If you’re anything like me, Mercedes-Benz coupes have always held a special place in your heart. They’re big and bad, commanding a second glance (perhaps because they’re relatively uncommon). So, it was a little disheartening to hear less than a year ago that the E-Class and C-Class coupes were no more. Instead, Benz is melding two into one: the CLE Coupe.
This week, Mercedes-Benz lifted the curtain on the first of what will likely be a few performance models from in-house performance shop AMG. The Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 picks up where the already-elegant CLE Coupe leaves off, with aggressive details and more power. But how does it stack up to the BMW 4 Series – particularly, the M440i Coupe?
Exterior Design: BMW 4 Series vs. Mercedes-AMG CLE 53
The Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 gets some visual cues that set it apart from other versions of Benz’s newest coupe. Flared front and rear fenders accommodate a 2.3-inch (front) and 3.0-inch (rear) wider track. Larger, 19-inch wheels come standard, replacing the 18-inch units on other models. In the front, a more aggressive front valance and larger grilles emphasize the increased performance of the vehicle. The rear sports quad-tipped exhaust, a unique rear bumper, and a model-specific diffusor.
While we don’t have the dimensions of the new CLE 53, we expect it to be very close to the BMW 4 Series. What we do know is that the regular CLE measures 191 inches long – compared to the 4 Series at 188 – and is 72.3 inches wide, 0.6 inches narrower than the M440i Coupe. Looks are subjective, but I think I have to hand it to Mercedes here. While both sport enormous grilles and plenty of personality, the AMG has just a little more of a rake and is instantly recognizable as a Benz performance coupe.
Interior of the BMW 4 Series vs. Mercedes-AMG CLE 53
Inside, the new Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 looks pretty much the same as non-AMG variants. You get a big slab of screen in the center with fully digital instrumentation behind the steering wheel. More aggressive seats and some red stitching make the cabin a little more motorsports-theater-esque than regular CLE Coupes. You also get some unique software and drive modes that only the AMG variant has access to.
Like the Mercedes-AMG CLE 53, the M440i Coupe gets big, digital displays front and center. The BMW’s interior is definitely less busy. But the AMG has some nice touches, especially with the unique seats and flat-bottom steering wheel. Overall, it’s a matter of preference – and I prefer the BMW’s simple and clean layout to the futuristic – and more cluttered – interior of the Benz.
Performance: BMW 4 Series vs. Mercedes-AMG CLE 53
The Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 gets an upgraded version of the M256M engine – found in the regular CLE Coupe – that makes 443 horsepower. The 3.0-liter turbo inline-six can make up to 443 pound-feet of torque, too, thanks to an overboost function. Normal output is relegated to “just” 413 pound-feet. 4MATIC all-wheel drive comes standard. The Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 also gets some very cool tricks, like rear-axle steering (turning up to 2.5 degrees). MB says it should accelerate from zero to 60 mph in just 4.0 seconds.
You probably already are well-acquainted with the performance capabilities of the M440i Coupe. Under the hood is a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six dubbed the B58, making 382 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. BMW says it accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, but our friends over at Car and Driver have managed a 3.8.
It’s tough to call this one. The Mercedes-AMG CLE 53, by most estimates, weighs a few hundred pounds more than the comparable BMW M440i Coupe. The Benz gets bigger brakes, a 9-speed automatic transmission instead of the 8-speed in the 4er, and a trick AMG Ride Control suspension. We would have to drive both back-to-back to determine a winner.
Overall: Which Performance Coupe Would You Take?
The new Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 Coupe offers many of the same allures as the BMW M440i Coupe. Sophisticated technology, a well-engineered drivetrain, and a serious presence on the road mean that, for many shoppers, the decision to buy may come down to variables like price and availability. I think the Mercedes-AMG CLE 53 gets major points for rear-wheel steering, unique seats over the standard model, and overall likable looks and proportions. But I know how the M440i drives – AMG has stiff competition.
Which would you choose?