Spy shots

Mercedes CLE coupe spied – new 2-door coupe to take on BMW 4 Series

Mercedes is rationalising its range of coupes, with this new CLE to take the place of C- and E-class models

This sleek prototype is the new Mercedes-Benz CLE Coupe, a future replacement for both  the current C-class and E-class coupes that’s sized somewhere between the two. The coupe will be joined by a Cabriolet variant that we’ve also seen testing, and the range will be topped by a flagship AMG 63 model sharing the new C63 S’s hybrid powertrain. 

The new CLE will be largely based on the W207 C-class that was launched last year, riding on a rear-wheel drive platform. Alongside its new moniker, it’ll feature a completely bespoke design that doesn’t share any elements with either C or E models, as is clear from this prototype’s bespoke headlights and sloping rear end.

Powertrain options will mimic the C-class, too, so it’ll only be available with four-cylinder engines with varying levels of hybridisation. As is the case with the C-class, the lack of six- or eight-cylinder options is down to two main reasons. First, AMG wants to highlight its E Performance hybrid tech, and when combined with the M197 V8 this would bring the level of performance, cost and complexity over and above the CLE’s market positioning. 

Mercedes’s six-cylinder powertrains won’t be used for a different reason, namely that the in-line layout of the engines is physically too long to fit within the CLE’s C-class based chassis. Mercedes-Benz engineers have already confirmed that to fit a straight-six powertrain into this packaging set would require the front axle to be moved a further 50mm forward, a step too far for an engine that would be both a niche option, and out performed by AMG’s new generation of four-cylinder units. 

Which brings us neatly to four-cylinder’s applications in the new CLE’s AMG variants. As with the new C43, we expect an initial CLE43 to feature the M139l four-cylinder engine incorporating AMG’s new electrically-driven turbocharger. In the new C43 saloon, this powertrain is rated at 402bhp, giving it a 35bhp power advantage over the outgoing C43 Coupe. A top-spec CLE63 S will also follow, pairing this same four-cylinder engine with AMG’s electrified rear axle layout that should see combined power figures rise to over 600bhp. 

The CLE63 S will have a key rival in the BMW M4 Competition, a model that’s more mechanically pure, but also sure to be some way off the AMG’s prospective power and torque figures. Audi’s next generation RS5 Coupe is more up in the air, as Audi’s current range of combustion models is due for its own big shakeup as its all-electric e-tron models sync into the range. Audi will build a new generation RS4 estate, but the RS5 Coupe’s lower sales volumes make it less likely to survive the chop.

Mercedes’s desire to consolidate its expansive range comes in light of the electric EQ models that are being developed alongside its existing combustion models. By reducing this complexity, it’ll free up engineering and production resources, while the new CLE’s placement above the previous C-Class will also give Mercedes a chance to pump up the price points, fulfilling the brand’s desire to focus on high-end, high-margin models. 

Mercedes hasn’t confirmed when we’ll see its CLE coupe and convertible models, but given the near-production stage of this prototype, we’d suggest it’ll arrive some time towards the end of this year, if not early ‘23. 

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