NEW MERCEDES CLE 300

Bigger dimensions lend Merc’s mid-size Coupé elegant looks, more assertive stance and greater cabin comfort.

With demand for premium coupés softening in recent times, Mercedes has taken a smart step to consolidate its two-door ranks. Out go the C-Class and E-Class coupés and in comes a new model (similar in size to the E-Class) that exhibits more of the sporting flavour of the C. Mercedes says the new CLE Coupé is now the largest coupé in the mid-size segment, offering greater space than its chief competitor, the popular BMW 4-series.

This is not a pillarless coupé like classic two-door Mercs of old but its sleek profile is unmistakably that of a Mercedes. Note the muscular shoulders, long bonnet and sloping roofline. Our black test car disguised its size well and we were surprised to discover it measured 4.85m in length.

The predatory look is enhanced by a pair of contoured power domes on the bonnet, plus a ‘shark nose’ front section incorporating flat LED headlights and a distinctive radiator grille set with a single louvre and three-dimensional chrome elements in a three-pointed star pattern. AMG Line exterior and interior trim enhancements are standard-fit for our market.

Rear seat space is better for long legs and broad shoulders and access has been improved, but you still need to be pretty lithe to elegantly slot in there without scuffing a sill or bumping your head. Rear-seat passengers now pull a Nappa leather loop at the upper edge of the backrest to slide the front seat forward. Those front seats deserve special mention for their comfort, interesting shape and endless adjustment options.

The range entry point is the CLE 200 but we spent a week in the high-spec 300 4MATIC. Both variants are powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with mild-hybrid tech. This usefully improves smoothness and efficiency but also significantly boosts power and torque, the electric motor adding up to 17kW and 205Nm. In its higher state of tune, the 300 proves that four cylinders can be enough, even when there’s 1700kg to shift. It goes without saying that more potent AMG variants are set to follow.

Overall performance is strong, the driving dynamics are excellent and cruising refinement is reasonably good. It would be better on standard 19-inch wheels but our car prioritised handling over comfort and rode on upgraded 20-inch alloys with very low profile rubber. Every CLE rides on sports suspension that is lowered by 15 mm in comparison to the saloons. This not only lends a more assertive stance, it also offers a stiffer suspension and damping design for very direct steering and well contained body roll.

The 300 manages to sprint to 100km/h in 6.2 seconds and is easy to launch on all road surfaces thanks to the all-wheel drive system. Some will mourn the more emotional sound of a six or eight-cylinder engine but you can’t argue with the way the hybrid system boosts torque and its newfound efficiency. For the record, the quick-witted nine-speed automatic has been adapted for use with a revised ISG while the 4MATIC all-wheel drive system (CLE 300 Coupé only) has been tweaked to allow higher torque to be transmitted to the front axle. Yes, there is now a 48-volt electrical system at work.

As with any modern Benz, the roll-call of standard equipment is deeply impressive and that’s without delving into the myriad safety features. The latest generation of the MBUX infotainment system is accessible via an 11.9in display screen with portrait orientation. Clarity and functionality are brilliant, and so too is the voice activation. The central screen is framed by heavily textured lime wood into which the stop-starter is set. Standard ambient lighting offers a choice of 64 interior hues although we saw no reason to deviate from the pre-set purple. Other key appointments include a Burmester surround sound system with Dolby Atmos (via a linked Apple Music account), a head-up display, heated front seats with memory function, panoramic sliding sunroof, MBUX Navigation Premium package with augmented reality display and a Parking Package with 360-degree camera. The standard Digital Light package includes a projection function, plus two daytime running light ellipses and blue illumination of the headlight base. Standard upholstery for the 300 is black leather and standard wheels are black 19-inch AMG multi-spokes.

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MERCEDES-BENZ 300 4MATIC

ENGINE 1999cc four-cyl turbo

POWER 190kW (258bhp)

TORQUE 400Nm from 2000rpm

TRANSMISSION 9-speed auto

DRIVETRAIN 4MATIC all-wheel drive

WHEELS 20-inch AMG alloy

TYRES 245/35 (f) 275/30 (r)

WEIGHT 1685kg

LENGTH 4.85m

0-100km/h 6.2 secs

FUEL CLAIM 7.1L/100km

PRICE from $126,700

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