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Website story by Brenda Ward
A gentle breeze ruffles my hair, the murmur of the motor is a background symphony, and the twisting road stretches like a ribbon through the winding Puhoi River valley.
I have the Mercedes-Benz C200 Cabriolet set to ‘Sport’, and it’s transformed from a cushioned cloud of comfort into a cruise missile.
This car is effortless, nosing around the bends, responsive and elegant. At the passing lanes, when cars in front see that star rapidly approaching in the rear-vision mirror, they politely move aside.
The air is fresh and fragrant and the last autumn leaves dance from the trees. The ‘scarf’ of warm air generated by the headrest stops the first chills of the season creeping in, and I sit back and ease into the warmth.
I’m a serial convertible driver, starting out in a Triumph Spitfire and owning seven cabriolets since. My favourite by far was a Mercedes-Benz 350SL, a wide, luxurious tourer which ate up the miles on my frequent journeys from Auckland to Hawke’s Bay.
That was an ’80s icon, but this C200 cabriolet is its evolution: today’s luxury convertible is designed for commuters and weekend road-trippers, with a dazzling array of safety and comfort features.
The next day, on my 45-minute motorway and suburban commute, the Merc is mannered on the motorway stretches. It reminds me of my speed on its ‘heads-up’ display projected on the inside of the windscreen. It alerts me to following distances if I stray too close, with a warning triangle. Another appears on the rear-view mirror when a vehicle is passing in the next lane. It’s like driving with a backseat driver, but you learn to use it, not resent it.
The car looks wide, but feels slender once you’re in the driver’s seat. I forget how wide it is until I come to park in my garage, where it fits in by only a whisker. Fortunately, it has 360-degree cameras – on the mirrors, sides, bumper, and popping from the rear Mercedes badge. They work both in reverse and forward at low speed, so I creep into the garage and find I have inches to spare.
The engine stop/start of the Eco mode takes a bit of getting used to, so I switch to Sport and feel the suspension hunker down and the seat tense for business.
I’m driving the standard model, but this is still a lot of leather-clad car for NZ$89,900 (or, including the Warmth Comfort package, NZ$92,290 including GST but excluding on-road costs). Instead, it feels like a million-dollar investment in your driving pleasure.
ENGINE: 1,999 1cc, 4-cylinder, Direct-injection, Turbocharged
#0-100KM/H: 8.2 sec
COMBINED CYCLE FUEL CONSUMPTION: 6.8 Litres / 100km
DRIVE: Rear wheel drive, ECO start/stop
WHEELS AND TYRES: AMG 19 inch 14-Spoke Wheels
MANUFACTURERS LIST PRICE: NZ$89,900