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 |  Jan 11 2010, 12:21 PM

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Mercedes chose a frigid day in Detroit to launch the convertible version of its all-new E-Class model. The E-Class Cabriolet extends the E-Class range to four models, which also include the sedan, coupe and wagon/estate.

Styled more aggressively like the C-Class coupe, the convertible will initially be offered with two engine choices: an underwhelming 268-hp 3.5-liter V6 and a robust 382-hp 5.5-liter V8. Mercedes has also opted to go with a conventional rag-top, rather than a hard top, in order to keep the weight gain to a minimum. The top drops in roughly 20 seconds and can be operated at speeds up to 25 mph. Soft tops are also supposed to provide more trunk space, but that doesn’t appear to be the case here with just 3.2 cubic feet of space available with the roof down. Top-up, there is plenty of room, with a total of 13.8 cu.-ft.

A new item included in the E-Class Cab is what Mercedes has dubbed the AirCap. The system includes a wind deflector mounted to the top of the windshield as well as draft stops inside the cabin. It can be deployed at the push of a button and doesn’t require fiddling or installation; plus it also doesn’t block off the rear seats like some wind deflectors do. And along with keeping a more balanced temperature inside the cabin, it also reduces interior noise.

Seeing it in action at the Detroit Show it certainly does look a bit dorky, but it’s likely to be a huge hit with female buyers who want to drive with the top down, but don’t want to have to re-do their hair once they get to their destination.

The AirCap can also be paired with Merc’s Airscarft, which blows air out of the front headrests and right onto the neck of the driver and front passenger.

As with all new E-Class models, the Cabriolet comes with an extensive list of safety features, as well as pop-up roll-over bars and the company’s first use of headbag airbags.

The E-Class Cabriolet will be available in dealerships in May. Until then, check out the huge gallery of photos below.

GALLERY: Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet

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GALLERY: Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet Official Pictures

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 |  Jan 05 2010, 4:09 PM

While 2009 was a tumultuous year for automakers, the worldwide economic crisis pushed the auto industry into the mainstream automotive media’s spotlight, making big automotive news stories even bigger. And while new products continued to be introduced, they garnered possibly even more attention that ever before. With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look back at some of the Top 10 biggest stories of 2009 for an automaker that didn’t recoil, but continued on, unveiling an all-new version of one of its most important models, delivering a new exotic car to market, promising an electric car in the future… and making some big changes in its motorsports program. That automaker is Mercedes-Benz.


#10 Mercedes Goes Green With New Hybrids

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Slow to adapt hybrid technology, German automakers began to take on the Japanese luxury hybrids in 2009. Mercedes launched two important hybrid models, the S400 Hybrid and the ML450 Hybrid. The S400 Hybrid was the first Mercedes hybrid to go on sale and is also the first mass production automobile to use a lithium-ion battery. Priced at $87,950 it uses an electric motor and 3.5-liter gasoline V6 to produce 295-hp, while getting mileage of 19/26 mpg – an improvement of 26 percent over the S550 in the city. Despite its high-tech battery pack, the S400 Hybrid is a mild-hybrid, which limits its fuel economy.

The second hybrid model from Mercedes is the ML450 Hybrid 4MATIC. A lease-only model, for either 36 or 60 months, at either $659 or $549 per month, the ML450 is the first two-mode hybrid (like the Toyota Prius) from Mercedes. The ML450 uses a 3.5-liter V6 engine and two electric motors to make 335-hp and 381 ft-lbs of torque. Unlike the S400 Hybrid, it will be able to operate exclusively on electric power for short periods of time. Its fuel economy is rated at 21/24 mpg (city/highway), which is roughly the same as the ML350 Bluetec diesel at 18/25 mpg. This is also a 46 percent improvement over the fuel economy rating of the similarly-powerful ML550.

The next step for Mercedes in the field of hybrids comes with the Vision S500 Plug-In Hybrid, which debuted at the Frankfurt Auto Show and foreshadows a plug-in hybrid version of the next generation S-Class. Thanks to a direct-injection 3.5-liter V6 engine mated to a 60-hp/184 ft-lb electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack, the car is capable of getting an amazing 73.5 mpg! Possibly more shocking is that the car doesn’t sacrifice performance, with a 0-60 mph time of 5.4 seconds. Additionally, the electric motor will be able to power the car emissions-free for 18 miles.

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