WASHINGTON (TheStreet) — When the Mercedes-Benz E-class sports a quiet and comfortable convertible, the days of the low-end, loud and light-weather ragtop are numbered.
By giving its new four-seater V6 engine-powered E350 and burlier E550 V8 a wind-deflecting spoiler above their windshields, a wind screen and draft stop between the rear seats and an Airscarf ventilation system that blows heat directly onto passengers' necks, Mercedes has joined its fellow luxury automakers in crafting convertibles for all seasons — if not for all consumers.
"I actually drove it in a rainstorm and didn't get wet with the top down," says Jean Jennings, editor in chief of Automobile Magazine. "You can use the air conditioner with the top down when it's hot and, because of the management of the vents and airflow across the car, it's not about getting the side windows up and the heater on and hoping you can get somewhere fast."
Starting at $57,000, the soft-top E-class is representative of a practical, all-weather convertible market in which only five models — the Chrysler Sebring (starting at $20,000), Smart Fortwo Passion Cabriolet (starting at $16,990), Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder ($21,000), Mazda MX-5 Miata ($22,960) and Mini Cooper ($24,250) — are available for less than $25,000. Even the underpowered V6 version of Ford's