Slinky new coupe makes Mercedes sexy again
The wait for a small, sexy Mercedes-Benz saloon has been long and arduous but might be over after the debut of the entry-level CLA at the Detroit Show.
Clearly a derivative of the Concept Style Coupé from early last year, the CLA carries over all of that car’s swoops and sweeps and will slide into Mercedes-Benz’s line-up later in the year beneath the C-Class saloon but above the A-Class.
“The most frequent response we got from the Concept Style Coupé was: ‘Put it into production’,” said Mercedes-Benz chairman Dr Dieter Zetsche. “That’s precisely what we’re doing now.”
It’s a car Mercedes-Benz desperately needs, with its new A-Class being comprehensively pounded by the BMW 1-Series, the Audi A3 and even the new Volkswagen Golf in European comparison tests. To make the Benz’s need for the car even more urgent, Audi is about to reveal its A3 saloon and BMW will have a saloon version of its 1-Series on sale in 2015.
The third model off Mercedes-Benz’s modular front-drive architecture (after the B- and A-classes), the CLA will be pitched as being more athletic and more sporty than either.
It shares its basics with its siblings, including engines, transmissions, electronics and some of the interior features, but that means, unlike the larger C-Class, it uses a transverse engine layout and front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive will be optional, though likely only with the most expensive engines.
The CLA traces a definite line from Gorden Wagener’s Detroit concept sculpture from two years ago and, while it has a distinct character, it shares much of its proportioning with the CLS saloon. Mercedes won’t stop there, though, and the CLA will also spawn its own SUV, dubbed the GLA, which will be seen at October’s Frankfurt Motor Show.
The car will be 4,630mm long, 1,777mm wide and 1,437mm high – slightly longer and wider than the C-Class saloon but significantly lower.
It will seat up to five people, though four-seat layouts are also optional, complete with a full-length console, while its boot space is similar to the current C-Class. It will share a lot of its interior design components, such as round air vents and the floating instrument cluster, with the A-Class, though Benz has tried hard to reach a younger buyer profile by enabling its entertainment systems to integrate with smartphones.
While it is being spoken of as the sportiest of the cars off the front-drive architecture, that does not mean Benz has ignored economy and it already has plans to combine the 0.22 CD of slippery aerodynamics with the 1.8-litre turbo-diesel engine to create a hyper-efficient CLA180 edition.
It is believed that the CLA will debut with two petrol engines and two diesel engines, both already found in the A- and B-Classes. All early CLAs will be front-wheel drive with a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmissions, with the latter posting the most economical consumption numbers.
Developed with Renault and built in Renault’s Spanish production plant, the 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine has 90kW in the CLA180 or 115kW in the more expensive CLA200. For real performance, Benz fits the CLA with its 155kW two-litre turbo unit to create the CLA250.
On the diesel side, there is a 1.8-litre 100kW motor for the CLA200 CDI or a 2.1-litre turbo-diesel with 125kW for the CLA220CDI.The best of the range averages 109g of CO2/km while the thirstiest, the CLA250, emits 144g. The diesels will be better, though Benz has not given official numbers.
Its suspension will also come from the A-Class, with MacPherson struts up front and a multilink rear suspension, though both the comfort and sport setups will be sportier than the A-Class setup.
Mercedes is hoping for five NCAP stars and has fitted the CLA with everything from drowsy-driver detection to radar collision systems.