Mercedes-Benz is merging the C-Class and E-Class two-door models into a new CLE, and it looks like there’s an AMG version on the way.
This early-stage test mule is well camouflaged, but our spy photographers point to the swollen brakes and wider track as evidence it’s come from Affalterbach.
What will power the hottest CLE isn’t yet clear.
There’s no obvious charge port on this prototype, suggesting this isn’t a full-on CLE 63. After all, the next C63 will feature a plug-in hybrid four-cylinder powertrain, rather than the turbo V8 fitted to the current model.
It’s possible this is an AMG CLE 43 mule, with power from the same mild-hybrid four-cylinder that features in the Mercedes-AMG SL 43.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-four-cylinder engine produces 280kW of power and 480Nm of torque in the SL, mated with a 48V mild-hybrid system powering an electrically-controlled exhaust gas turbocharger, small electric motor, and belt-driven starter generator capable of producing an additional 10kW for short periods of time.
As for what a CLE is? Reports indicate Mercedes-Benz is trimming some of its lower-volume models, including the C-Class and E-Class convertibles.
It’ll reportedly initially be available only as a two-door convertible, with a two-door coupe set to follow.
The car is still heavily camouflaged, but it looks like the CLE will have a slightly different lighting signature to the latest C-Class – perhaps borrowing from the Mercedes-AMG SL, or the CLS four-door coupe.
As is becoming common in the luxury convertible class, and following in the footsteps of the current C-Class and E-Class drop-tops, the car looks likely to use a folding soft-top instead of the once-popular hardtop.
Mercedes-Benz research and development head, Marcus Schafer, told Auto Express it effectively had three convertibles – the SLC and C-Class and E-Class Cabriolets – occupying a part of the market that isn’t particularly profitable.
He conceded, however, it’s important for a luxury car brand to continue to offer coupe and convertible models.
As Mercedes-Benz expands its range of electric vehicles to include models like the EQE and EQS built on a dedicated EV architecture, it’s cognisant its model range can’t get too large and unwieldy.
Merging the two-door C-Class and E-Class ranges is reminiscent of the days of the CLK (below).
Sold for two generations from 1997 to 2010, the CLK used the C-Class’s platform but with E-Class styling cues, and was available with a range of engines ranging from four to eight-cylinder configurations.
It was replaced by the E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet, which continued to use C-Class mechanicals but was quickly joined by a C-Class Coupe and Cabriolet.
In 2017, Mercedes-Benz finally returned an E-Class-based coupe and convertible to the E-Class line, while the C-Class range continued to offer two-door variants.