Mercedes CLE Cabriolet review: A good-looking car which drives beautifully

Aerodynamics were an important part of the development. In a wind tunnel, cars were subjected to 155mph with no significant bowing of the hood. A deflector system called Aircap consists of the top section of the windscreen frame lifting at speed to channel air, along with a wind diffuser which emerges from behind the rear seat backs.

It all works well, calming the interior of buffeting at speed and improving the coefficient of drag from about 0.31Cd to 0.27Cd, although it does produce more wind noise in crosswinds. Yet the combination of the two items makes the car look ridiculous, as though the windscreen was self-detaching itself and that you'd stuffed an old iron bedstead behind your passengers. There's also a feeling that such developments will make those beautiful ladies' headscarves, which used to be such a part of a heroine's wardrobe in an Alfred Hitchcock film, totally redundant.

And so to the CLE 200 base model, with only 201bhp to propel 1,925kg. Yet its combination of rear-wheel drive and 19-inch wheels and tyres improved the slightly lumpy ride quality no end; the car felt softer, but not sloppy. On the same roads, the all-wheel-drive straight-six range-topper and more powerful 2.0-litre cars were faster, but not by much.

You'd not miss the lack of power to be honest, since this base-model car still has a 7.9sec 0-62mph time and will pick up its skirts and chase along with the best of them. And the chassis and control response were so much better in this rear-drive car, particularly the more talkative steering; it felt the pick of the bunch. Why pay more?

The brakes are powerful on all the versions, but the pedal feels too soft and there's simply not enough bite upon initial application. What's more, they faded noticeably on the mountain descent and although they regained their response after a couple of miles on the flat, it was never that good in the first place.

The Telegraph verdict

Given the dearth of competitors, Mercedes could have sat on its laurels and produced something anodyne and a bit clunky. Instead, it has moved on cabriolet design with this gorgeously proportioned car, which drives almost as well as it looks.

Four-seater cabriolets such as this are a special sort of car which is likely to be cherished over many years rather than traded in when the PCP finance deal ends. In a world where seemingly every premium car is priced above GBP50,000, the CLE Cabriolet doesn't seem too overpriced. What's more, this combination of two distinct models feels less cut-and-shut special and more Great Gatsby, although I'd be wary of telling my friends that.

They might expect to trade up from the pub suppers and into a more expensive sort of eatery in future.

The facts

On test: Mercedes-Benz CLE 200 Body style: two-door four-seat cabriolet On sale: now

How much? from GBP53,030 to GBP70,320 (GBP53,030 as tested) How fast?

147mph, 0-62mph in 7.9sec How economical?

38.2-42.2mpg (WLTP Combined), 35mpg on test Engine & gearbox: 1,999cc four-cylinder turbo petrol engine with mild hybrid integrated starter motor/generator, nine-speed automatic gearbox, rear-wheel drive Maximum power/torque: 201bhp @ 5,800 plus 23bhp from mild hybrid system/ 236lb ft @ 1,600rpm

CO2 emissions: 153g/km (WLTP Combined) VED: GBP680 first year, GBP190 next five years plus GBP410 luxury car tax for the first five normal years Warranty: 3 years / 60,000 miles

The rivals

BMW 420i M Sport, from GBP51,280

Like the Mercedes, the BMW is based on a coupe (in this case the 4-series) which restricts rear leg and head room despite the car's 4,768mm length.

The 2.0-litre petrol engine punches out 221lb ft of torque, which gives a 147mph top speed and 0-62mph in 8.2sec.

Modest performance, yes, but with the super-smooth eight-speed automatic you can cruise in style.

Economy is around 40mpg and CO2 emissions are 154-170g/km.