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Car Review

Mercedes-Benz CLE Coupe review

£46,305 - £77,130
710
Published: 11 Jul 2024
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Interior

What is it like on the inside?

Though the CLE Coupe’s platform and styling is a hodgepodge of C- and E-Class themes, there’s no arguing that inside, it’s a C-Class. And that brings some familiar problems from elsewhere in the Mercedes range, which are currently spoiling everything from the C right up to the SL.

Stuff like the flush mirror adjustment buttons, touch-sensitive seat controls and wafery cheap sun-visors don’t scream quality. Nor does the way the wiper arthritically traverses the windscreen when it's raining.

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The touch-sensitive steering wheel spokes remain a disaster: annoying at best, downright dangerous to engage with at worst. Yes there’s adaptive cruise control, but it’s so fiddly to engage you’ll end up giving your right foot the job instead. Mercedes insists its owners are fine once they’re used to it. They love it. They don’t miss buttons. But it’s a £60,000 gamble to buy one and hope you learn to love the interfaces…

Everything else is in the 14.9-inch portrait touchscreen, which leans back against a panel of matte wood trim. In the 53, this includes the endless configuration of the dampers and throttle response, etcetera. Predictably, on the move... it's a right pain.

And in our initial CLE 300 test car the screen – usually oh-so-reliable in Benzes – promptly went on strike. Demisting the windows on a winter’s day became impossible and rendered the car a pretty garden ornament until the morning warmed up. Not ideal if you’re running late.

We’re prepared to give the CLE the benefit of the doubt as we’ve driven plenty of other Mercedes with the same interfaces without bricking themselves. And a second go in it came without the original gremlins. But if this was a Chinese start-up we’d be calling them out for their naivety, so it’s only fair to once again point out that Mercedes-Benz – the brand which invented the motor car – really ought to be doing better than a sub-menu-infested touchscreen with far too few tactile controls.

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Nothing wrecks the ambience of a deeply relaxing cruiser – which the CLE should be – like an infuriating media interface.

Is there anything to like about life inside the CLE Coupe?

There’s a lot more space in the back seats than there was in a C-Class Coupe. Great news if you’re trading up, but you’ll notice how pinched the slitty rear side windows are if hopping across from the old E-Class Coupe.

The rear chairs offer surprisingly generous legroom, but that’s undone when you realise anyone tall enough to appreciate it would be chronically short of headroom. So it's kids and adolescents only back here. Still, they get their own Burmester speaker grille each, and some cupholders to fight over between the erect seat bolsters.

General cabin quality is strong: much less creaky than the old C and E were. We enjoy the precision of the sprung cubbyhole doors, but the less said about the naff indicator stalks the better. There’s a multitude of USB-C ports, wireless phone charging (though our phone kept sliding out of the tray when we accelerated) and adequate stowage in the door bin and glovebox.

Meanwhile, Mercedes has the good sense to hide your reversing camera under the rear badge, so it never gets mucky. Why doesn’t everyone do that? Mercedes drivers deserve cheaper insurance for that feature alone.

Is it any good for going on holiday?

Out back, the 420-litre boot is a mere 20 litres shy of what you get in a BMW 4 Series: it's reasonably commodious, but the narrow hatch means inserting and then arranging a big suitcase or two will be a challenge. Even though the bootlid is hardly hefty, the car opens and closes it electrically as standard.

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