Unless you live in, oh, Palm Springs, convertibles are better in concept than reality. With the top on, a pleasure machine can become a cramped, compromised ride. And even when the weather is perfect, backseat passengers can expect a case of windburn. But with the 2011 E-class Cabriolet—the fourth and final member of the redesigned E line—Mercedes is betting that gadgetry can beat the elements. It’s probably too much to claim, as the company does, that it’s perfect for “four seasons, four people.” But the convertible E should at least help you pretend that summer lasts a little longer.
In the front seats, the optional Airscarf system blows warm air from a heating unit lower in the seat through adjustable vents in the head restraints.
At speeds of up to 100 mph, push a button on the car’s center console, and the new Aircap wind deflector, which comes standard, rises as high as 2.5 inches above the top of the windshield, pushing airflow high enough above the car that it leaves backseat passengers undisturbed.
The inch-thick roof is insulated with three layers of polyester weave, padding and mesh for sound dampening and warmth. Press a concealed button on the center armrest at up to 25 mph, and the roof will open or close in less than 20 seconds.
The E350 Cabriolet is powered by a 268-horsepower V6, which is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission; the pricier E550 Cabriolet gets a 382-horsepower V8. Both have a top speed of 130 mph, and the E550 gets there quicker, going from 0 to 60 in 5.1 seconds.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.