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CAR OF THE WEEK: New Mercedes a beauty … but it’s not for me

April 26th, 2024 8:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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THE new Mercedes-Benz CLE is a beautiful car. But it’s not for me.

I’ll get into that last later. But the beauty bit starts with the coupé shape and the proportions that come with it. Sleek lines that ooze sportiness, with just a hint of a coke-bottle waistline. Front end with a big enough Mercedes star badge to be superior without crossing over to brash. Lotta engine looks from the strongly creased bonnet and a cabin that’s cosy for two and coats thrown in the back. The rear is actually more fastback than coupé and executed in a beautifully clean and cool style.

Big wheels complete a picture that is probably equally desirable to women and men who’ve had the success to be able to justify it and don’t need to ferry family. My review car was in a dark colour that was enough off-black to add its own level of classy to the ensemble.

CLE is a new nameplate, and a new car that replaces two previous coupés, versions of the C-Class and E-Class respectively. In size, the CLE is a bit longer than the discontinued, and quite long-in-the-tooth, C-Class coupé and shares the wheelbase of the newer and larger fifth generation C-Class saloon. That suggests it’s reasonable to offer it also as a replacement for the equally elder E-Class version. Besides, now we only have to mention one three-letter name set, rather than all those others.

When it comes to offering a true sense of luxury, Mercedes-Benz is currently way at the top of the grid. So, having had the new E-Class in my driveway a while back, I felt very much at home when I got into the CLE. Elegant curves to the dashboard, brushed aluminium detailing where it shows best, and the beautiful graphics details that are a feature of the non-beautifully named MBUX screens and their information. Downside? The lack of real switches and knobs for on-the-move adjustments of climate and entertainment volume. Equally those slider controls on the steering wheel are still a pain. I need also to mention that in all of the current Mercedes-Benz cars, for me the upper rim of the steering wheel obscures the direction indicator lights.

I had ample room once inside the CLE, it was the getting in which caused me angst. Maybe 20 years ago I had a more supple 6’2” frame and could do contortion easier, or maybe tall men aren’t the designers’ target. And I’ll tell you why I think that last — when I set the electric adjustment on the head restraint, it wouldn’t go high enough. It caught me at the top of my spine, uncomfortably so.

Enough carping. Once in place and the diesel engine of the CLE 220d spinning ahead with virtually no sound, the smooth 9-speed autobox wafted us forwards with an almost electric rapidity. The cocoon effect of the relatively small cockpit added to the pleasant drives I had to various locations during my time with the car.

The overall driver satisfaction under various conditions — we had some monsoon-level rain sometimes — stayed very high. And the car is incredibly frugal, returning for me a 4.2L/100km. Fuel pumps wept as I drove past.

A colleague has described the CLE as a ‘selfish’ car. She’s probably right, it’s designed to bring one’s self and, maybe, one other to whatever destinations in a style that suits a wealthy mid-life crisis.

I never became the first and I’m long, long beyond the second!

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