2017 Mercedes-Benz 300 Cabrio is an SLC with benefits for friends

Family group photo of the open-top models: the Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class Cabriolet of the A 209 series and previous models from 1956 through 2003.

Think of the Mercedes-Benz C300 Cabriolet as an SLC roadster with benefits for friends and family. While the SLC roadster is classically beautiful and a rip of a drive, it’s a selfish little car in that it only holds the driver and one significant other. But, with the C300’s four-seat interior, more can enjoy riding behind and under shining stars. As with cabrios past, the C300 is an elegantly special car.

Watch classic car auctions and you’ll see two strata of Mercedes prices. At the top are the roadsters and coupes like the Gullwing. 1960s Pagodas and the 560SL are climbing fast. But, right underneath are the big cabrios from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. Mercedes recaptured that magic with the ‘90s E-Class convertible along with the CLKs and most recent E-class convertible. At one point, Mercedes-Benz even considered a 190E drop top. That’s the elegance and class for with the C300 strives, but does so in a sportier, tight-handling package.

The C300 has wheels both alongside the classics and with today’s AMG highway scorchers. Its flowing lines and triple-layer cotton top are timeless, but there’s a sportier side to this gent. Up front, the big grille with star and single lamella is flanked by LED headlamps and driving lamps. An aggressive lower facia, chiseled rocker extensions, rear diffuser, and 19” AMG multi-spoke wheels are all part of the sport body package that gives the car an AMG look. Every line is taut, the rump is round, and it’s all exquisitely detailed as if borrowed from a svelte athlete who just signed a multi-million dollar deal.

If I were ordering this car, I’d choose the Bengal Red/Black interior with bright red Nappa Leather seats, natural grain Black Ash wood, and red piping on the floormats. Stitched dash and door coverings, aluminum trim on the doors, and intricate grilles for the Bermester Surround Sound System add class. Heated and cooled front seats with AIRSCARF neck-level heating are divine. Enjoy open air year-round. The Aircap system deploys a windshield header spoiler and rear turbulence blocker to keep the cabin serene at virtually any speed.

There’s a lot more technology inside, too. Our car has almost every option, including a heads-up display, power steering column, dual-zone automatic climate control, and rain-sensing wipers. A central joy-wheel controller with touchpad connects to a 7” dash display for dialing up audio, navigation, and climate. Connect your devices via Bluetooth; start the engine keylessly. You’ll feel a warm glow at night from the illuminated door sills and ambient cabin lighting.

You might think the C300 has a 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine, but that’s so yesteryear in Mercedes’ naming convention. This C300 has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that kicks out 241 horsepower and 273 lb.-ft. of torque for six-cylinder levels of performance. It’s connected to the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system through a 9-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. ECO start/stop, which pauses the car at rest, helps eek out 22/29-MPG city/hwy – not terribly impressive, but few owners will care.

Mercedes aims the C300’s handing and ride comfort more towards sports cars than boulevard cruisers, though the Dynamic Select system, which configures the AIRMATIC suspension, throttle, and steering, adjusts for Eco (saves fuel), Comfort (softer ride, docile throttle), Sport (sensitive throttle, firmer chassis), and Sport+ (head to the track). The system caters to varying driving styles, but taming those 19” wheels is a challenge as the car feels chattery over rough pavement. There’s some harshness unbecoming of a Mercedes. I’d also stay away from pot holes because they’ll work a number on the low-profile summer tires (don’t ask, but they’re $425 each installed in case you wondered).

Being a top-flight Mercedes-Benz, the C300 gorges on the latest safety technology. There’s adaptive cruise control, forward collision crash mitigation, and active lane keeping assist. Rear cross traffic alert, folding mirrors, and surround view camera system do their parts to keep paint on car. Advancing towards a driverless future, the car can even help guide you back into your lane (but, with hands on the wheel).

I’m a Mercedes traditionalist and know I would enjoy owning an SLC. But, my heart has grown for the C300 Cabriolet. It has all of the classic style I love, but with the aggressive stance and performance that would satisfy my sports car cravings. The fact I could take along three of my favorite people adds benefits. With a base price of $50,900, or $69,125 as-tested, competition includes the BMW 4-Series, Audi A5, Ford Mustang, and Chevy Camaro convertibles.

Storm Forward!

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2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 Cabrio
Four-passenger, AWD Convertible
Powertrain: 241hp 2.0-liter turbo-4, 9-speed manual transmission
Suspension f/r: Air Ind/Ind
Wheels f/r: 19”/19” alloy
Brakes f/r: disc/disc
Must-have features: Luxury, Performance
Fuel economy: 22/29 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Bremen, Germany
Base/as-tested price: $50,900/69,125