An all-new Mercedes is in the works and will be unveiled in 2023. Called the CLE, it will act as a replacement for the two-door versions of the C-Class and E-Class, and will be offered as a coupe. and a convertible.
We’ve seen the new Mercedes CLE test drive at the Nürburgring many times, suggesting the car will be positioned as a sportier offering within the Mercedes lineup than the coupes and convertibles it replaces. As for rivals, the standard CLE model will have to compete with the Audi A5 and BMW 4 Series in the executive compact sector.
The latest round of spy images show that an AMG-developed 63 model will sit at the top of the CLE range to compete against the Audi RS 5 and BMW M4. The test car wears a thin camouflage, revealing some new design features. Like other AMG models, the CLE 63 will get a custom grille and a larger air intake at the bottom of the bumper. The slightly slimmer headlight cluster remains.
The wheel arches are also wider than on the non-AMG test cars, something we’ve previously seen on the CLE 43 convertible variant. The new taillight unit is visible, as is a longer ducktail-style spoiler. and a quad exhaust setup, a classic feature of a Mercedes-AMG model.
We’ve seen testing of non-AMG CLE versions before, in coupe and convertible form. They’ll get small wheels, a different grille, and towards the rear, hidden exhaust tips. The AMG 43 version we spied features dual-exit exhaust tips. Unlike the C-Class and E-Class, the rear number plate is located on the rear bumper instead of the trunk lid.
As for the CLE convertible, Mercedes has favored the use of a cloth top on its convertibles of late and the CLE will adhere to this approach. The overall proportions of the test cars we’ve seen look typically Mercedes, so we’re not expecting a drastic change in design language for the newcomer.
The multiple CLEs we’ve spotted in testing suggest the final production car should look nearly identical to our exclusive images. There won’t be much to visually differentiate the coupe and cabriolet apart from the latter’s retractable fabric roof, of course.
We haven’t seen the interior of the new CLE 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 a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, a 11.9-inch touch screen. The screens will be separate from each other, rather than connected like the screen Mercedes uses for its all-electric EQ models.
Head-up display technology will also be available, but not the augmented reality HUD system found on the luxury S-Class. The latest MBUX system can also receive wireless updates from Mercedes.
Mercedes’ model portfolio peaked at 50 vehicles in 2020 and brand executives have spoken in the past of the need to reduce complexity, especially with the launch of the all-electric EQ range. Speaking earlier that year, Mercedes chief technology officer Marcus Schafer noted that the brand’s convertible offerings are “high-density,” with the SLC, C-Class Cabriolet and E-Class Cabriolet recently phased out, all competing for space in a market that isn’t a big money maker.
However, Schafer admitted that from a brand perspective, the coupe and cabriolet models are important; For a premium car company like Mercedes, being in this space sets an important marker.
“We want to focus on these models,” he explained. “They have their niche and their purpose. That is why we are going to tailor exactly the right vehicle in this segment. There is more to come on the coupe and convertible side in this mid-segment, but it will take a bit more time before we can talk about it.”
The brand has already reinvented the full-size SL as a sportier and more useful 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 new SL architecture. The MRA-2’s flexibility means four- and six-cylinder power is possible, appealing to the likely CLE buyer.
The latest C-Class is a four-cylinder-only affair and the CLE line likely will be as well. The new C 63 model features a high-performance four-cylinder hybrid engine derived from the 2.0-litre M139 turbo engine used in the A 45 superhatch. We may be able to see the C 63’s 671bhp plug-in hybrid powertrain make its way to the CLE. 63, with a smaller body, the CLE could also be faster.
Take a look at our selection of best convertibles to buy now…
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