When you’re offered a Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet for the day, there’s only one place to go – the Camps Bay strip. On a summer’s day, that is. On a wintry day in June, a road trip to Franschhoek is more appropriate. This picturesque village has ample mountain roads to play on and loads of cosy, fire-lit restaurants to choose from.
So, I recently hit the road with fellow motoring journalist Ané Theron (from Autotrader.co.za) for a day out in the Cape Winelands, which we labelled as ‘work’. Franschhoek is the perfect destination for a girls’ day out, which should always include fun, food and chocolate. The car provided the fun, the newly refurbished Reuben’s was our restaurant of choice and Huguenot Fine Chocolates provided the sugar on top.
The drive into the Winelands was the perfect opportunity to reminisce about our humble beginnings in the world of motoring – our first cars. At 18, all I wanted was a Volkswagen Golf VR6. My dad was having none of it, so I had to turn my sights to the Citi Golf, which I ended up loving! It had a 1,6-litre engine and boy, did that thing go!
Ané’s first car was ‘a lot older and a lot slower’ (her words) – a used white Ford Escort 1.3 – ‘and I squeezed every last bit of power out of that engine! Oh, the adventures we had.’ For new drivers shopping for their first car in 2017, Ané recommends the Renault Sandero – it’s one of the safest entry-level cars around, is super-light on fuel, and offers terrific value all-round.
Initial thoughts on the Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet 4Matic
But let’s get back to the present. First things first – the car. It’s hard to produce a soft top. It changes the whole structure and you risk losing the essence of the car. Mercedes-Benz gave it a whirl with the C-Class.
It’s priced at just over a million rand, which is a lot for such a car – especially as it rattles and creaks quite a bit for a car with only 4 000 km on the clock. Not particularly practical, but cabriolets seldom are. It’s a weekend cruiser for sure.
Ané agrees. ‘The C43 Cabriolet is all about the glamour and the lifestyle – the little creaks are probably not going to bother everyone. Where the BMW 4 Series Convertible is all about the driving experience, the C43 is about opulence, and how you feel sitting inside it. The C43’s interior is also much more ooh-la-la than its Bavarian rival.’
Testing out the Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet on the Franschhoek Pass
As soon as we arrived in Franschhoek, we immediately hit the Franschhoek pass for a little joyride. The switchbacks make for the perfect ‘wind in our hair’ moment and I kind of wished we’d both had the foresight to wear Jackie O sunglasses and glam headscarves. Cabriolets are, as a rule, not my best. I find them more of an inconvenience (ha ha). You put the top down then it starts raining – so you put the top up … then the sun comes out! In this instance though, I could definitely see the value in the fun factor.
‘The Coupé-version handles better,’ says Ané. ‘But who ever bought a cabriolet with practicality in mind? I adore a cabrio – nothing beats the wind in your hair and the sun on your face on a beautiful day. But I don’t want one as my only source of transport. Realistically, it’s only doable if you already have a family car in your garage, or you don’t have kids.’
Aspirational cars – are they worth it?
This Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet is certainly something to aspire to. If only because of the price tag… I’d love to have R1-million to spend on a car. Would I actually do it, though? I’m not so sure. My practical (and rational) mind would take over. But what is it about expensive cars that get people so worked up? They do the same thing that a budget car will do, but I guess it’s the experience while you are in the car that matters. The journey, if you will. One thing I always want from a car is comfort. So if it is R1-million, it better be comfortable.
‘Of course, comfort above all else,’ says Ané. ‘The downside of a cabriolet, or any low-slung sports car for that matter, is getting in and out, especially in a skirt or dress, or getting into the back. I recently drove the Mercedes-AMG GLE43 – it has the same 3.0-litre V6 engine as the cabriolet we drove, but it’s an SUV. No expense has been spared with regards to convenience features, plus it’s suitable for both parents, with ample space for the kiddies. It also boasts serious off-road ability. Yet again, it carries a very steep price tag of R 1 215 706. But I can aspire to that!’
Wintry lunch at Reuben’s
Soon enough, we’d worked up quite the appetite. We rolled into town with the top down, which confirmed the car’s head-turning capabilities. Reuben’s is a Franschhoek institution and with a new location and fresh new interior aesthetic, it’s the perfect place to spend a languid lunch. Chef and owner Rueben Riffel’s cooking is honest and undeniably delicious. There’s just no other way to describe his pork belly with crispy crackling or sumptuous risotto with hazelnuts and Jerusalem artichokes. It’s the perfect winter fare.
Chocolate heaven at Huguenot Fine Chocolates
I can never leave Franschhoek without a stop at Huguenot Fine Chocolates. Their boutique chocolaterie on the main street offers a delicious range of chocolates, made from the finest imported Belgian chocolate. Did you know that they offer chocolate tastings? It’s a 30-minute experience, where you can learn about the history of chocolate, watch a demonstration of how chocolates are made and, most importantly, taste as much chocolate as you like! It happens daily at 11am and 3pm. You’ll need to call ahead to book: 021 876 4096.
So in terms of a girls’ day out, the Merc was the perfect choice. Would I make it mine for a million bucks? Probably not. Also, we can’t all afford a million-rand car. So what are your options if your heart is set on a sexy cabriolet? Four cabriolets that might suit your budget better:
Fiat 500C, priced from R240 900
Mazda MX-5, priced from R441 700
Audi A3 Cabriolet, priced from R568 900
Mercedes-Benz SLC, priced from R714 600
Quickie car chats on the road
What’s your favourite feature in a car?
‘Ooh, this is always an interesting one as it can change quickly, but at the moment, in this cold spell, mine would be heated seats and a heated steering wheel. But for my more practical mind, it would be Bluetooth, for sure! Then maybe parking sensors. And obviously air-conditioning in summer.’ – Julz
‘I have to admit that I have become overly reliant on rear parking sensors! One gets spoilt so easily with all the new tech in the high-end cars. However, stuff like Lane Keep Assist that nudges you back into your lane (using cameras that ‘see’ road markings) is an amazing safety feature – and this technology has now started to become available in more affordable cars such as the Opel Astra Hatch 1.4T Sport, R368 400.’ – Ané
What’s your favourite thing about Franschhoek?
‘Wine, wine, wine! And Huguenot Fine Chocolates is my BEST. I cannot drive past without stopping. They even know me by name now! There is something so special about being in a car like the Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet and heading out to Franschhoek. This place is just filled with beautiful things, from food and art to breathtaking landscapes and a twisty pass. Plus, of course, you’ve got gems like Reuben’s where your tastebuds go to be pampered. Just wonderful.’ – Julz
‘The scenery is breathtaking, and you’re spoilt for choice with stunning wine farms and restaurants. It’s the Western Cape at its finest. And yes, the pass! There’s a reason why car nuts such as Reuben Riffel choose to live here! He drives a BMW M4 Convertible, which is perfect for it.’ – Ané