Mercedes-Benz unveils new CLA
Mercedes-Benz has taken the unprecedented step of revealing an all-new model at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas with the official unveiling of the second-generation CLA four-door coupe.
The German brand has used the world’s biggest gadget expo for more than a decade in order to release information - either in concept or production form - of new technologies such as advances in connectivity or autonomy.
It is not alone either, with rival brands such as Audi, BMW, Hyundai, Kia and Nissan also showcasing new ideas at the CES. But, by choosing to reveal the all-new CLA in Vegas rather than next week’s Detroit Motor Show (which Mercedes will skip), it has become the first to debut a complete new model, finally proving the expo is a genuine alternative to traditional automotive shows even though it is strictly a trade event and not open to the general public.
In any case, the second-generation CLA isn’t as radical a departure from the norm as it largely follows the same formula as its popular (particularly in the USA) predecessor - retaining its sleek four-door coupe profile thanks to its low and swoopy roofline. But it is physically larger than before with a more spacious cabin that brings even more features from the ground-breaking MBUX connectivity system, plus the latest in semi-autonomous safety and improvements in efficiency through wind-cheating aerodynamics and economical powertrains.
The CLA is the latest model to be revealed among Mercedes’ all-new compact car family, joining the A-Class hatch that is already on sale in Australia and the sedan and high-roofed B-Class hatch due to land in showrooms before the middle of the year. It will be followed by a replacement for the GLA SUV as well as the rumoured new GLB that is set to take inspiration from the iconic G-Wagen as a more rugged city-sized SUV.
At its global reveal in Las Vegas, Mercedes-Benz only displayed the CLA250 with a 2.0-litre turbo charged four-cylinder that produces 165kW of power and 350Nm of torque and drives the front wheels through a revised seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, but it said a wide range of engine configurations will be available when production commences from May at the Hungarian plant where it is constructed.
The CLA is due to arrive in Australia not long after that (around August) and, although Mercedes-Benz Australia has yet to reveal full details, it will likely be offered in three model grades, starting with the entry-level, front-wheel drive CLA180, mid-spec C200 and the more powerful, all-wheel drive C250 exclusively offered with Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel drive transmission.
Beyond that, Mercedes-AMG is also expected to reveal the CLA45 and CLA45 S at the Geneva motor show in March. Both will be powered by a 2.0-litre turbo charged four-cylinder and feature all-wheel drive, with the standard version producing 275kW while the S will generate 310kW and have the ability to accelerate from 0-100km/h in under four seconds.
All variants will be built around Mercedes’ lighter yet larger MFA platform, with the CLA measuring 4688mm long, 1830mm wide and 1439mm high while riding on a wheelbase that has 2729mm between the front and rear axles. In comparison to the original, it is 48mm longer, 53mm wider, 2mm lower and the wheelbase is 30mm longer than before, resulting in improved interior space with 17mm of additional headroom for front-seat occupants, 3mm more in the rear and double-digit increases in shoulder and elbow room for all.
Surprisingly, considering the boot is both wider (by 113mm) and deeper (by 24mm) than its predecessor, and with a much wider opening (by 262mm), Mercedes says the actual total cargo carrying capacity is 10L less than before at 460L.
The physical increase in size has meant the original CLA retains its title as the most aerodynamic passenger car to date, but Mercedes-Benz says even more attention was paid to the new model in order to achieve its drag co-efficient figure of 0.23, with the car featuring active shutters behind the grille, fine-tuned details within the air intakes and wheel arches, a flat bottom underneath the vehicle and an ultra-efficient rear bumper.
Inside the cabin, the CLA features the same dashboard design as the A-Class hatch, which is dominated by the widescreen cockpit display that sandwiches two 10.25-inch colour screens together for the cutting-edge MBUX system with its ‘Hey Mercedes’ digital assistant.
In the CLA, the system has been further enhanced with predictive gesture controls; the system prepares common functions when a hand approaches the touch screen or touch pad in the centre console, and recognises whether it is from the driver or passenger; owners can program a pre-set favourite (such as directions home) and access it immediately by displaying a V with two fingers over the touch pad; the roof-mounted reading light automatically switches on by pointing at the rear-view mirror; and the passenger footwell is illuminated if it recognises the driver is attempting to reach over the centre console.
Mercedes claims the MBUX system has improved natural voice recognition and can comprehend more complex situations than before, while owners that wear a Garmin vivoactive 3 Smart Watch (which was revealed alongside the CLA at CES) can share personal details with the car - such as heart rate - to link with the Energizing Coach function that can alter the mood of the cabin by manipulating the air conditioning, seat heating, ventilation and massage, music and ambient lighting.
Like the A-Class hatch, the CLA can be equipped with a comprehensive suite of active safety features to match the latest S-Class limousine with automated emergency braking and lane keeping assistance as standard on every model, while adaptive cruise control that is linked to GPS sat nav data and has semi-autonomous functionality in heavy traffic, as well as multi beam LED headlights, will also available.
Local prices and specifications of the Mercedes-Benz CLA will be revealed closer to its launch. Stay tuned to drive.com.au for full details.
As Editor in Chief of the Drive Network, Amac is one of Australia's most experienced automotive journalists with more than 25 years experience in newspapers, magazines, broadcasting and digital media.