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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Road test: 2018 Mercedes-Benz E 300 Cabriolet

The sporty soft top offers as much poise as it does power

While gender dynamics have come a long way during the time cars have been a commercially available entity, some models still appear to be more stereotypically associated with either men or women: take the Mercedes-Benz E 300 Cabriolet.

Now, don’t take my word for it. I genuinely hadn’t given much thought to the subject after being handed the keys to the updated perky E-Class drop-top. It takes not one, not two, but three female friends who happen to be passengers during my test drive to remark about this being “a girl’s car” for me to start considering that maybe the whole dynamic does remain a reality.

The skin-deep impressions of this particular Merc are skewed somewhat by the paint job on my test car – a striking purple/deep pink labelled “rubellite red metallic”.

The interior embellishments, with the exterior colours joined by lashings of cream and light-wood panelling, are also what might be perceived as at the feminine end of the scale. It feels as though it has been crafted with a similar care that would be afforded to a designer handbag, with the timber not intended to be exposed to the clumsiness of a brutish man. The wide-screen flowing dash adds to the stylish and tailored sensation, undoubtedly, only not quite in a manner that I look for in a car.

Even the way the E 300 performs has a certain daintiness; a fleet of foot that isn’t ostentatious in any way, unlike its bigger sisters – or, err, should that be brothers? – given the exhaust-popping AMG treatment. The 2.0-litre engine just smoothly gets on with its function, with the 245hp available not feeling lightning-fast, yet always providing enough vim to get you on your way without fuss. Its top speed of 250kph certainly proves that it is no slouch, too.

As per usual Mercedes operations, the E 300 is chock-full with tech features, although you will have to dig deep to afford all the optional extras on my test car. Evidence? The eye-watering US$7,525 (Dh27,641) it costs to add the Premium Plus Package, which features climatised front seats, head-up display, air filtration and a beefed-up sound system.

Standard-kit highlights include run-flat tyres, Apple CarPlay, neat seat-belt holders that automatically pop out to make buckling up easier and a 360-degree camera. The E 300 is longer than the outgoing model, which means that back-seat passengers have 74 millimetres more legroom – this isn’t a cabrio with rear quarters added as more of an afterthought than an actual liveable feature.

If my test car wields the air of the automotive equivalent of a colourful birthday dress, that might be because it is an anniversary edition, celebrating a quarter of a century since Merc introduced the open-top four-seater 300 CE-24 Cabriolet.

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That early 1990s car still commands healthy resale values to this day, particularly for low-mileage examples, enjoying something of a minor cult classic status.

Will the 300 CE-24 Cabriolet’s 21st-century relative enjoy such a fond reputation in 2043? Quite aside from the likelihood of petrol-­powered cars being obsolete and/or outlawed by then, perhaps it isn’t for me to say.

The jury was split among my aforementioned female friends: one was physically repulsed by the colour scheme, although with the soft top down (the process takes 20 seconds at up to 50kph), all three wore impressed smiles.

The E 300 Cabriolet is all about slowing down to enjoy a nicer pace of life. And while that isn’t the kind of recommendation that will have petrolheads lining up to endorse it, there is something rather enjoyable about forgetting all about preconceptions in favour of soaking up some sun in soothing surrounds.