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Back in Black: 2024 Mercedes-Benz CLE300 4MATIC Review

A quick trawl through the news section of any motoring publication will see you brought right up to speed with the current state of the car industry. It’s SUV this and SUV that on one hand while on the other, sedans and sportscars are being culled like there’s no tomorrow. But in all of this mess, whatever happened to the coupe?

Once a symbol of prosperity and luxury, the market for coupes, let alone luxurious ones has been reduced to just a handful of options on this side of a Bentley Continental. But then, aren’t all coupes an item of luxury? They aren’t very practical, don’t often offer great visibility and can be a bit cumbersome to get in and out off too. However, there’s a certain nonchalance about life that one gets from a luxury coupe, one that a leather filled SUV simply cannot match.

So what if you want one of these luxury coupes then, where are you to go? If you’re reading this and desire such a vehicle, you’re in luck! Let me introduce the Mercedes-Benz CLE 300.

A front three quarters photo of a 2024 Mercedes-Benz CLE300 4MATIC in Black.
CLE is a replacement for the outgoing C and E-Class coupes

If you’re asking what the CLE is, that’s fine because so was I. While Mercedes’ SUV range is denoted by a GL prefix, their coupe lineup can be picked out thanks to a CL preceding the model name! Therefore, the CLE is the coupe version of an E-Class but not quite because it also replaces the outgoing C-Class coupe. Although I’m surprised that the brand even launched such a vehicle in this age, I know Merc to be a brand that honours its history and it was luxury coupes like these that really helped the brand’s reputation in the later decades of the 20th century.

In fact, the last Mercedes coupe that I drove was a friend’s 1987 560SEC, a proper old school Mercedes-Benz coupe. Carrying a three pointed star on the bonnet signifies luxury, it’s often the first car brand that people think of when the word is mentioned. Therefore, any luxury vehicle or coupe needs to have presence to begin with. From the outset, the new CLE has exactly that. Its clever lines mask a dimensionally large car while still allowing it to garner a certain gravitas.

A rear three quarters photo of a 2024 Mercedes-Benz CLE300 in Black.
CLE300 has sleek lines and just the right amount of chrome

The styling looks distinctively Mercedes, it’s luxurious and upmarket without needing to scream that it is so. You’ll find just the right amount of chrome highlights dotted around the exterior, enough to give it presence and people will turn their heads to look at the CLE. As I mentioned before, the designers have done an excellent job at masking what is a large car dimensionally by giving it such sleek lines, the shape just flows right. At 4.85m in length and just over 2m wide, it is a big car but you feel its size more so when you jump into the interior.

A night time shot of a 2024 Mercedes-Benz CLE300 4MATIC.
Tech galore on the inside of the CLE300

There is oodles of room on the inside of the CLE300, it feels very much like an old school coupe in that regard. Access to the rear two seats isn’t bad either and meant even my long suffering mother could sit in the back for a half hour journey in comfort. While they are nice to have, the interior experience is really about the front two seats. Having a bad back during my time with the CLE300 meant I got to appreciate its firm but comfortable seats even more so, not to mention that they are also heated to sooth your aches. Admittedly a small detail but I still admire Mercedes for putting its electronic seat controls on the door, it means a watch enthusiast like me can sleep slightly easier at night.

Speaking of night, you’ll notice that all the photos in this article are taken in the darkness and there’s a very good reason for that. The CLE uses LED lighting extremely well, not just on the outside but also inside where the ambient lighting just looks the business at night. Knowing me, I had to set it to purple, not just because I’m partial to the colour but also because I was in a luxury coupe, it just felt like the right thing to do! The vehicle also had an effect on my music choice, nudging me towards my jazz and big band playlists which sounded exquisite through the Burmester 3-D audio system, it seriously was a treat for your ears! While on the other hand, the CLE does suffer from an over reliance on the central 11.9 inch touch screen, it does get easier once you spend more time with the car. Most of the key controls can be found on the steering anyway.

In all honesty, I found the CLE’s drive good but in an odd way. It bucked the trend of every car needing to be sporty, have firm suspension etc. The CLE was refreshing in the way that it knew its target market and delivered for them. While its 2L turbocharged four cylinder mild-hybrid powertrain put out 254hp and 400Nm or torque, you never felt like pushing the car to its limits on a back road. I spent all my time in Comfort mode too, just cruising around because that’s what the CLE300 excelled at.

With a buttery smooth ride, the CLE provides a tranquil oasis for its occupants, sealing out the noise and speedbumps that the world throws at you. It is a very comfortable place to be and you can be reassured that it will seriously shift when it needs to. And shift it does, getting up to the 9th gear on a motorway cruise, helping me achieve an average fuel economy of 10L/100km during my time with the car. Not bad considering I drove a mix of urban and motorways and the claimed figure sits at 8.6L/100km. However, the most interesting feature when driving is Mercedes’ digital light headlamps, they help point you back into your lane if you’ve veered off, flash warnings if there are pedestrians walking in the darkness and will even perform an elaborate lightshow on unlocking!

Rear view of a 2024 Mercedes-Benz CLE300 4MATIC in Black.

The Verdict

As it turns out then, the luxury coupe still has a market to satisfy in this day and age, a buyer base that desires quality, technology, comfort, one that wants the vehicle to be an experience in itself. The new Mercedes-Benz CLE300 does all of this superbly. It is very comfortable to drive, sporty when you need it to be while still offering the level of technology, comfort and everything else that one expects from a Mercedes-Benz in 2024. As a luxury coupe, it ticks all the right boxes.

2024 Mercedes-Benz CLE300 4MATIC: 4/5

Thanks for reading! For more Mercedes-Benz news and reviews, visit Tarmac Life.

Words and photos by Matthew D’Souza, vehicle courtesy of Mercedes-Benz New Zealand.

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