reinforcements and the various motors and struts that operate the soft top, the panel that covers it when open, and the various elements of the Airscarf system. That makes the Cabrio lineup among the heaviest C-Classes, from 3,840 for the C 300 to 4,310 pounds for the hot-rod C63S.

All versions of the Cabrio ride 0.6 inch lower than the sedan, but on the road, the three engines give the three models quite distinct personalities. The C 300 Cabrio is the generic version, a fine car for many buyers who don’t feel the need for the image, the delightful exhaust notes, or the sheer performance of either AMG variant. We’ve driven the C 300 sedan, which has perfectly useful performance, and so does the C 300 Cabrio.

Unfortunately for the C 300, we started our driving in the C43 model, lured in by its slightly raspy exhaust note echoing in the courtyard of our harborside hotel. The C63 has an even better note, a sort of rumbling gurgle, but we’d pick the C43 for daily use due to its tractability and less explosive power.

2017 Mercedes-AMG C63S Cabrio (European version), Trieste region, May 2016

2017 Mercedes-AMG C63S Cabrio (European version), Trieste region, May 2016

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On the road, the C43’s sport suspension makes the car feel tauter and more direct than the C 300. All models offer Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ modes, with the AMG C63 adding a Track setting as well. We were able to leave our C43 in Sport or Spot+ for the whole drive without making the ride too harsh. That said, the roads and country lanes around Trieste were relatively well-surfaced, and Comfort mode may be required for rougher surfaces or particularly lumpy pavement.

The C43 proved easy to place, though we tended to use an excess of caution through tiny Slovenian villages where narrow two-lane roads suddenly narrowed to a single lane between two buildings. For the U.S., the C-Class is a “small” Mercedes; in Europe, it’s still a large car.

In the twisting hilly roads among vineyards and villages, the C43 was rewarding to fling around and supremely easy to place. The steering provided good feedback and even over a handful of sudden humps, the entry-AMG cabrio in Sport mode never floated—unlike the Comfort mode at highway speeds, which occasionally felt a little mushy over similar rises and dips.

2017 Mercedes-AMG C63S Cabrio (European version), Trieste region, May 2016

2017 Mercedes-AMG C63S Cabrio (European version), Trieste region, May 2016

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C63S: more capability than we could test

The weather for our first driving day, in the C43 Cabrio, was perfect for a soft-top, with overcast skies occasionally giving way to sunshine. During our C63S drive on the second day, the climate was not so cooperative. Occasional bursts of rain left roads slick, with occasional small streams of water draining across the country roads.

In that environment, with 500 horsepower on tap, the C63S clearly had more capability than it was safe to test—especially in another set of small villages set in rolling hills. Add to that the utter lack of road shoulders in the Slovenian areas, and we confined ourselves to a few quick bursts of speed where visibility and drier roads permitted.

Our C63S was fitted with carbon-ceramic brake calipers and the largest drilled front discs we’ve seen on a production car; suffice it to say the brakes were far more than capable of stopping the car under any circumstances we encountered. Despite numerous warning signs, we didn’t meet any livestock crossing the roads, but we did encounter a couple of cheerfully aggressive commercial drivers flogging their battered white vans to the absolute limit.

On tight hairpin turns, the C63S’s limited-slip differential was obvious, with the slight lurching and skipping required when the outer wheel rotates far more than the inner one. Full acceleration out of corners engaged the traction and stability control systems, which allowed only a hint of stepping out at the rear before keeping things safely under control. Given the wet conditions, we didn’t even think about disengaging the traction control.

What we did want, however, was to test the C63S on a track—but sadly, that wasn’t a part of the drive event. And, to be fair, the coupe or sedan version makes far more sense for that application. We suspect the few buyers of C63 Cabrios may be opting for the image more than the out-and-out performance capabilities.

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