The sweet spot: 2012 Mercedes E Class convertible A207
Second-hand Style, with Richard Cooke
I LOVE large Mercedes convertibles. They may be the only convertibles I do like, actually.
The brutalist elegance of the Bruno Sacco early 90s ‘W124’ E-Class remains a particular favourite. I’ll never buy one though – these old barges need oil changes every 6k miles and, sadly, they rust. As does the CLK that sort of replaced it, only that took corrosion to a whole new level.
CLKs not yet scrapped are either garage queens or tragic rust-infested wrecks. Prices are low for a reason – walk away quickly.
Mercedes never got the CLK right, and whilst the newer models introduced in 2002 didn’t rust (much), their engines did implode. The V6 petrol examples were the worst offenders: Mercedes got successfully taken to court in the US over the matter.
At the other end of the price scale, nearly-new Merc soft tops always look far too expensive. I put this down to fashion. For a short window, say four or five years, demand tends to outstrip supply. A certain demographic desperately wants the newest car on their drive, and Mercedes know it. Prices stay high; supply is moderated to keep them that way.
So old Merc convertibles are either in classic car territory, or money pits (sometimes both) and new ones are fashionable and therefore overpriced. The sweet spot, in my view, is this month’s car. Mercedes brought the E Class badge back to the drop top segment in 2009, but underneath it is, like the CLK, based on the smaller C class.
No matter – there’s plenty of room, front and back, and the boot is a decent size, even with the roof down.
My test car was a 2012 E250 CDi, which translates to a 2.1 litre diesel engine with 200hp and endless torque.
The colour is fabulous, and compliments the black leather. In fact, someone ticked every box (with one notable exception) when specifying this particular car. Toys that stood out as unusual in an eight year old car included lane departure warning (no thanks), blind spot monitoring mirrors (excellent) and heat scarves in the front headrests (lovely). There’s also an electric front air deflector and rear mesh guard, both of which reduce wind noise and turbulence in the cabin at speed.
The doors feel heavy and clunky, like a Merc should. A big improvement on the flimsy affairs from ten years previously. The roof goes up in 25 seconds, which seemed quick but won’t be in the rain. The diesel was almost silent on tick over, showing 62k miles on the clock. This engine powers nearly every taxi in Germany and will do ten times that mileage, with proper servicing.
On the road it is rapid, by any standard, and returns 50 miles per gallon of diesel. Do fuel prices matter at the moment? Costs are down, annual mileages significantly reduced. Discuss.
Regardless, I’d have the 250CDi over the much softer-tuned 220CDi. Same engine, more grunt.
So, what’s not to like? Well, this is a heavy car (1.7 tons), so don’t look at it as anything other than a cruiser. Modest 17in wheels and that weight makes the ride fabulous though, with none of the compromises in rigidity you sometimes get from a convertible.
What 99.9% of Mercedes buyers won’t like is the manual gearbox this example has. I suspect that the automatic option is the first box punters tick in the showroom, costing £2,000 extra. What we have here is a car less common than manure with rocking horse provenance. And I’m not sure why – the six speed gearbox is very good. It also perked up the performance and made me work a bit for my power. Or if I wasn’t in the mood, I just shifted early and rode the wave of torque.
Why don’t more Mercs come specified this way? That’s back to the demographics of people who buy them new, and the perceived premium attached to a slushbox. Well, sorry - they’re all wrong. Mercedes make a good manual shifter, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Mercedes E250 CDi, 2010 – 2017. What to pay: £10k for a 2012 model, 60k miles