Review: 2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ brings big coupe fun

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Driving on the tight mountain roads on the Spanish island of Tenerife, the 2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 coupe chomps at the bit. Too big to feel comfortable on skinny roads with short run-off areas that vary between steep drop-offs and close-set barriers, the coupe could take flight in the worst ways. Yet it’s too powerful to putter behind a spate of Toyota flatbed pickups and Citroen C3s toddling along on island time.

The AMG 53 coupe is the most extreme model so far in the new CLE lineup that combines elements of the outgoing C-Class and E-Class coupe and convertible (Cabriolet) models. It’s the widest, most powerful, and best performing model yet in a range that includes CLE 300 and CLE 450 coupes and droptops. While it has some track capability, it’s still a grand tourer, and the most extreme, most track-capable is likely yet to come in the form of an AMG CLE 63 S E Performance plug-in hybrid.

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ coupe

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ coupe

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ coupe

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ coupe

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ coupe

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ coupe

Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53: Quicker, faster, more agile

While it combines elements of compact and midsize cars, the CLE 53 coupe is squarely midsize, and its performance suspension requires it to be wider than the already substantial CLE 450. It’s 0.6 inch longer than the outgoing E-Class coupe on a wheelbase that’s 0.1 inch longer. Its fenders are 2.3 inches wider up front and 3.0 inches wider in the rear versus the CLE 450 coupe to give it a planted, serious stance and make room for a 2.2-inch front and 2.4-inch rear wider track and staggered-size 265/35 front and 295/30 rear tires on 19- or 20-inch wheels.

My tester’s optional Michelin Pilot Sport S5 summer tires provide excellent grip to help me place the car precisely in the moments I can dart past the slowpokes. The latest generation of performance tires from Michelin, these S5s are much stickier and squawk a lot less in fast corners than the Continental EcoContact 6Q summer tires I experienced on the CLE 450 4Matic Cabriolet earlier in the day.

AMG-tuned steering also helps. It’s a weightier, quicker version of the familiar steering in today’s Mercedes models: quick, kind of light but firmer in the Sport modes, and with a decent amount of road feel.

AMG also throws more chassis technology at the AMG 53 than it does at other CLE models. It comes standard with adaptive dampers and rear-wheel steering that are both not available on the CLE 300 and CLE 450. The rear-wheel steering can turn up to 2.5 degrees opposite of the front tires at up to 62 mph, and it turns with the rears above that speed. The chassis is also stiffer thanks to a strut tower brace, a shear plate below the engine, and stiffer suspension mounting points.

I can’t go all out on these tight roads, but the twists and turns show that the CLE 53 turns in quicker, stays flatter in the corners, and responds to my steering, acceleration, and braking inputs more readily than other CLEs as well. A performance screen on the dash shows that the rear-wheel steering shortens the turning radius only slightly, reading 0.2 to 0.3 degrees of rear steering in the 40-mph corners, and maybe up to 0.7 degrees in the sharper 20-25 mph turns. The full 2.5 degrees would be reserved for parking lot speeds. The handling feels balanced through these tight corners, and it’s fun to push it despite the drop-offs and encroaching guardrails.

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ coupe

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ coupe

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ coupe

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ coupe

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ coupe

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ coupe

Stronger brakes come in handy here, too. It gets 14.6-inch ventilated front rotors with 4-piston calipers and 14.2-inch internally ventilated rear discs with single-piston calipers. They handle all I have to throw at it on uphill and more importantly downhill runs without fading or getting hot enough to emit the odor I smelled in the CLE 450.

AMG says the CLE 53 is tuned for the performance and agility of the C-Class with the comfort and elegance of the E-Class. The adjustable adaptive dampers have three settings that change by the chosen driving mode, and Mercedes says they have a wider spread of softness and performance than the last E-Class coupe. I find myself going with the Sport and Sport+ settings in the twisties and dialing back to Comfort mode on the long straights.

I can change the modes with a dial on the right side of the steering wheel. I can also use an Individual mode to personalize the dampers, engine, transmission, sound, and AMG Dynamics settings. A dial on the left side of the steering wheel also lets me adjust various control systems individually. I could see opting for the Sport engine setting with the Comfort damper setting in everyday driving, but for now I’m letting the modes determine the car’s character.

The AMG Dynamics system controls the stability control and all-wheel-drive system. Its settings include Basic, Advanced, Pro, and Master, and they also change with the driving mode. Sport and Sport+ allow for more freedom to spin the tires or kick the tail out, and I detect no stability control intervention when using either of those modes despite brisk driving. The sportier modes also send more power to the rear wheels for the fully variable all-wheel-drive system that AMG calls 4Matic+.

An available Dynamic Plus package adds an additional driving mode called Race, a launch control feature called Race Start, a drift mode, red brake calipers, and active engine mounts that firm up in corners for even more body rigidity.

What’s missing is notable, too. A track car would add a limited-slip rear differential to help the car better hook up when exiting corners and even bigger brakes with a higher caliper count for sustained track performance. Without those elements or high-strung tuning, this car doesn’t chase track times like a CLE 63 might, and that leaves it with enough comfort to drive daily.

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53

Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53: Twin turbos but not the usual

The AMG CLE 53 shares its engine with the CLE 450, but here it’s been AMGified. It’s a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 with an electric turbocharger that fills in boost pressure until the exhaust gas turbo spools up. It’s rated at 443 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque that can rise to 443 lb-ft for 10-second bursts with an overboost function. A 48-volt starter-generator located in the transmission can add another 23 hp and 151 lb-ft at lower speeds to aid with take-off. The power flows through a 9-speed automatic transmission with a torque converter (not the wet clutch like in AMG 63 models).

The engine becomes especially talkative in Sport+ mode with snaps and crackles on overrun and subtle burps between gears to accompany its smooth growl. Power comes on quickly and builds strongly, which makes getting by those Toyota pickups a breeze. However, the power lacks the suddenness and unrelenting nature of an AMG V-8, and the 53 isn’t appreciably quicker than the CLE 450, with an equivalent 0-60 mph time of 4.2 seconds. The Race Start mode cuts the time to 4.0 seconds.

The transmission shifts smoothly in its Comfort setting, and it responds quicker in Sport and more so in Sport+. When it’s time to pass the islanders or exit a corner to charge to the next, Sport+ usually picks the right gear to tap into the best power. However, the transmission sometimes gets confused when corners follow quickly after each other, sometimes downshifting abruptly and disrupting the car’s balance.

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ coupe

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ coupe

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ coupe

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ coupe

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ coupe

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ coupe

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ coupe

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 4Matic+ coupe

Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53: Special inside

The AMG CLE 53 also feels a little more special on the inside than the standard-line models. It combines the C-Class’s dashboard with the space of the last E-Class coupe. It’s a luxurious, high-tech cabin with some sporty extras that include standard sport seats, a flat-bottom steering wheel, and some AMG-specific performance displays in the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 11.9-inch center touchscreen.

The digital displays include a Supersport theme for the gauge cluster, and performance displays on the touchscreen that include front and rear steering angle, damper movement, tire temperatures, brake and accelerator percentage, g forces, real-time hp and torque, and an IWC watch timer.

Leather upholstery comes standard, and the sport seats provide great lateral support while leaving enough room for my too-wide backside. Nappa leather is optional, as are more form-fitting AMG Performance seats with suede inserts, a suede steering wheel, carbon-fiber trim, and red seat belts. It’s all high in quality and well assembled, with the options or not.

The 2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLE 53 coupe is due to go on sale this summer. Pricing will be announced closer to the launch, but expect at least $10,000 more than the $66,800 CLE 450 4Matic coupe. For that money, buyers will get a powerful, sinister looking, and seriously sporty car that isn’t too high-strung or too track-focused. If you can get into one, look for a twisty road that’s wider than what you find on Tenerife, and be sure to put the slowpokes in your rearview mirror quickly to unleash the fun.

Mercedes-Benz paid for travel and lodging for Motor Authority to bring you this firsthand report.

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