July 21, 2024

The 2024 Mercedes-Benz CLE300 Impresses Your Neighbors, but Falls Short on Enjoyment

Since its inception, Mercedes-Benz has been renowned for its opulent, stylish coupes, and the latest addition to this prestigious lineup is the new CLE-Class. In the past, Mercedes-Benz offered a plethora of four-seat coupes in the C, E, and S-Class ranges. However, the CLE now replaces both the previous C-Class and E-Class coupes while boasting a slightly larger size.

I had the privilege of experiencing life as a new Benz owner for a few days with the CLE300 model. It was a delightful experience being treated to the luxurious massaging seats and the exceptional driver-assistance technology that Mercedes always offers. Long journeys were a breeze knowing that my car was a mobile massage parlor and music venue, capable of autonomous driving. However, if you’re seeking a more exhilarating driving experience, the CLE300 might leave you longing for more.

Full disclosure: Mercedes-Benz provided me with a 2024 CLE300 4MATIC, complete with a full tank of gas, for a few days of review. I cruised around Los Angeles, receiving compliments from friends and neighbors. There’s something about a brand-new Benz that exudes success. Thank you, Mercedes, for allowing me to appear put-together for a few days.

Photo: Logan K. Carter

The CLE boasts a sleek and elongated design, embodying the essence of a premium coupe. It features frameless windows, a hallmark of coupe design, although not pillarless like the older E-Class. Despite its striking appearance, the CLE’s aesthetic could easily be mistaken for that of an Infiniti. This comparison serves as a testament to the visually captivating Q60 coupe rather than a critique of Mercedes-Benz.

The Power Red leather upholstery in my test vehicle added a touch of elegance to the already attractive seats. Apart from their visual appeal, the seats were exceptionally comfortable, with even the rear seats offering sufficient space for average-sized passengers. The dashboard follows the modern Mercedes-Benz design language, complete with ambient lighting, a large vertical touchscreen, and minimalistic lines.

A photo of the front seats

Photo: Logan K. Carter

As you explore the interior, you may notice some drawbacks. The standard metal weave trim appeared tacky to me, and the presence of hard, scratchy plastic below the door handles was disappointing. The lack of premium materials inside the door pockets, as well as the presence of hard plastic in the glove box, seemed incongruous with the car’s overall price, especially with the added options.

Driving the CLE can be either pleasant or uneventful, depending on your preferences. The CLE300 model, equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 with mild-hybrid assistance, delivers 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. While the powertrain is adequate, it exhibits noticeable lag at lower revs, detracting from its performance. The car remains quiet at idle, with minimal engine noise until you push the throttle, at which point it becomes slightly uncouth. Overall, the CLE’s driving experience may lean more towards comfort than excitement.

A photo of the interior from the back seat

Photo: Logan K. Carter

During spirited driving, the CLE tends to understeer, which can be disappointing. Equipped with all-season tires, the vehicle’s road-holding capabilities are compromised, further accentuating its lackluster front-end response. While some lift-off oversteer can be induced in certain conditions, the CLE fails to deliver the engaging driving dynamics expected from a coupe. More power and better tires may enhance the driving experience, but with the base powertrain, the CLE feels cumbersome rather than agile.

On the other hand, the CLE excels as a comfortable cruiser. The seats are exceptionally plush, offering a premium experience with features such as upgraded materials, multi-adjustability, massage functionality, and ventilation. The standard passive dampers provide a composed ride for the most part, although rough road surfaces can result in some noticeable bouncing. Despite the slight reduction in headroom due to the standard sunroof, the car’s solid body structure instills a sense of confidence in its overall build quality.