A narrow strip of blacktop edges around granite cliffs high in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas where we're pushing the pace and squealing four low-profile tires on a muscular new luxury convertible that wears the tri-star medallion of Germany's Mercedes-Benz.
Labeled as the E400 Cabriolet, the sleek 2-door concoction capped by a power-motivated convertible lid amounts to a drop-top version of midsize E Class cars.
The redesigned W213-generation E-Class line includes 4-door sedans, 5-door wagons, 2-door coupes and -- new for 2018 -- the 2-door E400 convertible.
Previous iterations of E-Class convertibles rode on the platform of compact-size C-Class cars with contorted midsize E-Class passenger compartments. But the 2018 E400 Cabriolet scores the longer and broader E-Class platform and becomes a much longer and broader vehicle than the previous generation of E Cabriolets.
Wheelbase stretches to 113.1 inches, and the body length extends to 190 inches, while the width expands to 73.2 inches. These measurements point to more generous space in the passenger compartment.
New body styling for this sporty convertible seems sensuous and downright hot. It hunkers low on big alloy wheels capped by low-profile tires below a sleek package that suggests swift movement even when parked. An aggressive prow on the E400 focuses on a large diamond-block grille studded with the tri-star Mercedes emblem and flanked by a horizontal bar and LED headlamps on front corners.
Body lines are classic for a sporty car with a long front hood that sweeps up the steep rake of a windscreen and over the cockpit to a brief boot in back.
But there's more: Mercedes takes the concept of a breezy ragtop one step beyond the expected by adding a multi-layer fabric acoustic soft lid that folds origami-fashion and tucks away in the trunk. The transformation from a weather-tight soft-top coupe to airy convertible is a high-tech mechanical operation accomplished in only 20 seconds with the push of a button at speeds up to 31 mph.
And Mercedes adds the clever AirCap wind deflector and AirScarf neck-level heating unit to keep E400 riders cozy and warm on cool days when cruising with the top down.
All E-Class cars carry turbocharged engines, and for E400 the plant is a 3.0-liter bi-turbo V6 equipped with dual overhead cams plus ECO Start/Stop.
It develops 329 hp at 1600-to-4000 rpm with torque climbing to 354 lb-ft at 5250-to-6000 rpm.
The exclusive shifter is the Mercedes 9G-tronic 9-speed automatic transmission with manual shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel.
The E400 is available in rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, which in Mercedes nomenclature is dubbed 4Matic. The 4Matic device splits the power between front/rear wheels at 45:55.
A new design for the car cabin draws on heat-reflecting leathers, aluminum, and wood in a classic 4-seat layout with premium materials borrowed from the elite S-Class stylebook. The standard central 12.3-inch Comand display may be expanded with an optional second 12.3-inch display instrument cluster merged under a single glass panel to foster a truly widescreen cockpit.
High-tech Mercedes optional equipment added a la carte, including several choices in Burmester sound systems, an air suspension, surround-view camera system, even autonomous driving functions.
The self-driving system -- Drive Pilot -- lists for more than $10,000 but is capable of change lanes automatically and tagging behind other cars, following, accelerating and even stopping.
Mercedes sets the MSRP for a 2018 E400 Cabriolet at $66,300 plus $995 destination fee, with the E400 4Matic bumping to $68,880 plus $995 destination fee.
Our recent E400 4Matic test vehicle with loads of optional equipment aboard tallied to $87,415 with destination fee included.