Road tests

New Mercedes CLE 2024 review: a classy BMW 4 Series rival

The new Mercedes CLE borrows plenty from the C-Class and E-Class, and is packed with tech

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

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The new Mercedes CLE borrows a lot from the C-Class and E-Class, and as a result doesn’t really feel like an all-new car. What it does take from its saloon siblings is largely good stuff, although we’d like a more refined ride. At this price point the diesel doesn’t feel special enough, either. The pick of the range looks like a pricier petrol with the fancier adjustable suspension.

Big two-door coupes represent well-trodden ground for Mercedes. But the CLE is a new name in the German brand’s line up; designed as a replacement for two-door versions of the C-Class and E-Class (a convertible is coming soon), the BMW 4 Series rival has quite the challenge ahead of it.

As for the design, it incorporates elements from across the Mercedes range, and does this cohesively. You might notice the rear light is similar to the new GLC SUV’s, and that the front end borrows stylistic elements from the C-Class, with a long, loping bonnet that gives the CLE a sleeker profile than its predecessors. It’s easy on the eye, for sure, but doesn’t suggest anything overtly sporty – that’s for the upcoming AMG variants. 

The model we have here is the CLE 220 d. Yes, Mercedes has gone against the zeitgeist and introduced a new diesel two-door in 2024. But we’ve found this 2.0-litre, turbocharged mild-hybrid four-cylinder to be pretty good in other applications – such as the GLC 220 d, for example. 

In the CLE, the 220d serves up 194bhp. That doesn’t sound like much in a big coupe that weighs 1,855kg, but just as importantly, there’s a beefy 440Nm of torque on tap. If you want a bit more poke, there are petrol variants ranging from the 201bhp CLE 200 to the flagship 443bhp AMG CLE 53.

The CLE is no sports car – especially with this diesel powertrain. That’s not to say it doesn’t retain some charm on the move; power delivery is smooth throughout the expectedly short rev range, and the 220 d produces a surprisingly enjoyable distant grumble. 

The driving modes don’t change the car’s character all that much, although if you put it into Sport (through a gentle prod of the screen) the steering weights up and you’ll get slightly quicker responses from the nine-speed automatic gearbox. The throttle response from the diesel engine leaves a little to be desired when you’re pushing on, however. 

The wheelbase is slightly shorter than the old E-Class Coupe’s, yet there’s rear-axle steering to help give the CLE some nimbleness. That system only operates up to 2.5 degrees though, making the CLE feel more like an executive saloon in a two-door body once you reach the bends.

It’s pretty stable, thanks in part to the 15mm-lower suspension (the optional adjustable damping was not fitted to this car) and a wider rear track compared with the E-Class. The steering is quick enough, but it is super light and delivers precious little feedback. The inputs never really give you the confidence to enjoy throwing the CLE around. 

The CLE is much better suited for long cruises, then. With nine gears to play with the diesel engine settles down pretty well at motorway speeds and the sleek coupe body and excellent soundproofing mean there’s little wind noise. In other markets you can get 18-inch wheels, but the smallest available in the UK are 19s, while our car had even bigger 20s. 

The super low profile tyres were the cause of noticeable road noise, and while the relatively soft suspension coped well with bigger bumps in the road, small imperfections were picked up all too often. We’d like to try the smaller rims to see if ride quality improves; surely a key consideration on a big coupe like this. 

Mercedes claims over 60mpg is possible with the 220 d, but we found this figure quite hard to match. That said, you should comfortably get north of 50mpg with a mix of town and motorway driving. There’s no plug-in hybrid like you’ll find fitted to the C-Class or E-Class, however.

We’ve said the CLE is closer in size to the E-Class than the C-Class, but unfortunately this isn’t noticeable on the inside. Sure, there’s ample space up front, but back-seat passengers (especially tall adults) won’t want to spend much time in the rear. Headroom was already pretty tight in the old E-Class Coupe and the CLE encroaches on this by 10mm. The additional B-pillar means the CLE not only loses a few cool design points, but also some natural light. Furthermore, the 420-litre boot is 45 litres smaller than you’ll find in an Audi A5.

Inside, you’ll find the CLE closely mimics its C-Class cousin. That means it misses out on the E-Class’s optional Superscreen – with an extra display ahead of the passenger – but the C’s setup is no bad thing. The huge 11.9-inch portrait screen and 12.3-inch driver’s display feature Mercedes’ latest MBUX system, which at first might look overburdened with information and configurability, but give it a day or two and you’ll be able to navigate through the menus seamlessly on the move.

Interior quality matches the C-Class, too, which is to say there’s a classy material mix, with plenty of piano black surfaces that’ll immediately show fingerprints. Some larger pieces of trim creak a little louder than you’d expect of a big Mercedes coupe, mind.

Model:Mercedes CLE 220 d AMG Line Premium Plus
Price:£59,430 (from £46,605)
Engine:2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder diesel MHEV
Transmission:Nine-speed automatic
0-62mph:7.5 seconds
Top speed:147mph
On sale:Now
Senior news reporter

A keen petrol-head, Alastair Crooks has a degree in journalism and worked as a car salesman for a variety of manufacturers before joining Auto Express in Spring 2019 as a Content Editor. Now, as our senior news reporter, his daily duties involve tracking down the latest news and writing reviews.

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