New Mercedes CLE caught testing again ahead of 2023 arrival

The new Mercedes CLE will replace two-door versions of the C-Class and E-Class

Next year we’ll see the introduction of an all-new Mercedes – called the CLE. We’ve spotted the new two-door in cabriolet and coupe bodystyles, but this is the first time we’ve seen it testing on the famed Nurburgring. We expect the Mercedes CLE to sit on the slightly sportier end of the Mercedes spectrum so it’s not surprising it’s being taken around the ‘Ring. 

The new CLE will rival the Audi A5 and BMW 4 Series, but while the A5 replaced coupe and cabriolet versions of the A4 and the BMW 4 Series did the same with the 3 Series, the CLE has a bigger job – it will replace two models, the C-Class and E-Class. This model streamlining is thought to have been planned for some time as the German firm trademarked the CLE name a while back.

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With multiple CLEs spotted testing, the final production car should look almost identical to our images. There won’t be much to differentiate the coupe and cabriolet visually, aside from the latter’s folding fabric roof. 

The latest images show a more slender headlight design than seen on the latest C-Class, complete with Mercedes’ new Star grille, mimicking those seen on the rest of the Mercedes range. Unsurprisingly, there’s a blanked off section in the grille where a large three-pointed star will sit. 

At the side we can see new non-AMG alloys, with two air ducts behind the rear wheels, a common design trait on current Mercedes models. Unlike the C-Class and E-Class, the rear number plate sits on the rear bumper rather than the bootlid. This particular car is clearly a non-AMG model, thanks to the blanked-off rear bumper rather than twin exhaust tips.

As for the convertible, Mercedes has favoured the use of a fabric roof in its drop-tops of late and the CLE will adhere to this approach. The overall proportions of the test cars we’ve spotted look typically Mercedes, so we’re not expecting a drastic change of design language for the CLE. 

The convertible test car we’ve previously spotted sits on 15-spoke alloy wheels and features a dual exit exhaust system, usually reserved for AMG models. It’s more likely this is an AMG 43 rather than a full-fat AMG 63 model, however. 

We’ve not seen inside the new CLE just 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 an 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, an 11.9-inch touchscreen. The screens will be separated from each other, rather than connected like the display Mercedes is using for its all-electric EQ models. 

Head-up display technology will also be available, but not the augmented reality HUD system found in the luxury S-Class. The latest MBUX system can also receive over-the-air updates from Mercedes. 

The Mercedes model portfolio reached a high of 50 vehicles in 2020 and brand executives have spoken in the past of a need to reduce complexity, especially with the rollout of the all-electric EQ range. Speaking earlier in that year, Mercedes Chief Technology Officer Marcus Schafer pointed to the brand’s convertible offerings as being “high density”, with the recently axed SLC, C-Class Cabriolet and E-Class Cabriolet all vying for space in a market that isn’t a big money maker.

However, Schafer admitted that from a branding perspective the coupe and cabriolet models are important; for a premium car company such as Mercedes, being in this space lays down an important marker.

“We want to focus on these models,” he explained. “They have their niche and their purpose. That’s why we are going to tailor exactly the right vehicle in this segment. There’s more to come on the coupé and cabriolet side in this mid-segment but it’s going to take a little bit more time before we can speak about it.”

The brand has already reinvented the full-size SL as a sportier and more purposeful 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 SL’s new architecture. The flexibility of MRA-2 means that four and six-cylinder power is possible, appealing to the CLE’s likely buyer. 

The latest C-Class is a four-cylinder only affair and much of the CLE line-up will be, too. The next C 63 model will take on a new high-performance four-cylinder hybrid engine derived from the M139 2.0-litre turbo engine used in the A 45 superhatch. Although the larger S-Class, also on the MRA-2 platform, could lend a 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six with 48-volt mild hybrid assistance, if Mercedes thinks a six-cylinder option will be necessary. 

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