The CLE will come as a coupe and convertible, replacing two-door versions of the C-Class and E-Class
The full reveal of Mercedes’ new CLE is imminent and we’ve already seen it testing in a series of spy shots. The all-new two-door model has been spotted in a multitude guises, with different powertrains and bodystyles.
With the CLE, Mercedes will slim-down its line up by replacing the two-door versions of the C-Class and E-Class – both of which were offered in coupe and cabriolet bodystyles. The CLE will be positioned as a more sporty model than either – backed up by it’s lengthy development on the Nurburgring.
It might be a new name within Mercedes’ model range, but the CLE will have plenty of competition when it’s revealed this year. It will take on the Audi A5 (which is set to be renamed A4 with the introduction of Audi e-tron models) and the BMW 4 Series in the compact executive coupe sector. We’ve also spotted hot AMG versions which will go up against the Audi RS 5, BMW M4 and Jaguar F-Type.
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The CLE is likely to be based on the same MRA-2 platform as the new C-Class and S-Class, rather than the SL’s new architecture. The flexibility of MRA-2 means that four and six-cylinder power is possible.
The latest C-Class is a four-cylinder only affair and it’s likely the CLE line-up will be, too. The new C 63 model takes on a high-performance four-cylinder hybrid engine derived from the M139 2.0-litre turbo engine used in the A 45 superhatch. It’s possible we could see the C 63’s 671bhp plug-in hybrid powertrain make its way over to the CLE 63, with a smaller body the CLE could be quicker too. Lesser-powered models should utilise 2.0-litre petrol units with 48V mild-hybrid technology.
The non-AMG versions of the CLE will receive smaller wheels, a bespoke grille and hidden exhaust tips. The AMG 43 version we have spied features twin-exit exhaust tips. Unlike the C-Class and E-Class, the rear number plate sits on the rear bumper rather than the bootlid.
The flagship CLE 63 performance model will get an AMG grille and a larger air intake in the lower bumper. The slightly slimmer headlight cluster remains but we could see a different headlight signature. The wheel arches are also wider than on non-AMG test cars – something we saw on the CLE 43 convertible variant previously. The new rear light unit should look similar to the upcoming GLC Coupe’s and there’s duck tail style spoiler and quad-exhaust set up – a classic trait of a Mercedes-AMG model.
With the CLE convertible, Mercedes has favoured a fabric roof in its drop-tops of late and the CLE will adhere to this approach. The overall proportions of the test cars we’ve spotted look typically Mercedes, so we’re not expecting a drastic change of design language for the newcomer.
The multiple CLEs we’ve spotted testing suggest that the final production car should look almost identical to our exclusive images. There won’t be much to differentiate the coupe and cabriolet visually, aside from the latter’s folding fabric roof, of course.
We’ve not seen inside the new CLE just yet but we expect the cabin to follow a similar layout to the latest Mercedes C-Class. This would mean a new infotainment system running the same MBUX software introduced in the current S-Class. It should be displayed on an 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, an 11.9-inch touchscreen. The screens will be separated from each other, rather than connected like the display Mercedes is using for its all-electric EQ models.
Head-up display technology will also be available, but not the augmented reality HUD system found in the luxury S-Class. The latest MBUX system can also receive over-the-air updates from Mercedes.
The Mercedes model portfolio reached a high of 50 vehicles in 2020 and brand executives have spoken in the past of a need to reduce complexity, especially with the rollout of the all-electric EQ range. Speaking earlier in that year, Mercedes Chief Technology Officer Marcus Schafer pointed to the brand’s convertible offerings as being “high density”, with the recently axed SLC, C-Class Cabriolet and E-Class Cabriolet all vying for space in a market that isn’t a big money maker.
However, Schafer admitted that from a branding perspective the coupe and cabriolet models are important; for a premium car company such as Mercedes, being in this space lays down an important marker.
“We want to focus on these models,” he explained. “They have their niche and their purpose. That’s why we are going to tailor exactly the right vehicle in this segment. There’s more to come on the coupé and cabriolet side in this mid-segment but it’s going to take a little bit more time before we can speak about it.”
The brand has already reinvented the full-size SL as a sportier and more purposeful offering using a new platform developed by AMG. The CLE is likely to be based on the same MRA-2 platform as the new C-Class and S-Class, rather than the SL’s new architecture. The flexibility of MRA-2 means that four and six-cylinder power is possible, appealing to the CLE’s likely buyer.
The latest C-Class is a four-cylinder only affair and it’s likely the CLE line-up will be, too. The new C 63 model takes on a high-performance four-cylinder hybrid engine derived from the M139 2.0-litre turbo engine used in the A 45 superhatch. It’s possible we could see the C 63’s 671bhp plug-in hybrid powertrain make its way over to the CLE 63, with a smaller body the CLE could be quicker too.
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