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Mercedes-Benz CLE200 Coupe AMG Line review: Swanky grand tourer with ability to gracefully flow through corners

Mercedes-Benz CLE200 Coupe AMG Line review: Swanky grand tourer with ability to gracefully flow through corners
PHOTO: sgCarMart

Electrification, along with the proliferation of SUVs and crossovers, are the two trends that continue to shape the automotive industry. So entrenched are they that we're now at a point where enthusiasts celebrate every saloon, hatchback, and two-door model being launched.

Exciting cars aren't volume sellers and they're becoming even rarer as carmakers 'streamline' their model lineups. Case in point: The CLE-Class, which was created to replace both the C-Class and E-Class Coupe and Convertible models.

So, instead of having two compact models and two larger ones, Mercedes now offers a 'medium size' model. It's a compromise, but one that's also a pleasant surprise.

(Mostly) Straddling the middle ground

Mercedes took 'medium size' literally, for the CLE is longer than a C-Class but shorter than an E-Class. However, both the CLE and C-Class have the same wheelbase length of 2,865mm.

What will confuse people though, is the fact that the CLE is a dead ringer for the CLA. Some might even conclude that the CLE is a two-door version of the CLA. To be clear, it isn't.

What is certain, though, is that the CLE is one of the swankiest-looking models to strut out of a Mercedes factory. It has the right mix of strong lines and gentle curves. And under certain lighting conditions, the bonnet resembles rippling waves.

There are just enough accents along the coupe's sides to make your eyes linger on the surface a while longer. The longest glance, however, might be for the car's rear end.

Here, designers have taken a bit of inspiration from the Mercedes EQ models with the curvaceous 'single-piece' taillight housing. But they have wisely refrained from making it look too busy by utilising single-line light signatures. After all, simplicity is a hallmark of luxury.

The same, however, can't be said for the interior, which still features glitzy screens and bold graphics. While there's no outsized Superscreen dominating the dashboard (it doesn't belong here anyway), there's no getting around the MBUX system and its displays.

The snazzy ambient lighting, however, is an element that the car needs, because it helps create a dramatic feel during late-night drives. Just make sure you select the music that fits the colours and the mood.

Coupes typically have cramped backseats, but thanks to the CLE's relatively long wheelbase, legroom and foot space in the rear is decent. Headroom, on the other hand, is limited - occupants should be no taller than 1.75m, lest they bump their heads on the ceiling.

Practicality is in short supply, too. Ironically, despite being larger than a C-Class but smaller than an E-Class, the CLE Coupe's boot only comes in at 420 litres. That's smaller than the C-Class' 450-litre volume and the E-Class' 540-litre capacity. One would have thought that the CLE would at least offer 500 litres.

Dignified dancer

As the base variant in the model range that will eventually include a speedier CLE53 AMG, the CLE200 does not pack ballistic performance. But given the confines of our roads, its powertrain, which also does duty in the latest E200, is just right.

The turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder, paired to a 48-volt mild hybrid, puts out a respectable 201bhp and 320Nm of torque. Equipped with Mercedes' ubiquitous nine-speed automatic gearbox, the CLE200 finishes the century dash in 7.4 seconds.

Don't expect sporty fanfare to accompany the proceedings, though. The CLE200 is engineered with refinement in mind. So, even with the accelerator pinned to the floor, the coupe's pick up remains progressive, even if after the tachometer needle swings past the 4,000rpm mark.

Outright speed is not on the cards, but the CLE200 makes up for this by being keen to flow through corners. Once you've chosen a line, tuck the nose in and the coupe sails through with grace and composure, clearly displaying its preference for smooth and unhurried inputs.

Less than seamless, however, is the coupe's ride quality, which is woolly over less than perfect surfaces. While some firmness undoubtedly aids handling, the edginess, which isn't helped by the low-profile 35-series tyres, is palpable.

Given its power limitations, the CLE200 does not enjoy being rushed. So, if you indulge the car and allow it to glide instead of charging it through corners, it'll continue responding in a dignified manner. Force the issue, though, and the car's shortcomings come into focus: The steering needs to be quicker, and understeer comes into the picture.

Driven to distraction

The CLE made me relish long drives around the island. Taking off without a destination in mind, it was a surprise to reach less familiar haunts like Kranji, Sungei Kadut and Sembawang. What would begin as a quick spin would turn into a three-hour journey with no activity planned, apart from finding a dinner spot.

Behind the wheel of the CLE, electrification and the proliferation of SUVs were furthest from mind. When the drive was over, I quietly lamented the disappearance of sporty, fun-to-drive models, seen as unprofitable by management and removed by product planners. Times like these, it doesn't matter if the CLE is a compromise. Cars like these are a rarity and they deserve to be celebrated.

What we like

  • Stylish exterior
  • Swanky interior
  • Relatively roomy backseats
  • Refined powertrain
  • Makes you want to drive to nowhere

What we dislike

  • Intrusive road and wind noise
  • Relaxed performance
  • Relatively small boot volume

ALSO READ: Mercedes-Benz EQB250+ Facelift review: Updates give it more visual appeal and a touch more range

This article was first published in sgCarMart.

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