Automakers have spent most of the last 20 years finding or creating new niches between existing product lines, but with the 2024 CLE, Mercedes is going the other way. The new two-door hardtop replaces both the old C-Class and E-Class coupes in one fell swoop.
In terms of size, it falls somewhere between the two, though slightly nearer to the E-Class, as the ‘E’ in the CLE name suggests. So a 112.8-in (2,865 mm) wheelbase makes it longer between the axles than its most obvious rivals, the BMW 4-Series and Audi A5, cars which would have competed with the old C-Class Coupe. Confusing, we know. Anyway, compared to that old C-Class Coupe, the CLE offers 2.8-in (72 mm) more rear knee room and 2.1 cu-ft (60 liters) more luggage space in a trunk that’s capable of swallowing three golf bags.
E-Class badge, C-Class style
Visually, and just to add further confusion bearing in mind the name, the CLE shares plenty with the current C-Class sedan, including a tapering nose, a relatively narrow grille with a body-color surround (unlike the E-class sedan), and a hood whose twin bulges hint at a powerful V6 or V8. The difference is the CLE, unlike the C-Class sedan, actually comes good on that promise, but more of that in a moment.
The styling team has added some tension to the design with prominent fender swage lines front and rear that, along with the frameless door glass, don’t appear on the C-Class sedan. But the dashboard appears to have been lifted wholesale from the compact four-door model, meaning it looks nothing like the bigger E-Class from behind the wheel.
In-car TikTok and video calling
The key interior elements are a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and an 11.9-inch recumbent center touchscreen that floats slightly above the console. The treatment first appeared on the S-Class in 2020, also appears on the Mercedes-AMG SL sports car, and will likely feature on that car’s coupe brother, the upcoming AMG GT. Like the latest E-Class, it gets Merc’s newest 5G-equipped MBUX infotainment system and architecture and allows you to hold Webex or Zoom conference calls, binge TikTok videos, and even play Angry Birds.
Every engine is MHEV; PHEV comes later
Also borrowed from the E-Class sedan are the petrol and diesel engines, all of which feature mild-hybrid technology, and now offer 23 hp (23 PS / 17 kW) of electric boost rather than the 20 hp (20 PS / 15 kW) served up by Benz’s previous MHEVs. Manual transmission option? Yeah, right. The CLE gets a 9-speed 9G-Tronic automatic at every step of the range.
Let’s dig into those engines, all but one of which feature four cylinders, a single turbo and 2.0 liters of swept volume. The Euro range starts off with a 197 hp (200 PS) CLE 220d, the sole diesel offering, or buyers can take the petrol-powered CLE 200 that bumps power to 201 hp (204 PS) and shaves a tenth off the 220d’s 7.5-second zero to 62 mph (100 km/h). Both of those engines send their ponies to the rear wheels only, but step further up the range and you add a 4Matic badge whether you want one or not.
The first of those 4Matics is just an all-wheel drive version of the CLE 200, but the CLE 300 gets a 255 hp (258 PS) version of the 2.0 gasoline motor, plus 295 lb-ft (400 Nm) of torque, instead of the 200’s 236 lb-ft (320 Nm), helping cut the sprint time down to 6.2 seconds. And finally, there’s the six-cylinder CLE 450: 3.0-liters, 376 hp (381 PS), 369 lb-ft (500 Nm), and a zero to 62 mph in a brisk 4.4 seconds.
AMGs and CLE Cabriolet arrive in 2024
That’s as fast as the CLE gets for now, though at least one AMG derivative will be along soon. According to an EPA document uncovered earlier this year listing the 2024 Mercedes lineup for North America, an AMG CLE 53 will be on sale next year powered by the same M256 3.0-liter turbo six fitted to the recently facelifted GLE 53. That would give the CLE 53 429 hp (435 PS) and 413 lb-ft (560 Nm).
The same document also mentioned the CLE Cabriolet, and Mercedes has now issued two images of the convertible and confirmed it will be launched in 2024. But the EPA file doesn’t list PHEV variants, although Mercedes says they’ll also be on sale next year. We imagine Mercedes will offer at least one non-AMG plug-in CLE, but spy shots of sporty-looking PHEV prototypes suggest the CLE 63 could feature plug-in power.
Whether that powertrain will be the 671 hp (680 PS) four-cylinder drivetrain out of the C 63 S E Performance, or, as seems more likely, the hybridized six-cylinder PHEV that’s rumored to be going into the next E 63 sedan, we don’t yet know. But whatever route AMG goes for we can presume that it will supply its CLEs as standard with an upgraded version of the Technology pack that’s optional in regular coupes, and which brings adaptive dampers and rear-wheel steering to the chassis party.
When? How Much?
The CLE goes on sale in Europe in November and should land in North America in early 2024, with the CLE Cabriolet hitting dealers in both continents later that same year. We’re still some way off knowing costs, and we’re fascinated to know whether Mercedes will align its prices with the old C-Class or E-Class coupe. If it’s the C-Class, which seems logical given this car has to battle the BMW 4-Series, we can expect prices to start at around £46,000 for a base UK-market CLE 200, and just under $55,000 for the CLE 300 4Matic that the uncovered EPA document told us is the entry-level model for North America.