We get our first taste of the all-new muscular Mercedes coupé
It’s still some months away, but the Mercedes CLE already looks and feels like more than a compromised mix of C-Class and E-Class. We’re hoping that the revised chassis will put as many smiles on the faces of customers as it does the engineers.
Christof Kühner has a bit of a mean streak. He’s the chief test driver for the Mercedes C-Class and E-Class and tantalises us with talk of newly discovered driving pleasure – only to get behind the wheel of the Mercedes CLE prototype himself, which, to make matters worse, looks like a true muscle car.
Its grille tilts forward like a shark’s snout, powerdomes stretch across the bonnet, and the rear wings are flared to the point where you struggle to resist patting them. The view is seductive, then, but we’ll be riding alongside Kühner, rather than driving.
To recap, the CLE replaces the C-Class and E-Class coupés with a single vehicle to save cash, while satisfying what demand there is for big two-door vehicles. It’s called CLE apparently because it’s much closer in size to the larger of the old models.
It’s supposed to be more in line with the smaller one on agility, though – not least because (whisper it) Mercedes has heard complaints that the two-door E-Class was a bit sluggish. “That’s history now,” says Kühner as he starts his test run. He’s grinning by the first roundabout, in fact; the CLE has a rear-axle steering system, and the steering has a much shorter ratio, which is designed to be more direct.
When Kühner flicks the car into Sport mode, the CLE also tenses its muscles noticeably in other ways. The adaptive dampers become stiffer, the noise level rises and a greedy growl floods the cabin. This is due not only to enhancement of the engine sound, but also to the engine itself.
Kühner points out that the CLE is the first model in the family to get six-cylinder power, and while he won’t reveal precise specifications, it’s safe to say it’s producing well in excess of 350bhp. There will also be two four-cylinder petrol engines, a 2.0-litre diesel and a PHEV – though it’s still unclear which of these will be offered in the UK.
From what we can see, and assuming Kühner isn’t just an extremely good actor, then this time Merc’s big coupé does look set to deliver driving pleasure to go with its cool styling and pleasing cabin. But there is still room for improvement, and we can expect AMG to turn up the wick, probably with a couple of versions of the new car, including a CLE 63 with up to 680bhp.
The story won’t end with the coupé, either; a cabriolet will arrive by summer 2024. But there is still one thing to nail down: the price. While the C-Class Coupe range kicks off at 48,000 Euros (£41,200) and the E-Class Coupé is available from 60,000 Euros (£51,500), the CLE is almost certain to carry a premium.
|Price:||From £55,000 (est)|
|Engine:||3.0-litre 6cyl petrol|
|Transmission:||Nine-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive|
|0-62mph:||5.0 seconds (est)|
|On sale:||Late autumn|
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