A heavily disguised Mercedes-Benz convertible has been spied going around the Nurburgring Nordschleife.
At first glance it looks a like a direct successor to the C-Class cabriolet, but word on the street indicates it could be branded as the CLE.
If true, the car seen here would serve as a replacement for both the C-Class and E-Class convertibles.
Design-wise, the new convertible retains the company’s signature soft, rounded look, although it may borrow a few sharp-edged styling details from the upcoming SL convertible.
Under the skin, the convertible will use the company’s MLA rear-wheel drive architecture, and will likely have a lot in common with the W206 C-Class that went into production this year.
Like the C-Class, the ‘CLE’ or whatever it’s called may be powered exclusively by turbocharged four-cylinder engines, with performance AMG models using a plug-in hybrid drivetrain.
The company has made noises in the past about trimming some vehicles from its lineup as it invests heavily in the dedicated Electric Vehicle Architecture and new model lines based on that.
So far the axe has swung through two-door vehicles, including the SLC and the S-Class convertible and coupe.
Consolidating the C-Class and E-Class two-door models into one would allow the brand to still have an affordable coupe and convertible to sit below the SL and AMG GT.
It would also mean Mercedes-Benz saves a big swag of euros in development, procurement and tooling costs. Given crossovers have dramatically eaten away at sedan and wagon sales, and two-door models now regularly register low five-digit sales globally, it makes sense on a financial level.
Mercedes-Benz’s research and development head Markus Schafer told Auto Express earlier this year that it’s still important for a luxury car brand to offer coupe and convertible models.
“We want to focus on these models,” said Schafer. “They have their niche and their purpose. That’s why we are going to tailor exactly the right vehicle in this segment. There’s more to come on the coupé and cabriolet side in this mid-segment but it’s going to take a little bit more time before we can speak about it.”
Many would no doubt see the CLE as a back-to-the-future move, as the automaker has tried this move before with the CLK.
Launched in 1997, the CLK fused the C-Class platform with styling cribbed from the E-Class playbook, including its round headlights.
After two generations, the CLK was replaced in 2010 by the E-Class coupe and convertible. Despite its styling and E-Class branding, it was also based on the C-Class platform.