CLE Is The Latest Member of a Diverse Lineage

Coupé, CE, CL, CLK… the all-new Mercedes-Benz CLE uses a new strategy and yet another name to try and obtain the market success all those predecessors failed to preserve

Promotional video of the 2024 Mercedes-Benz CLE
  • Mercedes-Benz CLE is the latest contender in the midsize luxury market
  • All-new car replaces the similar variations of C-Class and E-Class at once
  • Automaker wants to preserve the category by concentrating its demand

Automotive markets are living organisms and the industry knows it very well. Customer demand changes according to location, time of the year, tax policies, and many other factors. Carmakers can influence it to some extent, but their best bet to move many cars is giving people what they want. As simple as that may be, it is not easy to admit. The reason is that it leads to car releases like the Mercedes-Benz CLE.

If you are familiar with the maker’s naming structure, you probably have already figured it. This is a sporty vehicle based on the urban ones (“CL” prefix) that will compete at the midsize segment (“E” suffix). That is definitely not surprising, just like the design you can see on the photos. But that is not the reason why we wrote this article. Here, we are going to discuss an interesting part of the rich background of this car.

Front quarter view of the Mercedes-Benz CLE 450 Coupé in silver
The all-new Mercedes-Benz car in Coupé body and CLE 450 trim

Mercedes CLE in a nutshell

It is a midsize car that seats four, whether as a coupé or a convertible. The appearance follows Mercedes’s latest style identity, which means you will find smooth lines, elegant creases and small head and taillights. There are some details of questionable taste too, such as the star pattern on the front grille’s mesh, and a black bar connecting the taillights – I think the EQ cars are not exactly the best source of inspiration.

When it comes to technology and powertrain, the Mercedes-Benz CLE borrows everything from the latest C-Class and E-Class. AMG versions will arrive later, but you should not expect anything new. The droptop model adds two interesting items: a small wind deflector above the windshield, and a wind barrier behind the rear headrests. Everything to make your summertime rides comfortable even at Autobahn speeds.

Mercedes-Benz CLE Cabrio with the AMG Line package
The AMG Line package brings exclusive design accessories to the CLE 350 Cabrio

How does the CLE fit in the market?

In short, it is going to replace the equivalent variations of both the C-Class and the E-Class. The move is a part of Mercedes-Benz’s recent decision to simplify its lineup. Although we all love coupés and cabriolets, only few of us actually buy them month after month. Most people have to choose more practical cars, like SUVs, and/or simply cannot afford them. Mercedes is aiming to concentrate the sales of two cars in one.

To that end, the CLE brings the best of two worlds. Size-wise, it is comparable with the outgoing two-door E-Class. That makes it slightly larger than rivals such as BMW 4 Series and Audi A5. In terms of design, we can see more traits from the C-Class than the bigger brother, which was a fortunate choice. And there are powertrain bits from both families, as we have mentioned. The CLE has a competitive package, after all.

Dashboard of the 2023 Mercedes-Benz CLE
The Mercedes-Benz CLE uses the clean version of the company’s dashboard, without the Hyperscreen

How does the CLE compare?

Mercedes-Benz wanted to make the CLE more attractive than its predecessors. Therefore, it is natural that it would be closer in size to the biggest of them, the E-Class Coupé. As the table below shows, it is larger than the C-Class Coupé in all dimensions and just slightly smaller than the other one. One very interesting consequence is the larger trunk capacity, which is usually an issue when it comes to sports automobiles.

DimensionsC-Class CoupéCLEE-Class Coupé
Height (mm/in)1,405/55.31,428/56.21,430/56.3
Length (mm/in)4,686/184.54,851/1914,826/190
Wheelbase (mm/in)2,840/111.82,865/112.82,873/113.1
Width (mm/in)1,811/71.31,859/73.21,859/73.2
Trunk (liters/cu ft)297/10.5420/14.8283/10
General external dimensions of CLE against its two direct predecessors

Part of a convoluted lineage

A few decades ago, Mercedes-Benz had only two lines; they correspond to the E-Class and S-Class as we know today. Back then, their coupés were essentially two-door sedans, and the cabriolets were open-top coupés. The company did not even bother to give them exclusive names: it would identify them with a “C” or a “CE” suffix or simply naming them Coupé and Cabrio. That situation would only change in the 1990s.

Automotive markets are living organisms, as we said in the beginning. In an effort to be more competitive and sell more, Mercedes-Benz had to expand its lineup. the addition of the 190, which eventually became the C-Class, raised the car lines to three. Since there would be no room for three sporty lines plus the SL, the maker had to change its plans. The CL and CLK were the first cars to appear between regular Classes.

Divide or join to conquer?

In short, there were two options. Marketing the car as a version, like an S-Class Coupé, takes advantage of the base car’s strong image. However, it also imposes design limits, and forces the new car to be updated together with the base car. The other option is to make it a standalone model, like a CL. This path creates a clean slate, which is great at a first sight, but also brings the uncertainty of releasing a new nameplate.

Mercedes-Benz surely took its time to toy with all those options. From the 1990s to the 2010s, it released pretty much every combination you can imagine. The C140 project was a notable case: it was released as SEC in 1992, renamed S-Class Coupé in 1994, then CL-Class in 1996. More recently, the carmaker dropped the AMG GT’s roadster version to focus on the SL, and the CLS-Class to focus on the four-door AMG GT.

Back to the Mercedes-Benz CLE

Nowadays, the company decided to streamline its two-door offering. The GT and SL became counterparts at the top tier, especially now that both are under the AMG division. The latter will get a Maybach version that is likely to replace the S-Class Cabrio as well. When it comes to the CLE, you can expect it to cater to everyone who wants a two-door Mercedes car but cannot afford those others and/or needs to seat four.

Streamlining processes like that are surely sad to see. However, we are in a situation where we have to see the glass half full. Sports-car buyers have always been a small crowd. The best way an automaker can get their attention is by tailoring its offer to their demands. The CLE may be too rational at a first look, but we cannot deny it makes a compelling case. Especially for customers who do not like the 4 Series’s design.

Cabin of the 2024 Mercedes-Benz CLE Coupé
Cabin of the 2024 Mercedes-Benz CLE Coupe

Concentrating sales from the two-door C-Class and E-Class may make you think the CLE will have an easy life. The truth, however, is that it only eliminates internal competition: there are many similar models from strong rivals to fight out there. Do you think that the CLE’s rational approach will secure the sales volume it needs to stay in line? Or do you believe that Mercedes-Benz will need to rethink its plans again soon?

You may also like

Front quarter view of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS
2022 Mercedes-Benz CLS

While the CLE comes with a rational package, the CLS debuted in the 2000s with an innovation. The model founded the segment of four-door coupés and had three successful generations. Give it a look!

Author Profile

Danillo Almeida has explored his passion for cars in two distinct ways. The first one is his graduation course in Mechanical Engineering, which will hopefully lead to a job position in the field. The other one is expressing his knowledge and opinions on the matter through writing. Almeida has already contributed to blogs, stores, and websites in general writing automotive content in many formats.

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