The main focus of Mercedes-Benz's presence here at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show will be the fully redesigned 2014 E-Class (and its too-hot AMG counterpart), but the German automaker did bring along another tasty little morsel for a sneak preview. Meet the new 2014 CLA-Class – a swoopy compact sedan based on the already successful new A-Class hatchback that'll be arriving Stateside in September of this year. Mercedes-Benz introduced its new entry-level car to the world at Detroit's Westin Book Cadillac hotel, but the CLA won't be making an appearance under the lights of Cobo Hall. Instead, the company will be shipping its new four-door off to be officially debuted to the public at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Berlin later this week, and its first official viewing at an auto show will be at the Geneva Motor Show.
And what a shame that is. We spent a few hours ogling the new CLA and it's sort of sad that show-goers in Detroit this week won't be able to do the same. It's an impossibly pretty car from every single angle, Mercedes-Benz showing it off here in a deep red and a flat gray, the latter with optional sport appearance goodies. Part of that attractiveness is thanks to how stylishly slippery the CLA is – it boasts a drag coefficient of just 0.23, making it the most aerodynamic series production vehicle in the world. (Take that, Prius!)
It's a nicely proportioned thing, too. It's roughly the same size as a C-Class, and the four-door coupe language works quite well here in a smaller package. Mercedes designers have done a fantastic job with this sleek design on the larger CLS, and it's arguably even better-looking here on this little guy. You really need to see the CLA in person to realize just how good it looks.When the 2014 CLA-Class launches in the United States this fall, it will initially come only in CLA250 guise, packing a turbocharged 1.8-liter inline-four good for 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive will be standard, but Mercedes-Benz will also be offering a retuned version of its 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. The company says that its AMG performance arm was heavily involved in the development of this new 4Matic architecture, and if that's the case, there's reason to expect good things. We'll have to wait a little longer for the full-on AMG package, previewed by the A45 AMG hatchback in Europe.
Inside, the CLA boasts the same levels of refinement found across its current lineup, and while you might think the cabin is a bit cramped – especially in the back – that isn't the case. No, those rear seats aren't what we'd call capacious (our apologies to taller passengers), but they aren't all that bad. And regardless, the interior is a comfy, cushy place.
Mercedes-Benz is hoping to attract a whole host of new buyers with the CLA-Class – people who would never have considered shopping the luxury automaker in the past. If the early accomplishments of the A-Class overseas are any indication (Mercedes-Benz says its launch of the A-Class was one of the most successful in the company's history), then perhaps this same magic can happen in the States with the CLA. And with pricing expected to fall around $30,000, that might not be too far-fetched of a thought.
The Style Rebel
MONTVALE, NJ – Mercedes-Benz is expanding its lineup with the all-new 2014 CLA-Class. The new four-door coupe is a style rebel that takes its design cues from the CLS, whose design concept has inspired more than its fair share of imitators since its debut in Detroit in 2003. This brand new vehicle features world-leading aerodynamics, avant-garde coupe design and with 4MATIC all-wheel drive (available Spring 2014). With its frameless doors, the four-door coupe seamlessly carries the design of the Concept Style Coupe into series production. The new model features COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST as a standard feature. At speeds above 4 mph, this radar-based braking system is able to warn the driver of obstacles and to anticipate braking force when the driver steps on the brake pedal. The all-new 2014 CLA250 arrives in U.S. dealerships Fall 2013.
"The response to the Concept Style Coupe was overwhelming. The most frequent comment by far was 'Please put this car into series production.' That's precisely what we are doing now," notes Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management for Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. "The CLA is a car that does not confuse 'mid-size' with 'mid-quality'. Its sporty design underscores the sporty side of the Mercedes-Benz brand."
The sporty CLA comes with a powerful turbocharged engine generating 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, as well as sport suspension and available 4MATIC all- wheel drive. The technical highlights of this new design icon include a new world record in aerodynamics for series production automobiles (Cd value: 0.23) and a wide range of driver assistance systems, including advanced COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST.
This radar-based assistance system provides the driver with visual and acoustic warnings of identified obstacles and primes Brake Assist for adaptive braking. Brake Assist is initiated as soon as the driver steps hard on the brake pedal. When the system identifies a risk of collision, COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST calculates the precise braking force ideally needed to avoid an accident and makes the best possible use of any distance remaining. Adaptive Braking Assist activates at speeds of just 4 mph and gives trailing vehicles as much time as possible to also react accordingly and avoid another accident.
There are four special equipment packages and a series of standalone options for individualizing the striking compact four-door coupe (length/width/height: 182.3/80.0/56.6 inches). In keeping with the digital lifestyle of the CLA's social media-savvy target group, smartphones can also be fully integrated into the vehicle's display and operating system via mbrace2, which is standard equipment.
Following a brief appearance on the eve of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the CLA will celebrate its official world premiere at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Berlin (January 15 to 18, 2013). The new CLA will arrive at U.S. dealerships in September 2013.
The style rebel - exterior design
Its sporty proportions and powerfully dynamic design language featuring the interaction of concave and convex surfaces give this four-door coupe its distinctive look. The CLA carries the avant-garde design of the Concept Style Coupe into series production almost 1:1.
Striking features include the hood with its power domes and the diamond-look grille. The arrangement of the headlights and LEDs behind the headlamp lens evokes the characteristic "flame effect" for the optional daytime running lights and indicators. This light signature is a key aspect of the car's energetic look and shapes a new, youthful Mercedes face.
A number of details indicate that the design of the CLA represents a further development of the modern classic Mercedes-Benz CLS. Three prominent lines give structure to the vehicle when viewed from the side - the front structural edge above the fenders flows toward the rear in a characteristic dropping line. Another, more sinewy line spans the shoulder muscle above the rear axle, while the third feature line extends in a sweeping curve from the front wheel toward the rear. Together, these lines lend depth and dynamism to the side profile.
The design of the rear end emphasizes the width of the CLA, expressing power and athleticism with the interaction of convex and concave surfaces and edges. The gently sloping roof contour and pronounced curve of the rear window retain the CLA's coupe-style character. The athletic look of the rear end comes from the drawn-in C-pillars paired with the shoulder muscle above the rear wheel arches. The tail lights are framed by the muscular shoulder lines extending into the back while the horizontal light layout emphasizes the car's powerful and visually striking breadth.
A large panorama sunroof is available as a standalone option. It consists of a fixed polycarbonate cover at the front, a glass moving panel and side trim elements to match the glass look. The visual effect is of a glass surface that extends all the way from the front to the rear windshield.
Premium look-and-feel - the interior
The exterior's progressive, sporty appearance also carries through to the vehicle interior. Anthracite surface finish is available as the standard trim. Additional trim options include burl walnut wood, black ash wood and aluminum.
The instrument panel incorporates five air vents. The outer rings of the vents are done in a high-quality galvanized finish, while a galvanized insert controls the direction of airflow. The free-standing display is set in black piano-lacquer trim and edged with a flush-fitting silver frame.
(Wind) resistance is futile - a new record Cd figure
With a Cd figure of 0.23, the CLA sets a new benchmark among not only Mercedes models, but also all series-production vehicles. The frontal surface area, Cd x A - which is crucial to aerodynamic resistance – also leads the field at 5.49 sq. ft.
The good air flow characteristics, which have a major impact on fuel consumption under everyday driving conditions, are the result of extensive aerodynamic optimization. These include a low A-pillar shoulder with adapted A-pillar geometry, aerodynamically optimized exterior mirrors, low-drag wheel trims and serrated wheel spoilers on the front and rear wheel arches.
Extensive underbody cladding, additional cladding at the center of the rear axle, an aerodynamically optimized muffler and a diffuser improve the flow of air beneath the underbody.
Smart safety - advanced assistance systems
An extensive array of standard and optional driver assistance systems in the CLA is available to the driver. Standard features include ATTENTION ASSIST drowsiness detection and radar-based COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST with adaptive Brake Assist, which offers collision protection in the CLA from speeds of just 4 mph.
The optional Driver Assistance package also offers DISTRONIC, as well as familiar safety systems including Blind Spot Assist and Lane Keeping Assist. PARKTRONIC with Advance Parking Assist enables autonomous parking in parallel and perpendicular parking spaces and is available as a standalone option.
Precision handling - the chassis and suspension
The CLA's running gear features McPherson strut suspension at the front and independent multilink suspension at the rear. Three control arms and one trailing arm at each of the rear wheels enable longitudinal and transverse forces to be handled separately. Specific to the CLA is the flexible decoupling of the rear axle sub-frame for improved ride characteristics. The wheel mounts and spring guides are made from aluminum in order to reduce unsprung masses. Standard equipment includes the Mercedes-Benz Sport Suspension for sporty yet comfortable handling.
The CLA also comes as standard with electromechanical power steering. Compared with conventional systems, this power steering system offers improved driver feedback and makes an important contribution to overall efficiency, as the power steering function draws energy only under active steering. It also facilitates various steering assistance functions activated by the ESP® control unit. These include counter-steering in the event of oversteer, corrective steering when braking on road surfaces with differing levels of grip (split-friction braking), minimization of torque steer and compensation for crosswinds and road gradients.
Both the front wheel drive and 4MATIC variants of the CLA250 are delivered on 17-inch, 5-spoke, two-tone wheels clad in all-season, run-flat tires. The Sport Package offers 18-inch AMG twin 5-spoke wheels and adds Sport body styling plus perforated front discs.
High levels of traction and outstanding agility - 4MATIC all-wheel drive
The Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is also available with a new generation of the 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive system featuring fully variable torque distribution. Like the other 4MATIC variants, this completely new development boasts high levels of traction and outstanding agility combined with excellent safety and energy efficiency.
The components of the new 4MATIC include the power take-off to the rear axle, which is integrated into the 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission, and the rear-axle gear set with an integrated electro-hydraulic, multi-disc clutch. This set-up enables fully variable distribution of drive between the front and rear axles. Additional benefits of this design are a lower system weight than that of competitor systems, as well as a high degree of efficiency.
All set for the future – a powerful and efficient drive
The CLA250 and CLA250 4MATIC both feature Mercedes-Benz's 2.0-liter four- cylinder gasoline engine with 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It comes with the ECO stop/start function as standard for added gas mileage and is mated to the 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission for an outstanding combination of sporty performance and comfort.
"Always on" - multimedia systems
The latest generation of multimedia systems in the CLA provides a wide array of functions, apps and graphics.
Like all models in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, the CLA comes with the brand's acclaimed connectivity service mbrace2, providing users with an extensive range of online and concierge services and apps all linking seamlessly to smartphones for use inside and outside the car. By using cloud technology, mbrace2 is always up to date and offers users wide-ranging and flexible access to content.
The CLA250 and CLA250 4MATIC both include the 5.8-inch display and Bluetooth as standard equipment. The central controller provides an all-access pass to an abundance of advanced technology. This can be upgraded to the 7- inch display with the Multimedia package featuring the COMAND system with hard-drive navigation, voice control, an SD card slot, an in-dash 6-disc CD/DVD changer, a 10GB music register, a rearview camera and SiriusXM Traffic & Weather.
Premium comfort – additional equipment options
As well as the Multimedia package and Driver Assistance package, the CLA250 and CLA250 4MATIC are also available with the Premium package for an even higher level of comfort and convenience. Its features include an iPod/MP3 media interface, SiriusXM satellite radio, the harman/kardon LOGIC 7 surround sound system, heated front seats, auto dimming mirrors, integrated garage door opener, dual-zone climate control and a compass.
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