Mercedes CLE review

Category: Coupé

The CLE Coupé is a comfortable but pricey long-distance cruiser

Red Mercedes CLE front right driving
  • Red Mercedes CLE front right driving
  • Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 rear cornering
  • Mercedes CLE interior dashboard
  • Red Mercedes CLE boot open
  • Mercedes CLE interior driver display
  • Red Mercedes CLE right driving
  • Red Mercedes CLE front cornering
  • Red Mercedes CLE rear right driving
  • Red Mercedes CLE front right static
  • Red Mercedes CLE alloy wheel detail
  • Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 front left driving
  • Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 right driving
  • Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 rear static
  • Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 front left static
  • Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 bonnet vent
  • Mercedes CLE interior front seats
  • Mercedes CLE interior front seats
  • Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 steering wheel detail
  • Mercedes CLE interior infotainment
  • Mercedes CLE interior detail
  • Red Mercedes CLE front right driving
  • Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 rear cornering
  • Mercedes CLE interior dashboard
  • Red Mercedes CLE boot open
  • Mercedes CLE interior driver display
  • Red Mercedes CLE right driving
  • Red Mercedes CLE front cornering
  • Red Mercedes CLE rear right driving
  • Red Mercedes CLE front right static
  • Red Mercedes CLE alloy wheel detail
  • Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 front left driving
  • Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 right driving
  • Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 rear static
  • Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 front left static
  • Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 bonnet vent
  • Mercedes CLE interior front seats
  • Mercedes CLE interior front seats
  • Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 steering wheel detail
  • Mercedes CLE interior infotainment
  • Mercedes CLE interior detail
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Introduction

What Car? says...

The Mercedes CLE Coupé is the car world's equivalent of what aviation experts call a "middle-of-the-market plane".

That's a passenger jet designed to replace not only smaller single-aisle jets but also larger wide-body models. Likewise, the CLE is a replacement for two car models – the C-Class Coupé and its bigger stablemate the E-Class Coupé.

In other words, it's intended to give owners of the smaller car something more spacious and practical to upgrade to without a big jump in price, while fans of the larger coupé car can switch to a model that's still desirable and indulgent, but is also a bit more dynamic to drive.

At the top of the range is the Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 performance version, and you can also get the CLE with a soft-top roof – to read about that, see our Mercedes CLE Cabriolet review.

So, is the Mercedes CLE a good buy, or will you be better off with one of the well-established rivals? In other words, is it as classy and practical as the Audi A5 Coupé or as great to drive as the BMW 4 Series? Read on to find out…

Overview

While the Mercedes CLE Coupé might not stand out as an exceptional value proposition, it is a compelling choice for those seeking a comfortable, long-distance cruiser with a touch more practicality than its closest rivals. The Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 performance version is very quick but a BMW M4 has sharper handling.

  • A quiet and relaxing cruiser
  • CLE 300 is a punchy performer
  • More room in the back than you might imagine
  • More expensive than its closest rivals
  • Not as sharp to drive as a BMW 4 Series
  • Rival coupés have bigger boots
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Target Price from £46,620
or from £552pm
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Nearly new deals
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

There are four petrol engines and one diesel option to choose from with the CLE, all with mild-hybrid technology and a nine-speed automatic gearbox.

We’ve driven the CLE 300 – a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol with 4MATIC four-wheel drive. It sounds slightly agricultural at idle, but once you’re on the move it has a more agreeable timbre that better suits its punchy performance.

With 255bhp on tap, 0-62mph officially takes 6.2 seconds, which is more than a second quicker than the BMW 420i.

A 48-volt electric motor assists the engine and helps provide assured acceleration when you ask for a burst of power. That, combined with the slick-shifting nine-speed auto gearbox, makes the CLE 300 an effortless car to cover ground in.

Other engine options include the CLE 200 petrol (with 201bhp) and the 220d diesel (with 194bhp). Both use 2.0-litre, four-cylinder motors, but have rear-wheel drive. Near the top of the range is the CLE 450 – a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder petrol with four-wheel drive to bring even smoother, more effortless progress.

Those wanting the most punch should look at the Mercedes-AMG CLE 53, which uses a more powerful version of the 450’s 3.0-litre engine, producing 443bhp and hitting 62mph in 4.2 seconds.

That’s 0.2 seconds quicker than the 450, which might not sound like much, but the AMG version's engine revs more keenly than that engine (when we tried it in the CLE Cabriolet) and feels more urgent in everyday driving. An optional Pro Performance Package adds launch control, cutting the 0-62mph time to 4.0 seconds.

Mercedes CLE image
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The CLE 53 has four-wheel drive to help maximise traction, and you can adjust how it behaves with the electronic stability control (ESC). In Normal mode, it delivers power in a neutral manner, but switching to ESC Sport sends a larger proportion of power to the rear wheels to help push you out of corners.

The Pro Performance Package goes one step further by including a Drift mode, which diverts all the engine’s power to the rear wheels for more playful handling.

To accompany the added performance, the CLE 53’s exhaust generates a subtle crackle for a bit more theatre, while a digitised engine note is piped into the interior. However, neither is loud enough to be antisocial.

Both CLE’s we’ve tried are hushed cruising companions that are great for covering long distances in. Wind noise is minimal and the engine is almost imperceptible at motorway speeds. It’s only the car’s big wheels and low-profile tyres that generate a bit of noise on some surfaces.

While the CLE handles in a more tautly controlled and agile manner than the E-Class Coupé did (helped by standard-fit adaptive dampers), it’s still a comfort-first car.

That’s to say it feels stable and precise around quicker bends, with medium-weighted steering and very respectable body control, then when you up your pace, it will pitch and roll more than a BMW 420i due to its softer suspension set-up.

Yet, in the realm of luxurious coupé cars does that matter? That the CLE can adopt and maintain a fairly brisk pace easily through twists and turns, and keep its occupants comfortable while doing so feels like a good balance.

Plus, the upside is a level of ride quality that's one step above the competition. The suspension soaks up abrasions with relative aplomb, although the very sharpest of potholes can cause a jar.

Meanwhile, the CLE 53 comes with firmer suspension to improve body control in exchange for a little less ride comfort. You can adjust the firmness and it still cushions bumps comfortably in its softest Comfort setting.

The firmest Sport+ setting makes it feel a little more brittle and it struggles to settle down at low speeds. There’s a hint of initial body lean, but the car manages to stay upright after that.

Overall, the CLE 53 – which also benefits from four-wheel steering to improve manoeuvrability – feels more like the BMW M440i than the BMW M4. It’s not the last word in thrills, but it neatly flows from corner to corner in a swift manner. The brake pedal response could be sharper, but it’s easy enough to bring to a stop smoothly.

Driving overview

Strengths Relatively comfy ride; more powerful engines are pleasingly swift and hushed at motorway speeds; the AMG model (CLE 53) blends pace and comfort

Weaknesses Not as sharp as a BMW 4 Series; CLE 300's engine sounds a bit agricultural at idle

Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 rear cornering

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

You sit a little higher up in the Mercedes CLE than in a BMW 4 Series, giving you the impression that you’re driving something more comfort-focused than driver-focused.

It feels like an old-school Mercedes with a wide and comfortable driver’s seat that comes as standard with electric adjustment and variable lumbar support (which are both options on the 4 Series). The CLE 53 comes with sports seats with added side bolstering to hold you more tightly when cornering.

As with most two-door coupés, forward and side visibility are reasonable, but parking can be a challenge as the wide rear pillars obstruct your over-the-shoulder view. Mercifully, front and rear parking sensors are standard, as is a rear-view camera (the camera gets upgraded to a 360-degree unit on AMG Line Premium models and above). 

In terms of interior design, the CLE’s dashboard is closely based on that of the Mercedes C-Class with chromed and high-gloss highlights that give it lots of ritzy appeal. Combined with adjustable ambient lighting it’s an attractive interior.

Complaints? Well, it's a shame certain materials – including the chrome highlights – are plastic not metal, but overall it feels pretty well screwed together, although it can't quite match the Audi A5 Coupé or the 4 Series.

Mercedes' digital interior technology also impresses. The CLE features the third generation of the brand’s MBUX touchscreen infotainment system, which has only just been introduced in the latest, closely related Mercedes E-Class.

It offers faster responses than before, and compared with the previous system, has a redesigned home screen with enlarged icons that are far easier to hit with an outstretched hand when the car is moving at speed. In addition, it has a greater number of Android-based apps built in – so you can access the likes of TikTok and Zoom directly from the touchscreen itself. More applications will be coming soon.

However, it’s worth noting that touchscreens are, generally speaking, more distracting to use while driving than a system with physical controls. For that reason, we prefer the 4 Series' iDrive system, which can be controlled by twisting and pressing a rotary controller between the front seats.

In the CLE 53, you can adjust the drive modes on the touchscreen, which can be fiddly as you swipe through all the numerous settings available. Thankfully, the sports steering wheel has two rotary controls that do the same job.

Interior overview

Strengths Comfortable seats; impressive infotainment system; classy interior

Weaknesses Interior quality is decent but not class-leading

Mercedes CLE interior dashboard

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

No one buys a two-door coupé like the Mercedes CLE for its practicality, but the chances are you occasionally need four seats and a usable boot. Otherwise, you’d probably be looking at two-seat sports cars.

The CLE is roomy in the front, where you’re unlikely to have any issues with head or leg room. Storage space is decent, thanks to a big glovebox and a useful cubby under the centre armrest. There’s also a multitude of USB-C ports and wireless phone-charging.

Getting into the back seats involves squeezing through quite a narrow gap, but that’s true of any car lacking rear doors. Once you’re in, you’ll find there's a touch more head and leg room than you get in an Audi A5 Coupé or BMW 4 Series, although six-footers won’t want to spend too much time back there.

Boot space is comparable with the A5 and 4 Series, meaning there's enough space for a set of golf clubs or a small pushchair, and you can fold down the rear seats when you need to carry longer loads. The boot aperture itself is quite small though, making it tricky to load in wider objects.

Practicality overview

Strengths Plenty of storage space; the rear seats are a good size

Weaknesses Boot opening could be a touch wider

Red Mercedes CLE boot open

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

The Mercedes CLE commands a slight price premium over its main rivals – the Audi A5 Coupé and the BMW Series – regardless of how you pay. However, it's fairly well equipped as standard, which makes the price gap a bit more palatable.

It’s also worth noting that while the CLE 200 and CLE 200d engine are available in entry-level AMG Line trim, you have to upgrade to AMG Line Premium if you want one of the more powerful engines. As a result, a six-cylinder BMW M440i xDrive starts at a lower price on a PCP finance deal than a four-cylinder Mercedes CLE 300 4Matic.

If you’re keen on heading straight for the Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 version, its list price is significantly more than an BMW M440i, although still much cheaper than a BMW M4. You can check for the lowest prices using our New Car Deals pages.

The AMG Line trim does come with plenty of goodies, including 18in alloy wheels, keyless entry and go, ambient lighting, leather upholstery and wood trim.

Stepping up to AMG Line Premium introduces 19in alloy wheels, matrix headlights, a panoramic sliding roof and a 360-degree parking camera.

AMG Line Premium Plus brings 20in wheels, a head-up display and a Burmester 3D surround-sound system.

The range-topping Premier Edition is very similarly equipped to AMG Line Premium Plus, but you get sportier details such as 20in AMG alloy wheels and carbon-fibre interior trim.

The CLE 53 is available in two trim levels: AMG Premium and AMG Night Edition Premium Plus. Premium comes with adjustable adaptive suspension, 20in alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, grey brake calipers, an opening panoramic glass roof and a sports steering wheel.

Only the pricier AMG Night Edition Premium Plus can be optioned with the Pro Performance Package, which includes launch control, Drift Mode and additional Race drive mode. Inside you also get upgraded AMG performance seats, suede-like material on the steering wheel, black exterior highlights and red brake calipers.

Mercedes doesn’t allow you to spec-up a base car with individual options – aside from the choice of colour, everything is wrapped up into specific trim packages.

It's too soon to say how reliable the new CLE will be, but Mercedes' performance in our 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey was not particularly impressive. It came in 24th place out of 32 car makers. Audi came 26th, while BMW finished in a more respectable 12th place.

Costs overview

Strengths More generous standard equipment than rivals

Weaknesses Priced above main rivals; buyers can’t specify individual options


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Mercedes CLE interior driver display

FAQs

  • The CLE is priced above its closest rivals, the Audi A5 Coupé and the BMW 4 Series but it's worth noting that the CLE comes with more equipment as standard.

  • The CLE has been designed to replace both the C-Class Coupé and the E-Class Coupé, so for the time being we don't expect there to be new versions of either of those models.

  • The Mercedes E-Class is a four-door luxury executive saloon while the CLE is a two-door coupé.

At a glance
New car deals
Target Price from £46,620
or from £552pm
Swipe to see used car deals
Nearly new deals
From £46,780
RRP price range £46,620 - £78,825
Number of trims (see all)3
Number of engines (see all)6
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol, petrol parallel phev, diesel
MPG range across all versions 29.4 - 60.1
Available doors options 2
Warranty 3 years / No mileage cap
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £848 / £5,708
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £1,696 / £11,415
Available colours