This is the new 2023 Mercedes CLE Coupe and UK prices have been confirmed to start from £46,605. It’s a two-door coupe which will replace both the C-Class and E-Class Coupe, becoming a fresh rival for the likes of BMW 4-Series and Audi A5 in the process.
It’ll hit UK showrooms at the end of 2023 – and it’ll be followed by a drop-top variant in spring 2024 which will square up to cars such as Lexus LC Convertible and the upcoming MG Cyberster. Read our Mercedes CLE review here.
Compressing two cars into one is a bold move, especially when you consider the size, spec and price differences between the old C-Class and E-Class Coupes. But Mercedes is confident it can make do with one model, as it prunes its range to become more streamlined (and therefore cheaper to manufacture and maintain).
Buyers can choose from four trim levels: AMG Line, AMG Line Premium, AMG Line Premium Plus and Premier Edition. UK prices start at £46,605 for the entry-level CLE 200 AMG Line, climbing to £72,765 for a range-topping CLE 450 4Matic in Premier Edition.
Bianca Licina, product manager for the new CLE, told CAR: ‘We observed the market and we have been in touch with our customers from C- and E-class – and we noticed that their customer needs have developed differently. C-Class Coupe customers wanted to get a car with more size and more status, while the E-Class customer wanted to have a more dynamic and more sporty car.
‘When we did this research, we noticed that we would create two very similar cars that would be too similar to each other, if we continued this path of having two coupes. That was the reason why we said, “Hey, let’s cover both needs in one car.”
‘With the CLE, we wanted to respond to these changing conditions and we kind of redefined the coupe segment for Mercedes-Benz. That means that we will offer one coupe in the mid-size segment in the future, which will be the successor model of the C- and E-Class coupe.’
The CLE was designed to be a Swiss Army knife of a two-door. So, to serve Mercedes’s practicality-conscious coupe buyers, it has enough room in the rear for two adults. It also has a 420-litre boot, which the firm’s engineers proudly state is large enough to swallow three sets of golf clubs. How very Teutonic.
In a bid to entice keen drivers, though, the CLE will be available with some clever chassis technology, a 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine and at least one fire-breathing AMG powertrain. But has Merc covered all the bases well enough? We’ve spent some time in the studio with the CLE to get the low-down before it hits showrooms later in 2023.
Tell me about the CLE’s engines. Will they be exciting?
Some of them will be. The model that piqued our interest is the CLE 450. It features a turbocharged 3.0-litre straight six petrol engine with 375bhp and 369lb ft of torque. Mercedes says it’ll be able to shove the coupe from 0–62mph in 4.4 seconds before running into its electronic buffer at 155mph.
There’s a faster AMG-badged version of the CLE on the way, too, although Mercedes hasn’t yet told us which of its performance engines it’ll use. But, given its mechanical similarities to the C-Class saloon, we expect it’ll feature the same 670bhp PHEV powertrain as the Mercedes-AMG C63 S.
The rest of the CLE’s engine choices are all turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol and diesel units. The line-up opens with the 220d. It produces 197bhp and 324lb ft of torque – and it’s the only diesel in the coupe’s line-up. It’s also the joint-slowest engine, taking 7.5 seconds to sprint from 0–62mph. It is, at least, the most efficient on paper returning up to 60.1mpg on the WLTP combined cycle.
Above that, there’s the petrol-powered CLE 200. It produces 201bhp and 236lb ft of torque, serving up a 0–62mph time of 7.4 seconds and top speed of 147mph. The CLE 300 features a brawnier version of the same engine with 254bhp, 295lb ft of torque and a 0–62mph time of 6.2 seconds.
The 200 is also optionally available with four-wheel drive, while the 300 and 450 are fitted with the drivetrain as standard. Every engine is mated to a nine-speed automatic gearbox and they all benefit from mild hybrid assistance to improve fuel economy and trim CO2 emissions.
What’s underpinning the new CLE Coupe?
The Mercedes CLE Coupe uses the same MRA platform found under the C-Class saloon, although the brand’s engineers have fiddled with its dimensions to make the new car feel unique, they claim. The CLE is 4850mm long and 1428mm tall, which makes it 99mm longer and 10mm lower than the saloon. However, the wheelbases of both cars are identical at 2865mm.
The biggest change for the CLE is its track width. It’s swelled by 40mm at the front and 70mm at the rear, which Mercedes says has improved handling compared to the C-Class saloon. The Coupe’s suspension is also 15mm lower, which has dropped the car’s centre of mass closer to the tarmac.
Buyers will also be able to specify the car with adaptive dampers and rear-wheel steering, which Mercedes hopes will increase the car’s appeal for keen drivers. The former upgrade will help to keep the body flat in the corners, while the latter promises to make the car more eager to hunt apexes. The rear-wheel steering system also carves half a metre out of the CLE’s turning circle.
Buyers will be able to choose from alloy wheels ranging between 18 and 20 inches in diameter. The entry-level trim in the UK will be Mercedes AMG Line specification, which comes with 19-inch alloys as standard. Mercedes knows how tatty UK roads are, though, so buyers will be able to specify smaller 18-inch alloys on all but the CLE 450 for a little more compliance.
What’s the CLE’s interior like?
Up front, it’s very similar to the C-Class saloon. It features the same 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, 11.9-inch portrait infotainment system and dashboard design. In fact, the equipment levels will be comparable between the two cars, as the CLE will also come as standard with keyless go, memory seats and a customisable ambient lighting system.
We quizzed Bianca Licina about why the CLE wouldn’t be available with the Superscreen infotainment system used in the latest E-Class saloon. She explained: ‘The concept of the interior – and that was a conscious decision to not take another display in the car – is that it focuses on the driver. [This way] you as a driver can focus on the road and driving pleasure.’
Despite being based on Mercedes’s ageing infotainment technology, the CLE’s touchscreen will also be compatible with a range of third-party applications such as the social media platform TikTok, the video conferencing tool Zoom and the internet browser Vivaldi.
Rather than spending time reinventing its infotainment suite, Mercedes poured its energy into making the new CLE more practical than the old C-Class Coupe. Its wheelbase is 25mm longer than the old C-Class which, when coupled with some clever packaging and some scalloped front seat backs, has helped liberate an extra 72mm of kneeroom for those in the back.
The CLE’s larger dimensions have also created an extra 10mm of headroom and 19mm of shoulder room for those in the back. One of our six-foot testers sat in the rear of the car in the studio and he found it more accommodating than the old C-Class Coupe.
How much will the new CLE cost?
Mercedes hasn’t told us yet, but it won’t be cheap. Prices for the C-Class Coupe start from around £46,000, while the outgoing E-Class Coupe is priced from a shade over £51,000. Given that the new CLE is closer to the E-Class in terms of its dimensions, we reckon it’ll be priced closer to £50,000.
We challenged Licina on whether the price of the new CLE would still be attractive to C-Class Coupe buyers. She said: ‘I would say it will be challenging but acceptable. I mean, it’s an emotional reason to buy it or not to buy it, right? So, if you’re a coupe lover; if you want an emotional car; if you want sportiness, you will pay – I don’t know – five, six thousand euro more just to have it, right?’