If I had to explain why Britain, in spite of its miserable climate, enjoys one of the highest rates of convertible ownership, I would put it down to three things: the weather is so bad that when the sun finally does shine we overreact and want to lap up every second of it; driving a convertible with the roof off on a cold day is a surprisingly invigorating experience, the vehicular equivalent of taking a cold shower; and wind turbulence means that four-seater convertibles are an excellent way of keeping kids quiet.
A six-hour drive with children is normally a nightmare of whining and bribery and travel sickness, but take off the roof, hit 70mph and you won't hear a squeak from the brats until you arrive, with silly sick-spattered hair. It's odd topless cars are synonymous with the male mid-life crisis when actually they make for better family motoring. So it's curious the E Class Cabriolet is the most enjoyable convertible I've driven lately as it doesn't offer two of these classic features. One of the car's technological highlights is an 'aircap': a narrow spoiler mounted on the windscreen that pops up to divert airflow over the rear passengers. It reduces turbulence so that even at 60 mph you can hear the kids.
Then there's the Airscarf, a miraculous system of air vents in the front-seat headrests, which blows warm air on the passenger's and driver's necks and means that whether it's 3 degrees or 24 degrees, the car feels equally comfortable. I know this because our unique British climate allowed me to test the car at these very temperatures within just three days.
Unusually for a convertible this car has a boot that allows you to carry more than a Mars Bar. (The cloth roof, which takes 20 seconds to pop up or down, doesn't take up as much boot space as a metal equivalent.) While it's stylish enough for St Tropez, it doesn't look too pretentious for a car park in West Bromwich. But, although the diesel engine is economical, at a standstill with the roof off, it sounds as if you're driving farm machinery.
I'll take one: Snug as a bug in a rug, no matter the weather.
Thanks but no thanks: Snug as a bug in a rug, no matter the weather.
Mercedes E350 CDI SE Cabriolet
Engine: 2,987 cc diesel injection
Power: 231 hp
Torque: 398 lb ft at 1,600 to 2,400 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed auto
Fuel: 40.4 mpg (combined cycle)
CO2: 185 g/km
0-60 mph: 6.9 secs
Top speed: 155 mph