walk into the stark Caja Granada Cultural Center in Granada, Spain, and company public relations folks shuttle me over to get a glimpse of the 2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53. I don’t even really like the AMG C-Class or AMG E-Class coupes, the two discontinued cars that this one is supposed to replace. They drive just fine and dandy, but neither impress me visually. Frankly, I don’t have great expectations for whatever the heck this mishmash is supposed to be.
Then I see it. Situated in an outdoor courtyard surrounded by spiraling walkways, the midsize coupe is a stunner. What hits me first is its stealth. Equipped with one of AMG’s optional Night packages, this thing is a lesson in covert ops with its matte black paint, black wheels, and black AMG-specific grille. I’m picturing myself beside it wearing black leather with sky-high heels, cosplaying as the ultimate German villain.
Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 goes wide
Then it’s about the width. Stuffed under the fenders are a set of Michelin Pilot S5 summer tires wrapped on optional 20-inch black wheels. The sizes are staggered, measuring 265/35 in the front and a beefy 295/30 in the rear. That pushes the front fenders out 2.3 inches compared to the non-AMG CLE, and the rear increases by 3.0 inches. She’s a curvy girl.
A sculpted and vented hood tucks into that AMG grille, highlighted with just a touch of chrome. Flanked by tightly designed LED headlamps, the front fascia is more menacing than the versions on the outgoing C- and E-Class coupes. Mercedes hasn’t announced just how long the AMG CLE 53 is, but the standard CLE spans 112.8 inches between the tires, and I don’t expect this car measures any differently. Regardless, it allows for a long dash-to-axle ratio, placing the driver behind the midpoint of the car. The back allows for the best view of the car’s hips, making the greenhouse seem downright pinched. The optional AMG Performance Studio Package adds a rear diffuser and a more pronounced rear spoiler.
Mercedes-AMG CLE merges C- and E-Class
Mercedes says the AMG CLE coupe is meant to handle like an AMG C-Class while maintaining the room of an AMG E-Class. I don’t get to sit in the thing, but the optional front AMG Performance seats appear to be comfortable, if heavily bolstered. The coupe’s sloping roofline means the two rear seats will be best for smaller passengers, but those rear seats can fold down in a 40/20/40 configuration to expand the cargo space in the trunk. However, horizontal bracing behind the rear seats might hinder easy packing.
I’m a sucker for a black interior with red accents and this preview model delivers. It has red seat belts and red contrasting stitching and trim throughout with AMG badges scattered about. The dash has carbon-fiber trim and the standard flat-bottom steering wheel is crowded with controls for everything from adaptive cruise control to the radio to driving dynamics.
However, the overall interior design mimics that of the standard CLE and that is not a bad thing. The cool-looking turbine air vents are here, but it’s the portrait-oriented 11.9-inch infotainment screen that takes center stage. Tilted toward the driver just a touch, it runs the latest version of the MBUX infotainment system with excellent navigation technology and a powerful voice assistant. The gauge cluster gets into the tech game, too, measuring 12.3 inches and configured in Classic, Sport, or the AMG-specific Supersport styles. My only quibble here is that it looks like it was just plunked down behind the steering wheel. I want something integrated into the dash a bit more.
Mercedes-AMG CLE promises “enough” power
As for the claim of handling like an AMG C-Class, that point is still up for debate until we drive the AMG CLE 53. This new model certainly has more power than the outgoing AMG C 43, but its turbocharged, mild-hybrid 3.0-liter inline-6 can’t hold a candle to the power and fury of the V-8 in the outgoing AMG C 63.
Still, it’s enough for 443 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque going to all four wheels through a 9-speed automatic transmission. This powerplant gets a new exhaust gas turbocharger that pairs with a new electric auxiliary compressor providing up to 22 psi of boost pressure. That in turn ups the torque to 443 lb-ft for up to 12 seconds. This should make highway merging and passing pretty easy.
But an AMG car has to be fun to drive, right? Driving impressions will have to wait until after my villain cosplay getaway dreams come true, but I can make some educated guesses. The all-wheel-drive system is biased toward the rear, and Mercedes says it can seamlessly switch between the two axles. The standard rear-wheel steering should keep things nice and tight in the switchbacks while allowing for more stability during high-speed cruising. Straight-line speed is quick if Mercedes is to be believed: 0-60 mph in 4.0 seconds.
If you’ve never driven a Benz, to say nothing of an AMG, the company allows drivers to dial in ride preferences six ways to Sunday. There are Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, and Individual drive modes, but buyers can go one step further to Race mode with the optional AMG Dynamic Plus Package. Within those modes drivers can dial in the stability control and all-wheel drive system—the Race program even has a Drift setting—and the steel-sprung suspension has three different levels of damper customization.
Past experiences with AMG have left me with high expectations for the CLE 53. In other models power delivery is smooth, shifts are sharp, and turn-in is crisp. I see no reason for this car to be any different, but I need to get some time behind the wheel to be sure.
Pricing has not been announced for the 2024 Mercedes-AMG CLE 53, but the current AMG C 43 starts around $63,000, while the AMG E 53 starts around $85,000. We expect prices to start around $80,000. Look for it in the middle of next year, and let’s hope it drives as well as it looks.