New Mercedes-Benz CLE ride-along review

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The new CLE coupe and convertible pair are due in 2023 – and we’ve been given an exclusive first ride.

Where there were four models, there are now two. That’s the upshot of Mercedes-Benz’s decision to replace the C- and E-class coupe and cabriolet with the CLE coupe and cabriolet.

An initial ride in a low mileage validation prototype on ultra smooth surfaced roads around Mercedes-Benz’s factory in Sindelfingen, Germany, reveals the new two-door does not stray too far from the two models it succeeds in overall on-road character.

There are a lot of C-class sedan and wagon styling cues inside. But a lower set front seating position provides the CLE coupe with a more sporting in feel from the passenger seat. Perceived quality is improved over the old C- and E-class coupe and cabriolet, as is the operation of the infotainment system, which works with the latest incarnation of the Mercedes-Benz MBUX operating system, bringing faster reaction times and greater resolution from new generation displays.

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In initial top-of-the-line six-cylinder petrol guise, the CLE coupe offers smooth and effortless performance. Mechanical refinement is excellent, as is the ability of the prototype to isolate wind noise at typical motorway cruising speeds.

The new Mercedes-Benz model’s head of testing, Christof Kühner, says a lot of effort has gone into providing the CLE coupe with typically relaxed and subdued long-distance cruising qualities. It shows!

A synthetic sound generator provides added aural intent when the driver dials up the Sport mode, though it can be turned off to retain the overall feeling of refinement without losing the sporting edge.

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Over more challenging roads, the CLE coupe turns in sharply and is satisfyingly agile, thanks in part to the effort of the optional rear-wheel steer system, which provides 2.5 degrees of rear steering angle.

There is a GT-like appeal to the ride, which combines inherently firm spring rates with excellent damping control to provide taut but controlled qualities on the optional suspension.

The real proof, however, will come in driving the CLE coupe – one of the last internal combustion engine models to be based on Mercedes-Benz’s MRA platform – later this year.

For now, though, Mercedes-Benz appears to have succeeded in taking the best aspects of the C- and E-class coupes and rolling them into one appealing package that looks certain to make life hard for the likes of the Audi A5 coupe and BMW 4-series.

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