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At the wheel: an open and shut case in top-down Merc

on May 29 2017 | in Car reviews, Latest news | by | with Comments Off

Car Specifications
Price: $89,900.
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol 135kW/300Nm
Transmission: Nine-speed 9G-Tronic
Fuel Economy: Claimed 6.8 litres/100km, but a real-world 8 litres/100km
Emissioins: 155 grams per kilometre CO2
Equipment: Comprehensive, including collision prevention
Safety: Five-star ANCAP rating
Factory Warranty: Three years/100,000km

Hard-charging Kiwi motorcycle great Graeme Crosby tells the story of racing in the Isle of Man TT for the first time in 1979. He sort of ‘smelled’ his way round the 48km circuit.

“It’s such a long way that it’s hard sometimes to remember exactly when your are,” he once told me. “There is one part of it where they grow garlic, and you can smell it.

“So as soon as I got a whiff I knew exactly where I was and what was ahead of me. When you are doing 140mph (226km/h) it’s good to know what’s coming up.”

Scrub off much of Crosby’s speed on two wheels and top-down motoring on four wheels is a bit like that – at its best when you are on an unfamiliar road in a touring mode and far away from city limits, seeing and smelling country stuff.

All aboard in a top-down four-seater in city traffic especially makes about as much sense as sewing pockets in handkerchiefs.

Anyway, the Mercedes-Benz C200 Cabriolet is the $89,900 entry point in New Zealand to the company’s two door/four-seat soft-top range.

The tradeoff with the coupe/cabriolet designs is almost always the back seats: they can be cramped for leg room and too upright.

The seats in the C200 soft-top are typically upright, but leg room isn’t bad, providing the driver and passenger up front are not as tall as 2.07m (6ft8in) Jim Comey, the former FBI director.

Tall or short, getting in and out of the back with the car’s multi-layer fabric roof in place can be an exercise in yoga.

Not so bad when the roof is down, conveniently lowered (and raised) via the car’s keyfob and slotted into the boot, reducing its capacity by 40 litres, from 400 to 360.

On the road, the C200 convertible doesn’t suffer noticeably from the lack of a roof’s rigidity. A bump here and there can cause the windscreen A-pillars to shimmer, but all-in-all the chassis remains nicely tied down.

Benz engineers have said body strength and twist resistance in the C200 soft-top might not match that of the C-200 Coupe and its fixed roof, but there’s not much in it.

Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivering 135kW/300Nm and driving the rear wheels via an intelligent 9G-Tronic automatic with steering wheel-mounted paddles.

Merc1

It’s a flexible marriage, rarely under stress, thanks to a computer- managed nine-speeder that works in harmony with throttle loads rather than sequence.

Not like an old five-speed auto’. Slip a five-speeder into Drive and, under throttle, it and the torque converter engaged first gear, then second, and so on up as it stepped up and down ratios.

Merc’s nine-speeder (like other multi-gear autos’) reads throttle inputs. It might engage second gear to get underway, because doing so aids fuel efficiency.

It might go from second to third and then fifth, sixth, and seventh. It mightn’t go anywhere near eight and nine. Same coming back down the ratios.

If you want urgency for whatever reason, play with the paddles. Play with them anyway – the engine is a sweet unit that spins freely without being unduly coarse.

It’s not a firecracker; it matches the car’s character as a conservative, top-down tourer, offering a classy cabin, compliant ride, and accurate handling. Only time it feels skittery is over bad surfaces.

Merc claims the C200 is good for town-and-around fuel use of 6.8 litres/100km. That’s motoring in the best of all possible worlds. Around 8 litres/100km makes more sense.

The test car came with a couple of options that pushed the price up to $92,290. The 19-inch AMG wheels were $490 and the ‘warmth package’ $1900. This comprises heated front seats and a ‘neck scarfe’ that directs neck-level warm air to front occupants.

That’s the start of the options list. The Comand connectivity package costs $2990, the Exterior Carbon package $8900, the Performance Ergonomic package $4990. All up, the C200 Cabriolet could cost around $110,000.

Four-seater soft-tops in NZ are mostly of German origin. Mercedes-Benz has sold around 25 so far this year, including the C200 and go-faster AMG C43 and AMG C63.

Talk to car insurance people and they’ll tell you the jump in recent top-down sales is down to city-slickers and the real estate boom.

How do I rate the C200 Cabriolet? I’ll put aside my bias against such four-seaters and give it 7/10.

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