The E-Class Cabriolet – Three Decades of Open-Air Driving Fun
For almost 30 years, the E-Class Cabriolet has been very successfully celebrating the excitement of open-air driving for four people. Each generation combines elegant design with luxury and outstanding safety at the upper-class level expected from Mercedes-Benz.
In terms of style, Mercedes-Benz has always remained true to its own tradition: an E-Class Cabriolet has two doors, four seats and a classic fabric soft top. To date, more than 400,000 have been sold.
Now, more than ever, the new E-Class Cabriolet combines everyday practicality, exemplary safety and superior travel comfort with a sporty, elegant design.
1991: Grandiose Comeback of the Four-Seater Cabriolet After 20 Years
The success story of the modern E-Class Cabriolet began in 1991 with the presentation of the 300 CE-24 Cabriolet at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt. It was the first four-seater cabriolet from Mercedes-Benz in 20 years.
It was based on the E-Class Coupe, which the engineers spent a great deal of time and effort redesigning into an open-air model. To reinforce the body alone, they developed around 1,000 new parts, including load-bearing structures made of high-strength sheet steel.
Additional reinforcements were added at points subject to particularly high loads, including the diagonal struts similar to the SL sports cars. They also developed vibration absorbers, which reduce body vibrations.
This combination of measures made the Cabriolet as safe in frontal, rear and side impacts as the sedan, the station wagon and the E-Class Coupe. Maximum occupant protection in the event of a rollover was provided by the A- pillars welded together to form a stable unit and the automatically extending rollover protection on the rear seats. The S-Class style interior with its high-quality appointments offered first-class long-distance comfort for four travelers thanks to comfortably shaped individual seats and folding center armrests.
During the 1993 model facelift, the 124 Cabriolet of the 124 model series was given, among other things, a radiator grille redesigned along the lines of the S-Class, the so-called “integrated radiator”– and the new designation E-Class Cabriolet. By 1997 a total of 33,952 units had been produced. The sales figures showed that exclusive four-seater convertibles with sophisticated sedan comfort were in demand again.
1998: The CLK Picked Up the Baton
The successor to the first E-Class Cabriolet was the CLK Cabriolet presented in 1998, which was based technically and formally on the CLK Coupe. Characterized by the newly developed semi-automatic soft top with a solid steel-aluminum frame, it nevertheless displayed its own character. Thanks to electro-hydraulic assistance, the soft top was extremely easy to operate.
The newly developed EASY-ENTRY system provided convenient access to the rear seats. Numerous other technical innovations increased comfort and safety. These included, for example, Brake Assist, which ensured maximum braking power during emergency braking, and the ASSIST Active Service System, which continuously analyzed the oil quality in the engine and enabled maintenance intervals to be set according to requirements.
The extensive standard equipment also included traction control (ASR), an outside temperature display, a leather steering wheel, remote tailgate opening, heat-insulating glass and the automatic roll-over protection system already proven in the previous model.
In 1999 the standard equipment was again significantly extended as part of the model upgrading process. New additions included:
- Side skirts and protective strips painted in the color of the car
- Exterior mirror housings with integrated side indicators
- Electrical adjustment of the height and longitudinal position of the front seats
- Front seat belts with automatic comfort function
- Central display in the instrument cluster
- Multi-function steering wheel for operating audio equipment and telephone
- Exit lights in the doors
- “Audio 10” RDS car radio
- ESP® Electronic Stability Program
- Cruise control and SPEEDTRONIC
The engine variants ranged from the four-cylinder model CLK 200 with 136 hp to the 193 hp CLK 230 KOMPRESSOR and the six-cylinder model CLK 320 with 218 hp.
The elegant and sporty 208 series proved to be extremely successful. From 1998 to 2003, 115,161 CLK Cabriolets were built.
2003: The Second CLK Cabriolet
The CLK Cabriolet of the 209 series followed in 2003 with a completely newly developed design: open or closed, it impressed with its elegant lines and increased exterior dimensions, which significantly increased the available space.
Distinctive stylistic elements included the lamella radiator grille with the centrally positioned Mercedes star, typical of the brand, and the newly interpreted “four-eye” face. The three-layer soft top offered further improved heat and noise insulation. Additionally, while torsional stiffness increased by 12%, Mercedes aerodynamicists and designers succeeded in reducing the drag coefficient to 0.30 – a best value in the Cabriolet segment.
In mid-2004, Mercedes-Benz once again upgraded the CLK Cabriolet. Among other things, it was equipped with DIRECT CONTROL technology, which included modified axle bearings, a more direct steering system and shorter shift time, enabling more dynamic handling while maintaining the same high level of ride comfort. At the 2004 International Motor Show in Paris, Mercedes-Benz presented a special series of the CLK 500 Cabriolet, limited to 100 vehicles, with an extraordinary color and material concept created by Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani.
The Mercedes-Benz Series 209 inspired even more customers than the first CLK Cabriolet. From 2003 to 2009, 140,139 units were sold.
2010: The Coveted Convertible Again Bore the Name E-Class
In March 2010, the popular open-top four-seater officially returned to the E-Class family, thus continuing the tradition. The E-Class Cabriolet of the 207 series once again set standards in the core Mercedes-Benz disciplines of design, comfort and safety.
The acoustic soft top guaranteed the lowest noise level in its class at any speed. The innovative AIRCAP® system, available for the first time, reduces wind turbulence in the interior and therefore also wind noise, providing exceptional comfort while driving with the top down.
The AIRSCARF® neck-level heater was also available, which increases open-air driving pleasure even at low outside temperatures, making the E-Class Cabriolet an all-year- round experience. The 2013 model update introduced the E-Class Cabriolet to the new Mercedes-Benz design language.
Production of the E-Class Cabriolet from the 207 series ended in the fall of 2014, with a total of 99,369 units built. The new E-Class Cabriolet of the 238 series celebrated its world premiere at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2017. Mercedes-Benz thus opened the next chapter in the success story of sporting elegance.