New CLA To Be Sportiest Compact Mercedes Yet

New CLA is wider and longer than its predecessor

Bigger, tech-packed coupé will put dynamics to the fore and get a 404bhp flagship

Mercedes-Benz has promised that the second-generation CLA coupé, revealed at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, will offer the sportiest driving dynamics of its new wave of compact cars.

The new four-door coupé is due to arrive in the UK in June. It is built on a re-engineered version of the previous car’s platform and uses technology from the latest A-Class.

Available with front- and four-wheel drive and the choice of two rear suspension systems, the new machine was displayed at CES in CLA250 guise, featuring a 221bhp four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol engine, driven through a seven-speed automatic gearbox. The rest of the engine range is likely to mirror the A-Class, with 131bhp and 161bhp 1.3-litre petrols, a 187bhp version of the 2.0 petrol, a 114bhp 1.5 and 148bhp and 187bhp 2.0 diesels.

It will be available with front- and four-wheel drive and the choice of two rear suspension systems

A decoupled multi-link rear axle will be offered, with active adaptive damping available as an option. Wheel sizes will range from 16in to 19in.

At 4688mm long and 1830mm wide, the new CLA is 48mm longer and 53mm wider than its predecessor, and its 2729mm wheelbase has been extended by 30mm. Mercedes said this, along with the car’s lower centre of gravity, helps to ensure it has improved driving dynamics. The new CLA has also been honed in the wind tunnel to have a drag coefficient of 0.23, very close to the previous car’s 0.22 Cd despite a larger frontal area.

In its design, the new CLA has echoes of the A-Class and other recent new Mercedes, but with an elongated bonnet featuring a sharply raked nose, uniquely designed flat headlights and a prominent ‘powerdome’ on the bonnet. The sloping coupé roofline is emphasised by frameless doors. The rear of the car features narrow tail-lights designed to make the vehicle appear even wider.

The car’s larger dimensions have resulted in a more spacious interior, with 17mm of extra head room, although leg room remains broadly similar to the previous model’s and the boot has shrunk by 10 litres to 460 litres.

The CLA has the youngest average customers of all Mercedes models, so the firm has focused on a high-tech theme for the interior. The dashboard features a centrally mounted touchscreen and no cowl, with a ‘trench’ splitting out the lower section. It also has the newest version of the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) system, including ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice recognition control.

A new interior assist system enables gesture control of certain functions and it is said the car can detect whether the driver or passenger is using the touchscreen and react accordingly. Gesturing towards the rear-view mirror can also control the reading light.

As with the A-Class, the CLA also receives driver assistance systems originally seen on the most recent S-Class, allowing the machine to drive semi-autonomously for the first time. The systems fitted include active brake, lane keeping and lane change assistance systems along with Pre-safe Plus, which can detect an imminent rear-end collision and prepare the car for it.

The CLA will be offered at launch as a limited-run Edition 1, featuring a number of visual tweaks. UK trim and specifications have yet to be determined. The car will be manufactured at Mercedes’ Kacskemet plant in Hungary.

A shooting brake estate is due to follow later this year. Mercedes performance arm AMG is also working on a range-topping CLA45 model, featuring the most highly tuned, 415bhp version of the M260 2.0-litre petrol engine.
A 302bhp 2.0-litre CLA35 AMG is also planned.

JAMES ATTWOOD

 

HOW THE CLA HOPES TO SNARE YOUNGER BUYERS
James Attwood

How big is Texas? If you’ve ever wondered, good news: you’ll soon be able to Ask Mercedes. Next question: why did Mercedes-Benz choose to launch the new CLA at the CES technology show in Las Vegas rather than at the Detroit motor show? I’ll field that one: because of the car’s younger, tech-friendly audience. The CLA has been key to Mercedes increasing its appeal among more youthful buyers, particularly in the US, where the average CLA customer is 10 years younger than for any of its other models.

As a result, Mercedes has packed the CLA with plenty of tech, including the most advanced version of its Ask Mercedes system, which, the firm says, can now respond to “more complex queries”. Such as how big Texas is. (Spoiler alert: it’s 268,581 square miles.) Will that add appeal to customers used to talking to their phones? Hmmm, that’s one to ask Mercedes in a few years…