Skip to main content

2024 Mercedes-Benz CLE 450 Coupe Tested: And Two Become One

Mercedes' replacement for the C-Class and E-Class coupes is a comfortable, luxurious commuter

2024 Mercedes-Benz CLE 450 front 3/4
  • The CLE-Class replaces both the C-Class and E-Class coupes.
  • We test the new CLE 450 on both street and at the track.
  • The CLE is proof that not all coupes are sporty.
  • Pricing for the 2024 CLE starts at $57,650 including destination.

It's been nearly a year since the new 2024 CLE made its debut, and Mercedes' new luxury coupe is finally going on sale in America. A replacement for both the C-Class and E-Class coupes, the CLE is the latest in a long, long line of sleek luxury two-doors from Mercedes-Benz. We had the opportunity to drive the car last year as well as the drop-top CLE Cabriolet earlier this year, but both were European-spec cars on European roads. This was our first opportunity to drive the car at home around Los Angeles, as well as put the CLE through its paces at our test track.

The CLE is Mercedes' roomiest and least expensive two-door, slotting below the SL roadster and AMG GT coupe. It's longer than either of those cars, with more space inside for both people and cargo. The overall design is modern Mercedes, with a clean exterior and a modern but handsome interior. In fact, from the door pillar forward the interior is essentially identical to the current C-Class sedan. There's a digital instrument cluster and a large touchscreen display in the center that's angled slightly toward the driver.

The C-Class interior design might turn off some hoping that the CLE would pull a bit more influence from its larger sibling, but it looks and feels premium. There's soft leather and handsome wood trim on most surfaces, and overall it presents a more focused and stylish feel than the interior on the E-Class.

54 for sale in your area
See All for Sale
2024 Mercedes-Benz CLE 450 4Matic interior

The CLE isn't as sporty as the SL or AMG GT, though it is a much more usable and practical car on a day-to-day basis. The stylish interior doesn't skimp on utility, with decent storage for your sunglasses, phone and beverages in both rows. The trunk is large and the rear seat is good for more than just extra luggage. Though small compared to a sedan back seat, the rear seat is significantly larger than the one in the SL or AMG GT. There's enough head- and legroom for a child or smaller passengers to sit comfortably for a few hours, and when combined with the spacious trunk, makes it a great car for a young family to get away on the weekend.

Mercedes offers the CLE with three engines: one four-cylinder and two sixes. The CLE 300 4Matic uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four engine making 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. A CLE 450 4Matic like our test car uses a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six that makes 375 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. The AMG CLE 53 also uses a 3.0-liter inline-six, though output gets a bump to 443 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. All three use a nine-speed automatic, and all-wheel drive is standard.

The engines use a 48-volt mild hybrid system, helping both fuel economy and power. The CLE can't drive on electricity alone, but a small battery can help reduce turbo lag, smooth out shifts, and allow for more aggressive use of the stop-start system. It doesn't significantly boost performance or allow for all-electric driving like Mercedes' plug-in hybrid powertrains; instead, it works to subtly enhance things without the complexity of a plug-in system. Fuel economy is rated at 28 mpg combined for the CLE 300 4Matic and 26 mpg combined for the CLE 450 4Matic. We saw an average of 27.4 mpg during our test of the CLE 450 4Matic — a bit disappointing for the class where cars like the BMW 4 Series net upward of 30 mpg combined.

On our local Southern California roads, the CLE 450 4Matic proved to be exceedingly comfortable both on surface streets and on the highway, reaffirming our first impressions from the car. That's notable given that our test car lacked the adaptive air suspension found on Euro-spec models. Mercedes has said the air suspension won't be offered on U.S.-bound cars, but the standard suspension is compliant even on less-than-stellar pavement. It doesn't tune out imperfections as well as the SL, but only the biggest bumps will upset the CLE. It's particularly smooth at freeway speeds, where the car settles down and mutes the road surface.

2024 Mercedes-Benz CLE 450 4Matic touchscreen

It's not quite at home on a winding canyon road, though the CLE doesn't fall on its face. The car errs on the side of comfort and feels a bit soft in corners when pushed, leaning but not wallowing. The steering is weighted well but light on feedback. The CLE 450 4Matic is a car for cruising and commuting, not canyon carving.

At our test track, we clocked the CLE 450 4Matic at 4.5 seconds to 60 mph, a tenth slower than the new 2024 E 450 4Matic sedan we recently tested. Both use the same powertrain, and given the 4,448-pound E-Class weighs more than the 4,262-pound CLE 450, we're surprised it was a hair slower. Braking performance, too, was slightly off the E-Class. Our best panic stop from 60 mph was 114 feet, a bit longer than the 110-foot stop for the E-Class.

Performance on our skidpad was a bit more favorable toward the coupe. The weight advantage helps the CLE feel lighter on its feet than the E-Class. The CLE lacks the rear-axle steering found in the E-Class (another Europe-only feature), but it still corners fairly tightly. There's a propensity to understeer and push at the limit, but you can correct it with a bit of adjustment to the gas. The CLE 450 4Matic pulled 0.94 g on the skidpad, a tick better than the E 450 4Matic's 0.93 g. We just wish Mercedes would offer the excellent air suspension found on the E-Class for American CLE coupes.

It may be quick and offer respectable lateral grip, but the CLE 450 4Matic is certainly no sports car. After just two laps of our handling course, the brakes began to overheat. The pedal grew soft and long, and the tire pressure monitor was showing that the front tires were getting too warm. We ended up doing more cooldown laps than hot ones just to bring the temps back down to a comfortable level. This isn't a car to take to the track, so if that's your game, may we suggest something fitted with an AMG badge.

2024 Mercedes-Benz CLE 450 rear 3/4

The CLE 300 4Matic starts at $57,650. That's nearly half the price of a base AMG SL 43 and nearly $80,000 less than an AMG GT 55 Coupe. Standard features include the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a 11.9-inch vertically mounted touchscreen in the center, a very nice Burmester audio system and a panoramic moonroof. A CLE 450 4Matic starts at $66,800 and swaps in an inline-six in place of the inline-four. Features for the two are otherwise identical. Our test vehicle was fitted with a few options like a surround-view camera system, massaging front seats and a head-up display, bumping the as-tested price to $77,090.

Those prices are a bit more expensive than equivalent coupes from rivals. A BMW 430i starts at $51,875 and can be had with or without all-wheel drive. It nets slightly better fuel economy, too, though we don't think the BMW's interior feels quite as premium as the one in the Mercedes. An Audi A5 coupe starts at $49,495 and includes all-wheel drive, though the Audi feels dated in terms of tech, powertrain and driving dynamics.

Edmunds says

Combining the C-Class and E-Class coupes into one model makes sense in a world that increasingly shuns two-door automobiles, and the new CLE is certainly an improvement over both of those predecessors. It's not the most sporty coupe on sale — or in Mercedes' own lineup, for that matter — but it's a great car for commuting or miles and miles of highway cruising.

Photos by Keith Buglewicz and the manufacturer