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Car Review

Mercedes-Benz CLE Cabriolet review

£52,305 - £75,680
810
Published: 18 Apr 2024
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Looks slick and drives adroitly. Bigger engines and bougier specs see it shine brightest, of course…

Good stuff

Looks good, drives well, decent room and tech

Bad stuff

The more affordable engines are the least interesting

Overview

What is it?

The Mercedes convertible range used to be vast and, if we’re honest, a bit discombobulating. At one time there were five to choose from: SLC (or SLK) and SL roadsters plus C-, E- and S-Class cabrios. Now you’ve just two of those to choose from. Mercedes-AMG takes care of the SL, with mixed results, while its three drop-tops are now all effectively amalgamated into just one: this Mercedes-Benz CLE Cabriolet.

Like its coupe base car, it’s essentially a greatest hits package of the old C- and E-Class cabrios. Merc’s aim is to deliver the sporting agility of the former with the plush comfort of the latter, though it’s fair to say both of its predecessors loitered at the softer end of the spectrum. Size-wise it’s a mite shorter than the old E-Class Cabrio but with almost the same wheelbase and boot space… and prices. But value might still be a strong suit; it’s as big as a BMW 8 Series Convertible while priced like a 4. Beyond those, we’re hard pushed to name a rival now Audi has paused A5 Cabriolet sales.

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So how much is it?

The range kicks off with four engine options. A smidge over £53,000 secures you a CLE 200 with a 201bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine driving the rear wheels. Another two grand gets you a CLE 220d, which uses a 194bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine to drop the BIK rate for business users. Just shy of £60,000 upgrades you to a CLE 300, which tunes the 2.0-litre petrol engine up to 255bhp and adds 4Matic four-wheel drive.

Rounding off the launch line-up is the £70k CLE 450 4Matic, using a 376bhp 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder engine to deliver the sort of unruffled progress (and silky soundtrack) that’s more becoming of a luxurious four-seat drop-top. In due course we might get a Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 Cabriolet too, bringing proper AMG nous to a market that probably doesn’t need it. But does anyone truly need a car like this?

Every single version uses a nine-speed automatic transmission – with paddleshifters and a column-mounted gear selector, natch – as well as a small electric motor and battery combo for a mild-hybrid boost. You won’t plug any of them in, nor achieve any emissions-free mileage, but you do get a 22bhp (and 151lb ft!) leg-up during acceleration to make cruising down the coast an even smoother and more effortless affair.

I’m betting there’s all sorts of other tech…

You bet wisely. The fabric roof folds electronically up or down in 20 seconds at driving speeds up to 37mph and is probably the most old-fashioned bit. Helping keep the cabin less turbulent once it’s stowed is Merc’s tried-and-tested Airscarf, to seductively blow warm air onto your neck, and Aircap, which twins an extending spoiler atop the windscreen with a pop-up windbreak behind the rear seats to cleverly curve air over the cabin rather than letting it swirl around inside. The old C cabrio had it, but here it’s been developed further.

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A total of 12 airbags include novel head airbags for the rear passengers while work has been done to better direct rainwater away from the side windows (in lieu if the rain gutters on the roof of a hard-top car). A central 11.9in touchscreen naturally captures the bulk of the CLE’s functions and can electronically vary between different angles to avoid direct sunlight with the roof open, while the leather on the seats is designed to deflect heat. The screen is more artificial-intelligence-fed than ever to better blend its myriad functions into your daily routine. All sound too sensible? You can get TikTok on there too.

Our choice from the range

What's the verdict?

It looks better than ever, shuttles four adults and their luggage around in relative comfort and even handles tidily

The Mercedes-Benz range has been a sprawling mass of initials and digits for a while now, but sense is prevailing. Not least when two have become one and the C- and E-Class cabrios have converged ways to become this svelte CLE.

It looks better than ever, shuttles four adults and their luggage around in relative comfort and even handles tidily while never taking its eyes off the ultimate prize: the sort of suppleness that needs to underpin unruffled open-top progress.

It’s no sports car, but nor does it pretend otherwise. It gets better the more you spend, with larger (and smoother) engines and the likes of massaging seats and booming Burmester stereos really showing the CLE in its best light. But if you can sneak something more sensible through your company car scheme you’ll still feel pretty smug. Whatever the weather.

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