It’s 25 years since the 124-series Mercedes E Class Cabriolet was launched. Elegant, spacious, refined, and surprisingly entertaining to drive, it’s still regarded as one of the finest four-seater drop-tops there has ever been, and remains hugely sought after.
The 124-series sedan was launched in 1985, followed in 1986 by the wagon, and in 1987 by the coupe. The cabriolet debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1991, going into production in early 1992. Mercedes hadn’t built a four-seat cabriolet for 20 years.
It was based on the same shortened platform as the coupe and shared much of the hardtop's sheet metal; a very elegant thing it was, too, roof up or down. A huge amount of strengthening elements went into the structure, making the cabriolet impressively stiff by the standards of the day. It was extremely refined too, with a thick, heavy soft top.
At launch, it was only available as the 300CE-24, powered by a 3.0-liter, six-cylinder, 24-valve engine making a healthy 220 horsepower. That gave it a top speed of nearly 150 miles-per-hour and, because it was so stiff, the handling was more than competent on switchback roads.
A facelift in 1993 moved the ‘E’ in front of the engine designation, modernized the styling, and brought new engines including four-cylinder units and a 3.6-liter AMG lump. It stayed in production until 1997, two years after the saloon and wagon had been replaced. Two generations of CLK and the current E Class Cabriolet followed on.
40,295 124-series cabriolets were built. Thanks to unimpeachable build quality and generally diligent owners, survival rates are still quite high. Their relative rarity and high desirability means they’ve never been exactly cheap, but prices are on the right side of affordable all the same. A good one, especially with the rare Sportsline package, is as cast iron an investment as you’ll find.