Mercedes-Benz will consolidate its range by replacing the two-door variants of the C-Class and the E-Class with a single nameplate, according to a recent report. Called CLE, the model will make its global debut in 2023.
Plans to streamline the carmaker's lineup have been in the pipeline for years. One American dealer compared the portfolio to the menu at a Cheesecake Factory restaurant, and it's the low-volume niche models that are getting the boot. Coupe and convertible sales are dropping at an alarming rate, so developing a two-door version of the new C-Class and the next E-Class makes little sense from a business standpoint. Leaving either segment isn't an option, either, because halo models play an important role in shaping a company's image, even if they're not big sellers.
British magazine Auto Express learned the four-seater CLE will split the difference between the C and the E. Offered as a coupe and as a convertible, it will likely ride on the same modular MRA-2 architecture as the recently-unveiled fifth-generation C-Class and the latest S-Class. Most variants will be powered by a four-cylinder engine, according to the same source, but a straight-six could be available in some markets. It's too early to tell whether Mercedes-AMG will receive its own version of the car; the two-door C-Class has spawned full-fat, fire-breathing AMG derivatives, but the two-door E-Class historically hasn't. It has settled for AMG-lite offshoots, like the E53.
From a design perspective, the CLE (shown in spy shots above) will borrow styling cues from recent additions to the Mercedes family, but it's not expected to share sheet metal an existing model. It will be its own thing, in its own in-between segment. The convertible will use a fabric soft top instead of a heavier power-folding hard top.
If the rumor is accurate, the Mercedes-Benz CLE will make its debut in 2023, meaning it might not arrive in showrooms until the 2024 model year. It's not even the next two-door model we'll see out of Stuttgart; the new SL (called R232 internally) is preparing to break cover with an available all-wheel-drive system and an AMG-only range. It's expected to make its global debut before the end of 2021 and go on sale as a 2022 model.
Mercedes-Benz has adopted this strategy before. In the 2000s, when the only two-door C-Class was the Sport-Coupé hatchback (later called CLC). And the firm developed the original CLK (W208) on a first-generation C-Class (W202) chassis. Buyers didn't mind, so the second-generation CLK (W209) shared its underpinnings with the second-generation C-Class (W203), and the first E-Class Coupe (C207) was an evolution of the third-generation C-Class (W204). The two-door E-Classes didn't get E-Class bones until the current models made their debut for 2018.
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