2024 Mercedes-Benz CLE: First Drive Review

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceWhat is it?
Mercedes-Benz has offered a wide range of coupes and cabriolets over the years, but for 2024, the German company came up with something new. Taking the qualities and style of the two-door variants of the C-Class and E-Class, Mercedes has created the all-new CLE Coupe and Cabriolet. The car has elegant lines that immediately turn heads, and the cabin carries the latest high-tech features in spacious, luxurious surroundings.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceModel Lineup
The new 2024 Mercedes-Benz CLE is offered in three trim levels: CLE 300, CLE 450, and AMG CLE 53. The AMG model is only available as a hardtop coupe; the other two can also be had as soft-top cabriolets. All CLE trim levels come standard with 4MATIC all-wheel drive.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceWhat I Drove
Mercedes-Benz provided me with a 2024 CLE 450 4MATIC Coupe, painted in the special Patagonia Red Metallic. Optional extras included the Driver Assistance Package, head-up display, multi contour massaging front seats, energizing air control, and 20-inch AMG black multi-spoke wheels. The total manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) was $79,140, including the $1,150 destination charge.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceStyling
The new CLE has a strong presence with front-end styling that looks familiar while still being all-new. With its low-slung, sculpted hood and forward-leaning grille, the CLE gives the appearance of forward motion, even when sitting still. The grille has a three-dimensional look, with a large Mercedes star surrounded by dozens of tiny stars that seem to float around it. New LED high-performance headlights flank the grille, featuring stylish running lights that give the CLE a unique look at night.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRear View
The CLE’s bold rear fenders are quite noticeable when looking at the car from the rear, giving the car a wide stance. LED taillights swoop in from around the corners and flow towards the middle of the trunk. While the lower fascia gives the appearance of dual exhaust, the actual exhaust pipes are out of sight behind the rear bumper.

Sleek Silhouette
It can be challenging to nail the proportions for a large, two-door coupe, but the CLE is spot on. And the CLE is large, measuring longer than the C-Class and E-Class coupe. With its long, low hood and sweeping lines that flow from the base of the windshield to the uptick of the rear lip spoiler, the CLE actually looks like a smaller sports car from its profile. The 20-inch black wheels complete the look perfectly.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceInner Space
As one of the newest models in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, the CLE has the latest high-tech features, blended nicely with the cabin’s luxurious surroundings. Many new models on the market have gone with the single screen that houses infotainment and driver displays, but Mercedes-Benz did this years ago – now the company has moved back to a large central display.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceHigh Tech
The 11.9-inch vertical display is bright with easy-to-read graphics and intuitive operation thanks to the latest version of MBUX. The large screen is nicely integrated, appearing as an extension of the center console. Almost all functions are accessed via the touchscreen display, soft-touch controls on the steering wheel, or Mercedes’ excellent natural voice interface. The home screen’s background is the map display, and the most recently used features appear as overlays for quick access. Climate controls remain static at the bottom of the display.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceDriver Display
The classic Mercedes-Benz driver display is presented beautifully on a 12.3-inch digital screen with large gauges and pertinent driving and feature information in the center. Completely configurable with multiple available themes, the display can change with different drive modes, show the navigation map, or be simplified to just show the essential info. There’s also a large head-up display available.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePremium Materials
One look inside the CLE, and it’s clear this is a proper Mercedes-Benz. The dashboard features natural-grain black wood with aluminum trim lines that looks like it could be used to trim fine furniture. Large vents at the top of the dashboard look high-tech, especially when illuminated with the 64-color ambient lighting. Door handles look like sculpted aluminum, nicely complimented by the stylish Burmester speaker covers.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceFront Seats
Mercedes-Benz developed these new sport seats specifically for the CLE. Not only are they slim and attractive, but they offer excellent support and comfort. Trimmed in soft Nappa leather, the front seats are power-adjustable, have heating and ventilation, and available multi-function massaging action. The standard Burmester 3D Surround Sound System is available with two integrated speakers in each front seat at the headrest for the ultimate sound experience.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRear Seats
Pulling on the Nappa leather loop at the back of the front seat moves it out of the way to provide access to the rear seat. Getting in and out is a challenge, but once inside, the space is quite comfortable. With seating for just two in the back, there’s good storage space with integrated cup holders and a small cubby perfect for holding a phone. There’s good legroom for rear-seat passengers; however, I’m 5′8″, and my head just brushed the ceiling – a taller passenger might not find this space as comfortable.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceTrunk Space
With its larger proportions, the CLE offers up a slight increase in trunk space compared to the C-Class or E-Class coupes. With 11.2 cubic feet of storage space, there’s enough space for a few pieces of luggage, several days of groceries, or, according to Mercedes, three golf bags.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceUnder The Hood
The CLE is available with three engine options. A 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine powers the CLE 300, putting out 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, while the CLE 450 bumps up to a twin-scroll turbo 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine that delivers 375 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. The CLE 53 AMG has an enhanced 3.0-liter engine that puts out 443 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque, delivering a 0-60 time of just four seconds. Engines are teamed with a 9-speed automatic transmission that features an integrated starter generator, which improves efficiency and responsiveness. All CLE variants come equipped with 4MOTION all-wheel drive.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceFuel Economy
According to the EPA, the CLE 300 gets an estimated 24 mpg city / 34 mpg hwy / 28 mpg combined, while the more powerful CLE 450 comes in slightly lower at 23 / 33 / 26, respectively. During my time in the CLE 450, the trip computer indicated about 25 mpg, so the EPA figures seem accurate.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceEngine Sounds
When I first started out in the CLE, I was surprised at the powerful exhaust note that seemed to rumble almost like a V8. Then, I discovered that the sound is artificially generated and can only be heard in the cabin. While it does sound good and nicely matches the throttle as if it were real, the idea of artificial sound bothered me, so I turned it off.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOn the Road
Settling into the new CLE, I headed out of the small town of Dexter, Michigan, to find some of my favorite back roads north of the city. Cruising through town, the Mercedes is quiet and comfortable, with a smooth throttle and good visibility. Maneuvering around the busy main street is seamless, and the CLE looks good doing it.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceGreat Handling
I selected sport mode, which adjusts the engine, transmission, and steering for maximum performance, and drove straight to Hell (Michigan) and back. While I wouldn’t call the CLE a sports car, it handles itself quite well when pushed hard on a twisty road. The steering response is excellent, and the car feels solid and stable when taking curves at speed. The grip is strong thanks to the high-performance tires and 4MATIC all-wheel drive, and I never felt it was lacking power. For a luxury coupe, the CLE 450 is quite enjoyable to drive enthusiastically.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceGood Cruiser
As fun as the CLE 450 is on the twisty back roads, it really shines when just cruising on the freeway. I hopped on I-94 for the drive back home, and the CLE 450 accelerated up to the speed limit quickly and smoothly. Easily cruising at 70 mph, I turned up the sound on the high-end Burmester audio system, activated the seat massagers, and set the adaptive cruise control with lane centering. The ride is quiet and comfortable, and even on the less-than-stellar Michigan roads, the CLE 450 remained smooth and stable. The CLE would make an excellent choice for a long road trip.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRating: 8.5
The new Mercedes-Benz CLE is a stunning vehicle with its sculpted hood, sweeping roofline, stylish grille, and bold fenders. Inside is equally attractive, boasting a lovely blend of luxury and technology. With good power and excellent driving characteristics, the CLE 450 would be a wonderful car to drive daily; however, this is a coupe, and getting into the rear seat can be challenging. If interior space is more important than the sporty style of the CLE, it’s worth considering the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, which offers similar performance with an accessible rear seat. The E-Class is also attractive, but one look at the CLE in Patagonia Red with the black wheels and you may not be concerned about the comfort of your rear-seat passengers.

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