Dare I Say That Although Cool, the 2024 Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 Is Not the Best Option

If you are tired of debating whether or not the (in)famous W206-based Mercedes-AMG C 63 S E Performance is the right plug-in hybrid downsized thing to do with the high-performance compact executive sedan and the upcoming E 63, Mercedes just presented an alternative that is (probably) both cheaper and more elegant thanks to its inline-six engine solution - the 2024 Mercedes-AMG CLE 53.
2024 Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 versus US rivals 9 photos
Photo: Mercedes-AMG / Audi / BMW / Cadillac / Ford
2024 Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 versus US rivals2024 Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 versus US rivals2024 Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 versus US rivals2024 Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 versus US rivals2024 Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 versus US rivals2024 Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 versus US rivals2024 Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 versus US rivals2024 Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 versus US rivals
The new Mercedes-AMG CLE Coupe has just one version; for now, the CLE 53 features a mild-hybrid solution for its inline-six engine, an exhaust gas turbocharger, and an electric auxiliary compressor. There is a lot of (mild) electrification, but the good news is that we are not dealing with a four-pot like in the case of the 402-hp W206 Mercedes-AMG C 43.

Well, as far as I am concerned, the good news ends here. Sure, one could argue that the CLE 53 is way cooler than the rest of the members of the CLE class thanks to all the minute AMG touches – including a wider track and body plus lots of other subtle flourishes. And, for the most part, one would be correct. However, my love for Mercedes slowly faded away into oblivion when they abandoned the hood ornament and then also veered towards Audi's boring style.

Luckily for most people, the CLE is not hard to recognize among the C-Class and E-Class models – it's the only one with just two doors and potentially a convertible top. Also, as a side note, if I was given the choice to land on a deserted island and the only two options were a C 63 S E Performance or a CLE 53, I would probably go with the other. For starters, who needs a PHEV on a deserted island? And, joking aside, I would at least enjoy the sound of a true six-cylinder engine, even if that's the last thing I do in that journey to survival.

Anyway, back to the CLE, it was presented in a dark demeanor – one that would make any American murdered-out aftermarket car fan entirely proud of AMG's efforts. If you look at the hero car, the only things that are not black are the crimson brake calipers, some gray ornaments inside the cockpit, and the red seatbelts plus stitching details! I'm sorry, Mercedes-AMG, but that makes me think that I could easily live with a lime green BMW M4 – even if it is not the Competition model!

Speaking of BMW and Audi, since I mentioned them in relationship with the CLE 53, let's think if they represent proper competition or not – and let's also include some American foes because I just love it when there's a 'domestic vs. import' skirmish, even if it takes place virtually and not at the local quarter-mile dragstrip. But before that, a quick recap of the main features of the Mercedes-AMG CLE 53.

2024 Mercedes\-AMG CLE 53 versus US rivals
Photo: Mercedes-AMG
The C/E-Class grand tourer will arrive in America sometime next year sporting a 3.0-liter inline-six turbo with 443 horsepower and temporary 443 lb-ft of torque with overboost, all supplemented by the MHEV system that provides an additional 23 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque when needed. Mated to the AMG Speedshift TCT 9G automatic transmission and the fully-variable AMG Performance 4Matic+ all-wheel drive system, the CLE 53 is allegedly capable of hitting 60 mph (96 kph) in four seconds flat on its way to a top speed of 155 mph (250 kph) – which is, of course, electronically limited.

Alas, I think that one of the following options is still better. Let's start with the most boring one – the $56,800 Audi S5 Coupe, which for the 2024MY still makes 'just' 349 horsepower thanks to a 3.0-liter turbo V6 mill. It's quite affordable compared to the 2024 RS 5 Coupe, which starts from $78,600, but the latter has the advantage of nailing 444 hp from the 2.9-liter TFSI, on par with the CLE 53. If I had to take the Audi home, I would get the S5 and tune it exactly how I wanted.

Secondly, there's the outrageous option – the BMW M4 Coupe. This one costs $78,100, and it's more powerful than both the Audi RS 5 Coupe and Mercedes-AMG CLE 53, thanks to an official rating of 473 horsepower. However, suppose you can get past the quirky double-coffin kidney grille. In that case, we all know that BMW traditionally underrates its engines, and you could be hiding closer to 500 horsepower in your garage. Suppose you absolutely hate the grille and can't even look at the M4 even though it also has a 503-hp Competition version. In that case, I suggest giving the lovable yet also quirky M2 Coupe a try – it's smaller and nimbler than the CLE 53, faster to 60 mph (3.9s), and starts from $63,200 with plenty of cash left to give it a complete aftermarket makeover. If you ask me, that's my personal pick.

Now, let's get jiggly with the American options. They're outside the traditional realm of the German trifecta, but they're quite comprehensive, nonetheless. The 2024 Cadillac CT4-V is a sedan, which makes it much more convenient for those who travel with you. It's also a great-looking executive saloon that will easily stand out in any crowd if that's what you are looking for – as opposed to the severely understated atmosphere exuded by the AMG CLE 53. The base 2024 CT4-V costs merely $47,095, but that also only nets you something I would prefer not to talk about – a 2.7-liter inline-four turbo with just 325 horsepower. Ahem, that's clearly not an option.

Alas, but we do have a CT4-V that can go toe-to-toe with the AMG CLE 53, at least on paper – the Blackwing model swaps the four-pot with a 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6 packing 472 horsepower, on par with the M4 Coupe, and some 445 lb-ft (603 Nm) sent through a mighty Tremec six-speed manual transmission or a ten-speed auto. If that's not your liking, I have one last solution from America because it's too 'cheap' at $62,890 with the six-speed or $66,065 with the ten-speed auto. That would be the Ford Mustang! Yep, seriously. Although, I propose the 500-hp Dark Horse Premium starting from $63,265 rather than a simple $31k EcoBoost! So, what's your choice?

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About the author: Aurel Niculescu
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Aurel has aimed high all his life (literally, at 16 he was flying gliders all by himself) so in 2006 he switched careers and got hired as a writer at his favorite magazine. Since then, his work has been published both by print and online outlets, most recently right here, on autoevolution.
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