A good 24 years before my E320 Cabriolet, there was the 280SE 3.5 Cabriolet, the last 5-passenger convertible made by Mercedes until the 90s A124. This is the spiritual ancestor to the 90s vehicle and a worthy benchmark with some serious gravitas. Not a sports car or even a sporting car, but a gorgeous piece of engineering akin to a Rolls-Royce, yet distinctly Mercedes.
At some point, it must be asked: Why this particular model? What makes an 18-year old car worth the trouble? Why bother? All worthwhile questions, but let's look at the issue another way: Why did Mercedes bother to create the A124 Cabriolet? After all, they had stopped making 4-passenger convertibles in 1971. For over two decades, they had ceded the 2+2 convertible market to BMW and its open-top 3-series in favor of concentrating on the SL.
I'm partial to silver for Mercedes, no matter what the model. Silver-grey metallic is the quintessential color for a Mercedes "Silver Arrow." Arguably, you can't get more Mercedes than the W154 driven by Rudolf Caracole in the 1938 and 1939 Grand Prix seasons. This is the 646-hp monster that Caracciola drove to victory in the 1938 European Championship.
The R129 SL and the automatic
retractable soft top that it shares
with its 2+2 sibling.
Why the E320 Cabriolet? For Mercedes, surely the 1989 R129 SL and its high-tech automated marvel of a soft top powered by 17 switches, 15 pressure cylinders and 11 solenoids paved the way for its 4-seater sibling. The success of this mechanism and the W124 Coupe made a Cabriolet an obvious line extension. 1,000 uniquely engineered parts later and the first 4-passenger cabriolet for Mercedes since the glorious W111 is born. In all, 33,952 units were manufactured, with a full 75% of the E320 models like mine produced for export markets. In comparison, there were roughly 6 times the number of R129 roadsters manufactured.