I drove a $71,000 Mercedes-Benz C 300 convertible to see if the elegant drop-top could combine performance and luxury — here's the verdict


Mercedes C 300 Cabrio

  • The 2019 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4Matic Cabrio is a stylish, somewhat practical drop-top with a peppy, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine.
  • My test car was extremely well-optioned, adding thousands to the price tag and including some Mercedes AMG goodies that enhanced performance.
  • At the end of the day, however, the C 300 Cabrio is best at leisurely, top-down drives on sunsplashed back roads.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

It’s convertible season here at Business Insider! Warmer weather in the Northeast has brought the drop-tops to our suburban New Jersey test center, and with them the unvarnished joys of open-air motoring.

Convertibles aren’t terribly practical cars, and because chopping the roof off tends to undermine overall stiffness, they aren’t the best choice for performance driving. But they certainly are fun, day or night. In the month or so, I’ve gotten my kicks in the BMW M850i, the BMW Z4, and most recently the 2019 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4Matic Cabriolet.

Three rather varied ragtops, actually. The M850 was a beast, the Z4 was an uber-roadster, while the C 300 Cabrio was the perfect compromise.

Interestingly, the trio was made up entirely of soft-top convertibles, and that could signal a trend. I’ve driven quite a few hardtop cabrios, and while they do allow a convertible to perform double-duty as a quasi-coupé, they aren’t really in the ragtop spirit. Soft-tops are, importantly, quicker to stow than retractable hardtops, and also lighter and simpler, which means more trunk space (that’s where the top typically ends up when folded down).

In many ways, the convertible is the purest expression of what the automobile is supposed to be about: blissful, directionless driving on a sunsplashed day with the landscape whizzing by and the wind in your hair. When considered in its essence, you want to experience this in a two-seater. But for a smidge more practicality, there’s also the two-plus-two, with two nominal extra saddles thrown in.

That’s the C 300, which as-tested came with Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. The base price was a not-unreasonable $53,850, but a lengthy options list added thousands, topping out at $70,725.

Worth it? Read on to find out.

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The 2019 Mercedes C 300 4Matic Cabriolet landed in my driveway wearing a chic “Iridium Silver Metallic” paint job (a $720 extra.)

In my book, convertibles should have soft tops and look good with them up. The C 300 gets everything right on this front. I also like the jazzy character lines, and although the rear end of the car is certainly stubby, the overall package is small, so the effect isn’t so bad.

The top retracts into a hatch above the trunk lid in about 20 seconds.

And you’re all set for some open-air motoring, Mercedes-style.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Mercedes design, at least not in the past few decades. But cars such as the dashing AMG GT and the C 300 are changing my mind. The C 300 is handsome.

The front end is the best angle, if you’re asking. Everything is nicely in proportion, with the LED headlights balancing the large tri-star badge and the aero-features.

When you flip them on at night …

… the headlights give you a show. They’re “intelligent” LED lights, able to adjust to curves and modulate their high-beams.

The blacked-out grille is nicely echoed by the blacked-out, flush hood ornament.

The rear end is a weak spot, bulbous and tubby with the top down. Here, the overdone tail lights throw the design further into an already disturbed imbalance.

The AMG Line Package outfits the 19-inch, five-spoke, $900 wheels with vented front discs and beefy calipers.

Under the hood we have a modest-on-paper 2.0-liter, 255-horsepower four-cylinder engine. But this thing is peppy, serving up enough power to do 0-60 mph in about six seconds! It’s also reasonable on gas: 21 mpg city/29 highway/24 city.

Let’s slip inside and sample the “Magma Grey Leather” interior.

The front seats are heated and cooled, while the rear seats aren’t. Adults would be cramped back here for longer trips, but they should be OK for short jaunts. Children, meanwhile, are fine.

Trunk space with convertibles is never great, and when you bring a stowing mechanism for the top into the picture, it usually gets worse. The C 300’s trunk actually isn’t too bad — it could accommodate a pair of overnight bags or a few days’ worth of provisions.

The perforated, leather-wrapped steering wheel is flat-bottomed and festooned with buttons, knobs, switches and even tiny trackpads to control vehicle functions and displays.

Particularly useful is the ability to switch the right cluster gauge to a navigation screen.

The 10.25-inch infotainment screen runs Mercedes so-so Comand system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also available. The system performs well, but …

… the interface is complicated to use. Once you master it, the system manages navigation, entertainment, and device-pairing through Bluetooth or USB quite well. The controls are awkward, and the organization of choices in the system isn’t intuitive. (The “Grey Oak” wood trim, however, is gorgeous, and so is the sound from the optional Burmester audio system.)

So what’s the verdict?

The C 300 Cabrio is probably the most luxurious compact luxury convertible two-plus-two you can buy, with the only potential drawback being the four-cylinder engine. For me, it makes plenty of useful horsepower, but if 255 horsepower doesn’t thrill you, you can always consider the AMG C-Class drop-tops, which have a beefier V6 and V8 under their hoods, depending on which AMG model you buy.

I’m not sure that I see the point of louder, huskier convertibles than this, although I’ll admit that all convertibles are good convertibles, at some level. The C 300 is a step beyond a roadster, but it doesn’t entirely renounce a roadster’s lighthearted nature simply by adding two more seats.

And of course, many times when you choose a drop-top with a big motor, you end up wishing you’d selected the coupé. Cabrios compel one to drive slowly enough to feel the breeze, and if your cabrio doesn’t like it slow, you might be tempted to stomp the accelerator and create an airflow that’s more like a gale.

I really put the C 300 Cabrio through its paces, making several runs up and back to New Jersey lake country, involving both highways and winding back roads. I also used it for everyday grocery store runs and school drop-offs. For the last, it’s not the ideal vehicle — no two-seater is — but it’s definitely a kick on sunny days.

The C 300 really shines on the transition from highway to byway. The car is comfy at freeway velocities, and if you like, a $1,700 Driver Assistance Package provides Mercedes suite of semi-self-driving features, including Active Steering Assist. That technology has been, in my experience, the closest that another automaker has come to emulating Tesla’s Autopilot autosteer feature, although it falls short of Cadillac SuperCruise’s fully hands-free highway tech.

In truth, I used all the Driver Assist stuff sparingly because the C 300 was so much fun to drive myself. A combination of the Mercedes Airscarf neck-heating system and a rear wind deflector means that top-down, high-speed motoring is possible (seat heaters also help). But the soft-top has acoustic dampening, so if you choose to go top up for highway driving, you’ll enjoy a quiet cabin.

Exit the freeway and head for winding routes, and you’ll discover the soft-top can stow at up to 30 mph. I did this a couple of times and then took to some twisty asphalt.

The C 300 likes to tool along at a nice, controlled pace, sliding in and out of corners — but the turbo four also serves up pop on command. In manual and Sport or Sport Plus mode, the power delivery is smooth and lag-less, and you can choose to finesse curves or overpower them. I’m less and less a fan of paddle shifters, so I usually stayed in automatic and let the graceful nine-speed automatic transmission manage the gears.

The steering could have been crisper, even though it was upgraded as part of the $1,500 AMG Line Package. The ventilated front brakes, with some beefy calipers, made up for it. And while some reviewers have called the C 300’s suspension stiff, I found it to be just right. In Comfort or Eco mode it softened, and in Sport and Sport Plus it got firm. The calibrations were perfect. The all-wheel-drive setup wasn’t much in evidence, as I drove in perfect conditions except for one day when it rained, and then I limited myself to tooling around town.

The C 300 drop-top can be had for about $50,000, minus a lot of cool, but perhaps not entirely necessary, features. The base, rear-wheel drive car is a machine that I would seriously consider adding to my personal fleet — a sort of grown-up convertible, an expense that could be justified. The extras on my tester car were, to be sure, splendid. But I could have lived without many of them.

The bottom line is that while the C 300 Cabrio ain’t cheap, it’s one of those cars you’re going to look forward to driving, and not just on days when the open-air beckons.