1993-1995 Mercedes 300CE / E320 Cabriolets – A look back at these modern classics

“Few automobiles can claim to be instant classics.  The thrilling new 300CE Cabriolet might be one of them” claimed advertising introducing the 1993 E-class Cabrio to the United States market.  Truer words have never been spoken if one considers how much owners covet them and the prices buyers are willing to pay decades later today.

(A slideshow showing all variations of E-class Cabriolets is at the end of this article)

Returning after a 20-year hiatus: The 4-passenger Mercedes convertible. (Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz North America)

Lacking a four-passenger convertible since the last 1971 280SE model was produced, Mercedes began developing such prototypes based on the hardtop coupe version of the company’s midsize “124 body” platform during 1990.  124 body models had been introduced in sedan form for 1986 (300E), wagon form for 1987 (300TE), and coupe form for 1988(300CE).

Engineering on the new convertible was completed during early 1991, allowing it to make its official world debut at that year’s Frankfurt Auto Show.  Factory production of the first 124 body Cabriolets officially began December 1991 and European markets received the first Cabrios built as 1992 models.  Since introduction of the Cabrio in the United States was pushed back later into the 1992 calendar year, U.S. versions were first available as 1993 models.

MODEL YEARS CABRIOLETS WERE AVAILABLE

In the United States: 1993 – 1995.
In Europe and Asia: 1992 – 1997 (varied greatly based on market)

Floors, transmission tunnels, windshield frames, door frames, even the convertible top storage compartments were engineered to provide extra body rigidity lost by convertibles.  Engineers did their homework thoroughly, as all automotive reviewers gave the 300CE Cabrio high marks for no cowl shake, creaks, or flexing over bumps.  Like the 300CE coupe, 8-hole style wheels were standard on all Cabrios upon introduction.

ENGINES POWERING CABRIOLETS

3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder (1992) : The first Cabrios, built as 1992 models for sale in Europe, were badged as “300CE – 24” Cabriolets.  The 24 nomenclature referred to the 24-valve cylinder head version of the 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine used (on two-door 124 bodies only) since 1990.  Horsepower was 217 and torque was 195 foot-pounds.

3.2-liter inline 6-cylinder (1993-1995/97) : For 1993, the 3.0-liter was enlarged to 3.2 liters on all 124 body models, and retained 24-valve cylinder heads for better air intake.  While the increase in engine displacement did not change the horsepower rating (still at 217 hp), torque jumped from 195 to 229 foot-pounds…enough to make a noticeable different in low end grunt off the line.  For the 1993 model year, this model was still badged the “300CE” in the U.S. but was known as the “320CE ” in Europe and Japan.  For 1994-on, all models with this engine became known as “E320” Cabriolets.

2.2-liter inline 4-cylinder (1993-97) : A 220CE / E220 Cabrio model was sold in Europe and other markets during the 1993-97 model years, and featured an engine producing 150 horsepower.  This was never brought to the U.S.

2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder (1993-97) : Similar to the 2.2-liter model above, a 200CE / E200 Cabrio was marketed during 1993-97 in Europe only.

1994: A NEW FACE AND A NEW NAME (SEE SLIDESHOW FOR PICTORAL DETAILS)

A second design update to all 124-body models caught fans of the marque off guard. Mercedes had already given 124 body sedans and wagons a traditional mid-life style update four years earlier for 1990.  And even mid-life style updates were somewhat new to this car company that sometimes was known for leaving various models in production eighteen years without one body panel changing.

Larger, one-piece headlights that were consistent in design with the new 1992 S-class sedans and 1994 C-class replaced the square-in-rectangle headlights that dated back to 1986.  A new grille was integrated into a slightly revised hood that wrapped around it, rather than being bolted on to the end of the hood.  (See slide show for examples).  Finally, European and U.S. models looked the same.

To avoid confusion that had grown from number-based model badges sounding too similar (for example: the 300E, 300CE, 300SL, and 300SE actually represented vastly different offerings in the lineup), Mercedes marketers created a more uniform badging system.

All 124-body models would now be known as the “E-class” and would have an E followed by number reflecting engine size accurately.  Additional letters such as T and C that had designated wagon and coupe bodies were gone.  Suffixes that existed to reflect an engine larger or smaller in size than the model number (ex: 300E 2.6) were no longer needed.  Thus, all 124 body ragtops were renamed E320 Cabriolets through the remainder of their production run.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN EUROPEAN AND U.S. CABRIOS

While 124-body Cabriolets were introduced early in 1992, they were sold as ’92 models in other parts of the world before being introduced later that year in the U.S. as ’93 300CE models.  Early Cabrios were badged as the 1992 “300CE-24” through Europe, and as the “320CE” in Japan and England.

For 1994, Cabrios in all markets including the U.S. uniformly became the “E320 Cabrio”.   Even headlight assemblies which had previously differed from region to region were now the same worldwide.




While all U.S. versions were equipped with 4-speed automatic transmissions, 124-body Cabrios sold in other markets were equipped with either Mercedes-Benz’s new 5-speed automatic transmission or a 5-speed manual.

While the last year for 124-body convertibles in the United States was 1995, they remained for sale through the ’97 model year in some European markets.

CLICK ON ANY OF THE PICTURES IN THE SLIDE SHOW BELOW TO EXPAND TO FULL SIZE.  USE ARROWS UNDERNEATH PICTURES TO SCROLL BACKWARD OR FORWARD.

 

About Sean

Welcome to Classic Cars Today Online! We seek to explore the subject of classic vehicles from the 1950s through today. It is our belief that a car needn't be old to be respected and admired for graceful design, historical significance, and future value. As founder and Editor-In-Chief, I welcome contributions from you about your own car-related interests and ownership experiences. As far as myself, I've worked in the automotive service field and have been a contributor to Autoweek Magazine, The Star, Mercedes Enthusiast Magazine, Examiner.com and more. Currently, I'm a copywriter and own several foreign and domestic classic cars. In my spare time, you'll find me serving as Technical Editor and officer of several car clubs, being a concours car show judge, and meeting some great folks around the tri-state NY / NJ / Pennsylvania area at car shows. - Sean Connor
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