Mercedes-Benz CLE 220 d Coupe (2023) review
We test the stylish new Mercedes CLE Coupe with a diesel engine.
Neil Briscoe
Neil Briscoe

Published on November 30, 2023

Mercedes puts two into one, by replacing the C-Class Coupe and E-Class Coupe with the single CLE model. The new CLE is a sleek and, frankly, quite sexy coupe that's practical inside and rewarding to drive. Can it please both sets of buyers?

The CLE is also a hugely significant car. That's not merely for the fact that it replaces two older models but also for the fact that it's likely to be the last new combustion-engined model that Mercedes launches. The company has sworn that, after 2025, it will stop investing in combustion engines, and by 2030 it will be an all-electric brand in Europe. So, barring the possibility of some kind of e-fuel breakthrough, or just a plain old case of Mercedes deciding otherwise, this CLE is the last new Merc that will be powered by internal combustion engines.

It launches with one diesel model - the CLE 220 d featured here - and three petrol options: the CLE 200, the CLE 300 4Matic with four-wheel drive and the six-cylinder CLE 450 4Matic. All engines are at least partially electrified, with 48-volt, 17kW mild-hybrid systems, and next April we'll see the first CLE plug-in hybrid, based on the same long-range setup used by the C-Class saloon and estate.

In the metal

We'd almost forgotten what a proper coupe looked like, what with the car industry's predilection for insisting that five-door, 2.5-tonne SUVs are - straight face and all - coupes. No, they're really not, but this new Mercedes-Benz CLE absolutely is. It's low slung, it has two doors and four seats - two of which are more useable than the others - and a sense of grand touring sex appeal that you're just never going to get in a car based on a practical SUV.

Looks-wise, the CLE seems very much more the direct successor to the old C-Class Coupe, with similar rear styling and the almost 1930s streamliner way that the rear pillar sweeps into the boot lid. The front, with its slim headlights and gaping grille is also very C-Class. That said, it's more E-Class Coupe in terms of size at 15mm longer than the old E-Class, and with a wheelbase that's virtually identical.

Inside, again the overall look and feel is pure C-Class. You get the same big 12.3-inch digital touchscreen, and the same 11.9-inch touchscreen in the centre, which has now been lightly angled towards the driver. The lineup of five 'squircle' air vents (three in the centre, two outers) looks familiar too, as does the centre console.

That said, the CLE is close to E-Class Coupe levels of usability. The rear seats are certainly tolerable if you're not overly tall, and there's space in that long wheelbase for the front-seat passenger to move forwards a little, making it more a 3+1 than a 2+2. The boot is practical too, with 420 litres of space.

Quality levels are exceptionally good, although the touch-sensitive pads on the steering wheel aren't. The rest of the MBUX digital software is broadly excellent, and easier to find your way around than many others. There's also the option of a brain-melting Burmester sound system that includes speakers built into the front seats.

It's a very lovely cabin but there is one crying shame, and that's the side glass. In the old E-Class Coupe, you could drop all four side windows for proper, sixties-style pillar-less motoring which, on a warm day, was an utter joy. In the CLE, the rear side glass is fixed.

Driving it

It feels almost comically retro to be firing up a diesel engine in a brand-new car, but then that's possibly something of an ivory-tower view. While EVs certainly nab the headlines, diesel still sells in Ireland - witness the fact that the vast majority of the best-selling Hyundai Tucson's customers go for the diesel, not the hybrid.

So for all the seeming old-fashioned approach, this CLE 220 d is bang up to date for most people. Its mild-hybrid system can kick in with an extra 22hp or 205Nm of torque when needed, and while the 7.5-second 0-100km/h time seems quite leisurely, the CLE 220 d is much, much more muscular through the mid-range, thanks to that generous torque figure and the helping hand of the mild-hybrid technology. Emissions are kept to a fairly trim 123g/km, and the official fuel consumption figure of 5.2 litres per 100km seems entirely achievable.

The diesel engine is also fairly refined. There is a touch of classic diesel grumble, especially on a cold start, but it soon fades to a background hum. The CLE is a refined thing in general, although a touch prone to tyre roar at motorway speeds.

Still, it's such a refreshing change in a sea of new SUVs to be sitting down this low again (even if the seat itself is set slightly high up in the cabin). The CLE feels instantly ground-hugging, even though it's not particularly low slung, and is still easy to get in and out of.

The steering is light, but direct and actually does feed back a touch of information from the broad front tyres. Switch into Sport mode and it weights up a little, but not a lot, but that doesn't really matter. Aside from a slight sense of stiffness to the low-speed ride, what the CLE does really well is to feel fluid and composed under almost any conditions, from long motorway hauls to shorter runs over twisty, greasy country roads.

Does it feel a lot like a C-Class to drive? Yes, but then that's neither a surprise nor a bad thing in any sense. It's perhaps not quite so immediately sharp as a BMW 4 Series, but then that's the Mercedes tradition, and in that tradition, the CLE seems to get better as the road becomes more challenging, dipping into deep reserves of dynamic talent. It's not, perhaps, an out-and-out driver's car in this diesel-engined guise, but as a thing with which to live, for all your driving moods, it's hard to beat.

What you get for your money

CLE prices in Ireland start from €73,215 for this CLE 220 d, which comes as standard in AMG-Line spec. Standard equipment includes the two MBUX screens, ambient lighting, blind-spot assistance, traffic sign reading, 'Premium' navigation, parking assistance with reversing camera, keyless entry and ignition, little extending bars that hand you your seatbelt, fingerprint scanner for different drivers' settings, heated and electrically adjustable front seats, digital key options, 18-inch alloy wheels and wireless phone charging.


Pardon us for being old-fashioned for a moment, but the Mercedes CLE feels like a proper car. It's delightful to drive, yet eminently useable as your daily wheels. It's frugal in diesel format, but decently brisk and can cover a continent on a single tank of fuel. It's also pretty to a fault. True, it's a shame that it's neither as imperious as the old E-Class Coupe, nor does it have pillar-less side glass but if this really is Merc's last all-combustion car, then it's going out on a high.


Tech Specs

Model testedMercedes-Benz CLE 220 d AMG-Line Plus
Irish pricingfrom €73,215
Powertraindiesel - 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel with 48-volt mild-hybrid assistance and 17kW starter-generator
Transmissionautomatic gearbox - nine-speed, rear-wheel drive
Body styletwo-door, four-seat coupe
CO2 emissions123g/km
Irish motor tax€200 per annum
Fuel consumption5.2 litres per 100km (54.3mpg)
Top speed238km/h
0-100km/h7.5 seconds
Max power200hp
Max torque440Nm
Boot space420 litres all seats in use
Kerb weight1,870kg
Towing capacity1,800kg
Rivals to the CLE 220 d Coupe (2023)