Does an extra 67bhp and a host of dynamic upgrades give Mercedes' new two-door the edge over rivals?

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Serving as an indirect successor to the E53 Coupé, the hot new CLE 53 Coupé wears the AMG badge but isn’t quite a full-bore, Affalterbach-made model. 

A new CLE 63 is on its way, but it remains to be seen what it will power it; the C63 saloon fell way short of the mark after it swapped its roaring V8 engine for a four-cylinder plug-in hybrid powertrain.

The CLE 53 is a closer rival to the BMW M440i than the BMW M4, but it still looks a lot meaner than regular CLE models and gets a suite of powertrain, suspension and interior upgrades to give it a more dynamic and sporting character. 

But does this amalgamated C-Class and E-Class AMG model feel like more than just a warmed-up range-topper? Let's find out. 



Mercedes CLE 53 AMG rear three qarter

Compared with the standard CLE, the 53 gets a new front bumper, an AMG-style Panamericana grille, a large rear spoiler and decorative diffuser.

Thanks to wider wheelarches, it's also 58mm wider at the front and 75mm wider at the rear, enhancing its aggressive look.

Further back, the 53 gets AMG-specific door mirrors and a more aggressive rear end, thanks to a restyled bumper and lip spoiler. 

Buyers can add the optional AMG Optics pack, which brings even more styling changes, such as flicks on the front bumpers, a larger boot lid spoiler and decorative diffuser. 

In the metal, the cab-rear coupé looks brawny, with its broad hips and shoulders, long bonnet and distinctive wheels hitting the AMG design brief. 


Mercedes CLE 53 AMG interior 01

Move inside and the AMG theme continues, with an AMG Performance steering wheel, AMG Performance seats and AMG-specific digital graphics for the 12.3in instrument and 11.9in central infotainment display.

Those seats, which come as part of the Pro Performance package, are excellent, providing you with a better sense of grip by really holding you in place when you’re pushing on. We also liked the feel of the chunky Alcantara steering wheel, despite its fiddly touch-sensitive buttons. 

The satellite controllers for the driving modes are much more intuitive and easy to use by comparison. The rotary dial on the right allows you to flick through the different driving modes, while the button on the left controls the individual parameters. You can also configure an individual set-up via the screen, should you wish. 

Within the large central touchscreen, Mercedes has incorporated an AMG Performance menu which displays various forms of vehicle data, such as speed and g-force. There's also an on-screen IWC-branded watch that can be used as a race timer for track driving. 

Thanks to its app-based layout, it’s easy to navigate around the screen. We’d welcome the addition of some physical buttons for the climate controls, mind.

Overall, material quality is good, with the carbonfibre finish on the dashboard enhancing the AMG aesthetic.


Mercedes CLE 53 AMG engine

The CLE 53 develops 442bhp and 413lb ft of torque from a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged straight six, supported by a 48V ISG to make it a mild hybrid. It uses a new twin-scroll turbo and an electrically driven compressor. The latter helps to reduce lag and improve throttle response and allows for the bigger turbo. Boost pressure is up from 0.4 to 1.5bar, increasing torque from 413 to 442lb ft in overboost for up to 12sec. An extra 23bhp and 151lb ft of torque is supplied by the ISG for brief periods under acceleration.

With Race Start engaged, the CLE 53 will sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.0sec. Drive is variably sent to both axles via a nine-speed torqueconverter automatic gearbox. There’s rear-wheel steering as well. It’s no surprise then, that the CLE 53 is seriously quick: it could easily take on a supercar of yesteryear. 

The M256 six-cylinder is free-revving and smooth, and there's more than enough power to be enjoyed. It’s a characterful engine, too, helped by its rich and enticing soundtrack that rumbles and pops when you lift off the throttle. While it doesn't have the allure of AMG V8s of old, it's certainly more tuneful than the C63's four-cylinder PHEV.

The 'box reacts intuitively when you're pressing on through bends, changing down when you brake hard into a corner. Shifting up using the paddles behind the wheel is more engaging, but the 'box can stumble if you attempt to swap cogs close to the redline. 


Mercedes CLE 53 AMG r:h

The CLE 53 comes as standard with AMG Ride Control adaptive dampers, which adjust to the road surface and driving conditions. Cruise around in Comfort mode and it's relaxing and easygoing, even if the large alloy wheels and sporty suspension do pick up sharper edges. 

Sport and Sport+ modes both make the car firmer, but neither of these are as harsh as Race. Sure, you get the benefits of greater throttle response and a more reactive gearbox, but this comes at a cost of ride comfort. And you get a more noticeable jolt in your back when you shift up using the paddles. Thankfully, you can mix and match settings.

On steep and twisty roads, the CLE 53 is composed and engaging. Turn in to a bend at pace and there's an initial dose of body roll before the car tightens up through the corner. You do feel the weight through bends, but it maintains a neutral stance. 

There isn’t much feel to the steering, however. Sure, it’s accurate, but there is no change to its weight as you turn into a corner. Four-wheel-steering comes as standard on the CLE 53: you notice its effect more when manoeuvring at lower speeds, for example around roundabouts. When pressing on, its effects are nicely subtle.

There’s plenty of grip, thanks to four-wheel drive, although this does limit the car’s playfulness. In Sport mode or above, the 4Matic+ system gets more rear-biased and the ESP more lenient, yet the car rarely feels like it’s going to break traction, even with more abrupt throttle inputs.

There’s a Drift mode as part of the Pro Performance Pack, which sends all of the power to the rear wheels, but we will have to wait for some track time to test that.  


Mercedes CLE 53 AMG front three quarter 01

Prices for the CLE 53 Premium start at £73,075, while the Night Edition Premium Plus starts at £78,825. That makes it £10,000 more expensive than the BMW M440i but still significantly cheaper than the 503bhp BMW M4. 

Only the Night Edition Premium Plus model can be specced with the Pro Performance Package, which costs a cool £7500.

This combines the AMG Optics package - which includes a range of styling changes for a racier look – with the AMG Dynamic Plus package. The latter includes Drift Mode, Race Start for a 0-62mph spring in 4.0sec and active engine mounts for greater agility.


Mercedes CLE 53 AMG verdict

The CLE 53 will likely appeal to those looking for a balance between an all-out sporty coupé and a luxury cruiser.

Dial it back into its softer settings and its ideal for long-distance journeys; swap to a sporty mode and it has the power and soundtrack to entertain. 


Sam Phillips

Sam Phillips
Title: Staff Writer

Sam has been part of the Autocar team since 2021 and is often tasked with writing new car stories and more recently conducting first drive reviews.

Most of his time is spent leading sister-title Move Electric, which covers the entire spectrum of electric vehicles, from cars to boats – and even trucks. He is an expert in electric cars, new car news, microbility and classic cars. 

Sam graduated from Nottingham Trent University in 2021 with a BA in Journalism. In his final year he produced an in-depth feature on the automotive industry’s transition to electric cars and interviewed a number of leading experts to assess our readiness for the impending ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars.