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Mercedes CLE Cabriolet review – a comfort-focused four-seater convertible

“The Mercedes CLE Cabriolet offers a comfortable ride and plush interior, but its engines could be better”

Carbuyer Rating

3.8 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Pros

  • Good interior material quality
  • Stylish well-proportioned looks
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Lacklustre entry-level engine
  • Not exciting to drive
  • Limited rear headroom

Verdict – is the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet a good car?

The Mercedes CLE Cabriolet is a suitably upmarket four-seater convertible that looks and feels special. Some of its engine options do little to reflect this, however, with the entry-level four-cylinder 200 struggling to move the car’s considerable weight. Still, if you’re after a spacious convertible that puts comfort before anything else, the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet is a great choice – albeit in a market with few rivals.

Mercedes CLE Cabriolet models, specs and alternatives

While convertibles used to be commonplace in the new car market, especially amongst sun-obsessed Brits, they’re now somewhat of a rarity. The Mercedes CLE first launched as a coupe and replacement for the outgoing C-Class and E-Class coupes, and now it gets its own convertible variant, known as the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet.

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Even though the CLE Cabriolet is essentially a mishmash of the outgoing C-Class’ rear end and the E-Class’ front end, the resulting design is very elegant and we think it actually ends up looking better proportioned than the two outgoing Cabrios as a result. Sometimes convertible models can look a little awkward when their fabric roofs are closed, but somehow the CLE Cabriolet manages to retain a sleek and suave look whether it’s up or down.

Mercedes offers the CLE Cabriolet with a range of combustion engines, all of which receive mild-hybrid assistance to improve efficiency. There are three petrols, two of which use a two-litre four-cylinder in two outputs, badged the 200 and 300, and there’s a three-litre turbocharged straight-six known as the 450. While it might seem strange for a convertible, there’s even a two-litre turbocharged diesel badged the 220 d.

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Later on, performance convertible fans will also be able to get their hands on the Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 Cabriolet, with widened bodywork, an uprated chassis and a tuned version of the 450’s six-cylinder engine with 442bhp.

As you might expect, the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet is designed with comfort in mind, rather than as an out-and-out sporty convertible. Instead, it’s the sort of car you’d buy to waft along in steadily with the roof down on a sunny day. A BMW 4 Series convertible may be better suited if you want a higher degree of driver involvement.

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For the UK market, the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet trim structure skips the more pedestrian-looking Avantgarde and starts with the sportily-styled AMG Line, moving up through AMG Line Premium, AMG Line Premium Plus onto top-spec Premier Edition. 

Trim levels

Power options

  • AMG Line
  • AMG Line Premium
  • AMG Line Premium Plus
  • Premier Edition
  • 220 d 2.0-litre (MHEV) diesel 194bhp
  • 200 2.0-litre (MHEV) petrol 201bhp
  • 300 2.0-litre (MHEV) petrol 255bhp
  • 450 3.0-litre (MHEV) petrol 375bhp

 

MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions

“The CLE Cabriolet’s engines get mild-hybrid assistance to boost fuel economy, though they’re not the last word in efficiency”

While there’s no electric or plug-in hybrid version of the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet, all of its engines do come with mild-hybrid assistance, making them more efficient than they might otherwise be, and essentially on par with the BMW 4 Series Convertible’s fuel efficiency figures.

There are three petrol engines and a diesel version – the latter may seem at odds with the image of a stylish and elegant convertible, but it’s likely to be the model best suited to drivers covering lots of motorway miles in their CLE Cabriolet, as it’s capable of returning the best fuel economy in these conditions.

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Of the petrol engines, the two-wheel drive CLE 200 is the most fuel-efficient, capable of returning mpg up to the early 40s. The 300 comes with four-wheel drive, but the price for that extra traction is compromised fuel economy of up to 4mpg less than the 200. The 450 suffers further, with mpg up to the mid-30s possible – this is down to the engine’s extra two cylinders and four-wheel drive which, while they may be good for extra performance, are detrimental to fuel efficiency.
 

Model 

Fuel economy

CO2 emissions

Mercedes CLE 200

42.2mpg

153g/km

Mercedes CLE 300

38.2mpg

167g/km

Mercedes CLE 450

35.3mpg

180g/km

Mercedes CLE 220 d

57.7mpg

129g/km

What will the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet cost to insure?

The Mercedes CLE Cabriolet will be a fairly expensive car to insure, given that insurance groups for the model range from 40 to 47 out of 50. In comparison, the BMW 4 Series convertible actually starts in a lower group 33 in 2.0-litre 420i M Sport guise, though the M440i 3.0-litre version sits in group 43 and the top-spec M4 Convertible sits in group 46, so it’s generally cheaper to insure than the CLE Cabriolet.

Engines, drive & performance

“The Mercedes CLE Cabriolet gets a range of engines, but on the lower end of the scale they can feel a little wanting for power”

Make no mistake that the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet is designed to be a refined, comfortable cruiser first and foremost, and that’s arguably what will differentiate it from the BMW 4 Series Convertible the most. While buyers will find the CLE Cabriolet more comfortable, you’ll be better off with the BMW 4 Series Convertible if you want a slightly more involved drive.

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While there’s no plug-in hybrid or electric model, there’s a choice of petrol or diesel combustion engines. The entry-level petrol 200 model and the sole diesel are rear-wheel drive only, while the mid-range 300, and top-spec 450 get Mercedes’ 4MATIC four-wheel drive system which helps make the car feel sure-footed. All versions of the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet come with a nine-speed automatic transmission which makes it easy to drive.

Is the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet good to drive in town?

The Mercedes CLE Cabriolet isn’t the smallest and nimblest car, but it shouldn’t be terribly difficult to drive in town. The comfortable suspension should make short work of soaking up the pothole-filled roads in town, but we would recommend going for one of the mild-hybrid petrol engines if this is where you’ll do most of your driving, as diesel engines aren’t really suited to lots of shorter trips.

Is the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet good to drive on long journeys?

The Mercedes CLE Cabriolet’s USP is comfort, and this will translate to a good motorway-cruising experience. It features a 20-layer fabric roof, which does a good job of keeping out wind noise from the cabin – in fact, it’s not too discernable from the coupe in this case. On paper, it equates to just a decibel more noise towards the rear, but in practical terms, it equates to a refined, pleasant drive. 

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While there’s inevitably more noise with the roof down, it’s remarkably calm and wind-free so long as you keep the windows up. Drop them and it gets more turbulent, and while the strange-looking Mercedes Aircap system – consisting of a large extendable wind deflector on top of the windscreen, and a wind deflector between the rear seats – acts to marginally calm the airflow into the cabin, it produces a lot of wind noise which seems too much of a trade-off in our opinion.
 

Is the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet good to drive on B-roads?

As we’ve stated before, the CLE Cabriolet isn’t really designed to feel sporty to drive, and instead focuses on comfort, but that’s not to say it’s not pleasant to drive on a B-road. Because the driving experience is luxurious, rather than hardcore, the CLE Cabriolet is a great car to drive along twisty roads at a more leisurely pace with the roof down, enjoying the scenery and relaxing in the cosseting interior. There is a Sport mode, although in all honesty, it feels at odds with what the CLE Cabriolet is all about – it holds onto the gears longer to allow for the driver to eek more out of the engine, but this just serves to amplify the engine’s brash soundtrack, so we’d stay away from this button.

Petrol models

The Mercedes CLE Cabriolet comes with the choice of three petrol engines. The 200 and 300 models are both four-cylinder engines which we’d expect will cater for the majority of buyers. 

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When we drove the 200, we thought it felt a little underpowered for a car of this size and weight. It seemed to struggle to get the CLE up to speed and felt strained, which negatively affected the refinement of the driving experience. The 300 is a better all-rounder, feeling like it has just enough power to propel the heavy car without too much drama, but is still nothing to write home about. For more power, there’s the six-cylinder 450 model, but this might be overkill for most buyers.

For performance enthusiasts the Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 will follow the regular car’s launch, with a heavily tuned version of the 450’s engine producing a heady 442bhp and 560Nm of torque. Perhaps more impressive, though, is its chassis changes. The whole car is lower and wider, giving it a muscular stance, and its suspension and brakes have been suitably beefed up to cope with its extra performance and a top speed of up to 174mph.

Model 

Power

0-62mph

Top speed

CLE Cabriolet 200 (2.0-litre MHEV)

201bhp

7.9 seconds

147mph

CLE Cabriolet 300 (2.0-litre MHEV)

255bhp

6.6 seconds

155mph

CLE Cabriolet 450 (3.0-litre MHEV)

375bhp

4.7 seconds

155mph

Diesel models

Though the market is widely turning away from diesel engines, that hasn’t stopped Mercedes from offering both the CLE coupe and Cabriolet with this option. It’s a 2.0-litre unit badged 220 d that also gets mild-hybrid assistance like the petrols do. While it’s the lowest-powered of the range, it’s likely to feel a little more capable of hauling around the large CLE given its extra grunt lower down in the rev range. That also helps it perform as a good motorway cruiser, so it’s a good choice if you want to travel long distances in your CLE Cabriolet.

Model 

Power

0-62mph

Top speed

CLE Cabriolet 220 d

194bhp

7.9 seconds

145mph

Interior & comfort

“The Mercedes CLE’s interior feels beautifully designed and it’s well equipped as standard”

The Mercedes CLE Cabriolet’s interior is taken from the C-Class, which is no bad thing. The brand’s interiors have been impressively designed in recent years, and have a few trademark touches. One of those is the large centre console which cocoons the driver and passenger, swooping seamlessly up between them and curving into the dash. Another Mercedes interior design consistency is the uniquely shaped jet-engine-like air vents – there are one on each side flanking the dashboard and three in the centre.

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The cabin is finished nicely with high-quality materials, adding to the modern, yet elegant feel. The ambient interior lighting injects an extra dose of pizzazz at night time, too. Our only qualm is that – while they may look good fresh out of the box – fingerprints or even scratches are bound to show up on so many of the Mercedes CLE’s piano-black surfaces. There are also a few too many creaky bits of trim for a car of this price.

Is the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet’s infotainment and navigation system easy to use?

The Mercedes CLE Cabriolet gets the same 12.3-inch portrait-oriented centre touchscreen as offered in the coupe, as well as an 11.9-inch driver’s display. Both of these get the brand’s latest MBUX software which features sharp and clear graphics and feels very responsive. We found it intuitive and useful for the most part, though at first the abundance of information can feel a little overwhelming. It’s also worth noting that the systems offered by rival brands are a little more customisable, but that’s a minor criticism.

Is the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet well equipped?

Given it’s a premium model, we’d say the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet is well equipped even in entry-level AMG Line trim – over in Europe a lower-spec Avantgarde model is also offered, so UK models essentially start mid-range. It’s got everything you’d expect from a premium convertible to make for a plush, easy-to-drive car, such as LED headlights, high beam assist, a Nappa leather steering wheel, wireless smartphone charging and a reversing camera among other features. 

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If you really want to be on the cutting edge of technology, though, consider upgrading for features like augmented reality for navigation, a 360-degree camera on AMG Line Premium, and if you’re an audiophile, the AMG Line Premium Plus adds a premium Burmester 3D surround sound system among other niceties.

What options should you choose on the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet?

You can specify an advanced Driving Assistance Package Plus, which gets added safety and driver assistance tech like Active Speed Limit Assist, allowing the car to automatically adapt to the speed limit, and Evasive Steering Assist, which will swerve to avoid a collision if it’s safe to do so, plus lane-changing assistance tech. This costs an extra circa-£1,700 on AMG Line Premium Plus and Premier Edition cars.

Key features

AMG Line

  • Sporty AMG Line styling
  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Automatic climate control
  • LED headlights
  • 12.3-inch digital driver’s display
  • 11.9-inch infotainment display
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility
  • Adaptive highbeam assist
  • Electric folding door mirrors
  • Leather upholstery
  • Heated front seats
  • Nappa leather steering wheel
  • 64-colour ambient interior lighting
  • Wireless device charging
  • Blind spot assist
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • Reversing camera with parking sensors

AMG Line Premium

(AMG Line plus…)

  • 19-inch alloy wheels
  • Digital light LED headlamps
  • Augmented reality for navigation
  • 360-degree parking camera

AMG Line Premium Plus

(AMG Line Premium plus…)

  • 20-inch alloy wheels
  • Front seats with massage function
  • Head-up display
  • 17-speaker Burmester 3d Surround Sound system with Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio

Premier Edition

(AMG Line Premium Plus plus…)

  • 20-inch alloy wheels finished in black
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Nappa leather upholstery

Practicality & boot space

“The CLE Cabriolet’s practicality is on par with that of the BMW 4 Series Convertible, though rear passenger headroom is a little tight”

Despite being pitched as a replacement for both the Mercedes C-Class and E-Class Cabriolet, the CLE Cabriolet is about as long as the latter. In comparison, the BMW 4 Series Convertible is slightly smaller, coming in at around 60mm shorter. 

The Mercedes CLE Convertible has a well-proportioned cabin and front-seat passengers have plenty of room inside. Rear-seat passengers also have a good amount of legroom for a car of this type, but headroom is a little tight when the roof is up. The CLE Convertible will be comfortable enough on a long drive for the front passengers, but adults would probably lament riding in the back for an extended period of time.

Size comparison

Model 

Length

Width

Height

Mercedes CLE Cabriolet

4,850mm

1,861mm

1,423mm

BMW 4 Series Convertible

4,794mm

1,852mm

1,395mm

Does the Mercedes CLE have a big boot?

While a car of this type isn’t designed to be necessarily the most practical, it’s worth considering how much boot space there is for a holiday or weekend away. It varies depending on whether the roof is up or down, but with the roof up and out of the way, you get up to 385 litres to play with – about the same as an average family hatchback. Lower the top and 90 litres of boot space is lost, leaving 295 litres. That’s roughly on par with the BMW 4 Series Convertible with the roof up, though the BMW has an extra 10 litres when it’s down.

Boot space comparison

Model 

Boot space

Mercedes CLE Cabriolet

385 litres

BMW 4 Series Convertible

385 litres

Is the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet a good tow car?

While lugging around a caravan with the roof dropped down might not be a very cool look, that hasn’t stopped Mercedes from providing a towing capacity figure. Impressively, every version – including the entry-level petrol and diesel – is capable of towing up to 1,800kg braked weight.

Reliability & safety

“Mercedes performs poorly in our Driver Power survey, but gets lots of safety kit”

Unfortunately, Mercedes doesn’t seem to perform well in the eyes of its owners according to our Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. The brand finished in a measly 25th place out of 32 manufacturers in the 2023 edition, four spaces behind its rival BMW. While the Audi A5 Convertible is no longer on sale, Mercedes is a close competitor with that brand, and it finished even further behind in 30th place.

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That’s not the full story, though, because of all three aforementioned brands, Mercedes had the worst reliability figure, with 28% of the brand’s owners reporting an issue with their car in the first year, compared to 22% of BMW owners and 23% of Audi owners. As convertibles make up a small section of the car market, we don’t have specific information relating to the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet or BMW 4 Series Convertible specifically, as neither car appeared in the list of the top 75 cars as rated by owners in the same survey.
 

How safe is the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet?

Neither the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet nor its coupe variant have been tested by Euro NCAP to assess their safety credentials. It’s unknown whether it will ever be tested as it’s a less common model on UK roads, but its indirect predecessor, the Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet was tested in 2017. This achieved a five-star rating, though the test was carried out under less stringent parameters compared with the current regime. 

We’d expect Mercedes will have put in work to ensure the CLE Cabriolet is safer than that car, though, and it does come with plenty of safety tech, though, so this will only help its case if it is tested.

What are the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet service intervals?

Mercedes recommends servicing its cars every year or 10,000 miles, whichever occurs first. Two types of Mercedes Servicing, dubbed by the brand as Service A and Service B are recommended, and these alternate each year for the life of the vehicle. Service A involves an oil and oil filter change, fluid level check and replacement if necessary, multipoint inspection and wiper-blade replacement. Service B is similar, but adds a brake fluid change and cabin dust filter replacement.

What is the warranty on the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet?

Mercedes provides a warranty of three years with an unlimited mileage limit, which is about industry standard and equal to that offered by its rivals at BMW. Like its parent company Toyota, rival luxury brand Lexus offers an impressive initial three-year warranty that increases annually for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles so long as you service its cars at an official Lexus dealer.

Should you buy a Mercedes CLE Cabriolet?

The Mercedes CLE Cabriolet is an impressive premium four-seater convertible thanks to its nicely designed interior and material quality. As with many a Mercedes, it feels well equipped with most features buyers would expect, too.

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That said, we wouldn’t recommend the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet for anybody after a sporty drive and top-down thrills, though, as this is a car better suited to leisurely cruising and comfort.

Where the CLE Cabriolet is slightly let down is its engines. While three petrol engines and a diesel seem like plenty of choices on paper, the entry-level 200 feels underpowered, and the 300 only just feels capable and lacks the sparkle you’d expect of a car in this price range. The 450 takes a big leap in power, but it’s almost a shame there’s no middle-ground option as it’s more expensive to run and buy.

Many buyers, particularly those after a better driving experience, might prefer the BMW 4 Series Convertible as an alternative.

 

What is the Carbuyer pick of the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet range?

Our pick of the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet range would be the 300 option. The 200 feels underpowered, while the 300 has just enough power to haul around the car’s heavy weight. The CLE Convertible is well equipped, so many would be happy with the UK’s entry-level AMG Line trim, which is actually a mid-range spec in Europe.

Mercedes CLE Cabriolet alternatives

The four-seater convertible market is much smaller than it was before, so since the Audi A5 Convertible was discontinued, the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet’s only real rival is the BMW 4 Series Convertible. 

  • BMW 4 Series Convertible

How we tested the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet

We tested the Mercedes CLE Cabriolet in mid April 2024 in dry, sunny conditions on the Spanish island of Tenerife.

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Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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