2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class Specifications
Mercedes is readying a junior edition of its popular midsize CLS-Class “4-door coupe,” with many of the same desirable assets in a smaller, handier package. With edgy new styling and lively but economical 4-cylinder powertrains, the CLA should be hard to resist.
What It Is
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is a new premium-compact sedan with coupe-like styling. It’s essentially a smaller, more-affordable take on the brand’s successful CLS-Classpremium-midsize sedan, although the CLA has standard front-wheel drive, not rear drive. All-wheel drive will be available, however, as on the CLS.
Once rumored as the “CLC” and previewed by the Concept Style Coupe (CSC) special at the April 2012 Beijing Auto Show, the CLA is expected to start U.S. sale sometime in 2013. It should arrive a few months behind the American-market 2014 B-Class premium-compact car, a boxy 5-door hatchback whose basic architecture underpins the CLA. That platform also hosts Mercedes’ just-redesigned A-Class premium-compact car, which has been rumored for U.S. sale but not yet confirmed. CLA pricing and features are still some ways from being finalized, but sources expect Mercedes will launch the car in America with one or two gas-engine powertrains, then follow up in calendar 2014 with a hot-rod version developed by the company’s AMG performance division.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is part of an aggressive small-car initiative with which the venerable Stuttgart-based automaker hopes to reclaim the crown of world’s most popular and profitable premium-vehicle brand. (The title is currently held by Munich-based BMW, with Audi of Ingolstadt at number-two.) The effort encompasses the CLA sedan and redesigned A- and B-Class, plus a high-style sportwagon, the CLA Shooting Brake. Patterned on the upcoming CLS Shooting Brake, the smaller wagon is due to start European sale in calendar 2014, according to Britain’s weekly Autocar magazine. Slated to arrive over there in 2013 is a platform-sharing compact crossover SUV, the GLC. This will be sized and priced below the GLKto compete with BMW’s X1, which is now landing on American shores, and with Audi’s Q3, which has recently been confirmed for U.S. sale. The GLK is a probable 2014-model U.S. debut.
Last but not least, the CLA’s underpinnings will serve a new compact Infiniti sedan as part of a collaboration announced in 2010 between Mercedes and the Nissan-Renault alliance. (Infiniti is Nissan’s luxury brand.) That car is expected in America as a 2014 or ’15 model.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class Engineering and Powertrains
Despite riding the same MFA platform (Mercedes Front-wheel Architecture) as Stuttgart’s other new compacts, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class differs markedly in dimensions, thanks to its unique sedan styling. In fact, it’s not far removed from today’s C-Class premium-compact sedan, measuring some 1.4 inches lower, nearly 2 inches longer, and a whopping 4 inches wider. The CLA is also somewhat larger than the newly updated A-Class hatchback. The dimensional variations aren’t surprising, as MFA is one of those modern modular platforms that can be pulled like taffy to suit different vehicles, thus allowing all variants to roll down the same assembly line. From what we know of the redesigned A- and B-Class, MFA is engineered to be strong but relatively light, helped by fairly extensive use of aluminum, plastics, and other weight-saving materials.
Like its A- and B-Class sisters, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class will be offered exclusively with new-design 4-cylinder engines, though the choices will vary by market. Based on reporting by Autocar and Britain’s monthly CAR magazine, we’d guess the baby 4-door-coupe will come to America with a pair of 2.0-liter turbocharged powerplants: a 154-horsepower version for an entry-level CLA200 model and a 208-horsepower version for a step-up CLA250. Both engines will be sold in Europe with a fuel-saving engine stop/start function, and that feature could well be retained for U.S. versions. A 7-speed automatic will likely be the only transmission available in America, but it’s unclear whether that will be a conventional torque-converter unit or a dual-clutch automated manual that behaves in much the same way. We’d guess the latter will get the nod. The line-topping AMG version, expected to debut about a year after the mainstream-model launch, reportedly packs a high-output 340-horsepower 2.0 four and could be offered with manual and/or automatic transmission. It’s being tipped for the CLA45 AMG badge, honoring AMG’s 45th anniversary.
It bears mentioning that Mercedes is planning several “alternative” powertrains as future options for the hatchback B-Class. They comprise a battery-powered pure-electric drive, a gas/electric hybrid, a natural-gas engine, and a hydrogen fuel-cell system. Timing on all these is unclear, as is whether any of them would be offered in the largely style-driven CLA.
As a member of the MFA family, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class will ride a 4-wheel independent suspension with all-around coil springs, front struts, 4-link rear geometry, and antiroll bars at each end. Steering will have electrohydraulic assist, while brakes are the expected 4-wheel discs with ABS and Mercedes’ ESP integrated antiskid system with traction control. Stuttgart’s small-car initiative doesn’t stint on big-car features, so the CLA should offer most every electronic driving aid in the corporate cupboard. These are likely to include M-B’s Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control, Attention Assist drowsy-driver alert, blind-spot warning, lane-keeping assist, a new low-speed pedestrian/obstacle-warning system called Collision Prevention Assist, and an automatic parallel-parking system.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class Design and Features
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class will look very much the Concept Style Coupe preview. As company design chief Gordon Wagener told Autocar, the production model will be a few millimeters taller and narrower than the concept and will get slightly different door mirrors and headlamp styling. The only other change will be wheel size. The concept rolled on 20-inch rims, but we’d guess 18s will be the limit for retail sale, though the AMG edition might have 19s as standard or optional.
Wagener says the concept interior will also transfer to the showroom pretty much intact. The showcar cabin featured a CLS-type layout with 4 heavily bolstered bucket seats and a full-length center console, but Autocarsays that will be a possible extra-cost alternative to a standard 5-passenger package with rear bench seat.
Inside and out, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-class employs many of the same design cues as the new A-Class, but is intended to be even more edgy and youthful. Company CEO Dieter Zetsche terms CLA a “rebel,” referencing its assigned mission of attracting younger buyers to the tristar brand. Wagener says Zetsche himself decreed a more avant-garde look for the CLA. As he told Autocar, “Imagine how it feels as a designer to have the board [of directors] pushing you to design a ‘style rebel’ in the lineup…Our directive is to build cars that don’t all look alike…[and] so long as we keep the core values of Mercedes, we have the freedom to execute them in different ways.” Highlighting the CLA execution is what might be termed a “melted wedge” profile, with a stubby rear deck and compound-curve body sides punctuated by three sharp crease lines. The “soft nose” frontal styling provides visual linkage with other recently launched Mercedes, and there’s an aggressively sculpted lower facia with three air intakes. Those openings, plus the wide tristar grille, are filled with “diamond finish” inserts comprising a myriad of small chrome elements. Wedgy wraparound taillights echo the headlamp treatment and frame a trunk lid with a modest carved-in lip spoiler. A wide inverted-U form juts out slightly from the lower rear fascia to cradle the exhaust ports and has its own “diamond” insert.
Like the new A-Class, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class dashboard is dominated by a twin-pod gauge cluster ahead of the driver and a trio of circular air vents in the center, with a matching outboard vent at each end. The center vents surmount an array of infotainment switches. Climate controls sit below, in the forward end of the console, with Mercedes Comand infotainment knob situated where the gearlever would normally be. That’s because, as on some other recent Mercedes, the CLA shifter will be a short stick on the right of the steering column, actually an electronic switch. The usual in-dash navigation/infotainment screen is replaced by a pop-up or plug-in panel that sits atop the dash, slightly left of center. This works in concert with telematics and smartphone-integration features like those found in larger Mercedes. According to Car and Driver, these will include “a suite of downloadable apps” and “Internet connectivity via your phone…available on the main screen when the car is stationary.”
C/D also reports that the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class will be available with a panoramic sunroof featuring the automaker’s “Magic Sky Control” dimming feature, as offered on the latest SLK and SL roadsters. Other features remain to be seen, but we’d guess U.S.-market standard equipment will be roughly on par with that of C-Class coupes and perhaps even a touch more lavish. At a minimum you can expect power seats/windows/mirrors/locks, tilt and telescopic steering column, high-quality cloth upholstery, aluminum accent trim, and folding rear seat. Options, besides those already mentioned, should include keyless entry/engine start, leather upholstery, wood and/or carbon-fiber trim, heated seats, rear-side airbags, obstacle detection, navigation, rearview camera, and various custom-order paint colors and trim features.
Why It’s Being Built
Mercedes started the “4-door coupe” craze with the midsize CLS-Class, and that model’s surprisingly strong sales performance undoubtedly encouraged Stuttgart to do a smaller version with thoughts that lightning would strike twice. As noted, all the new MFA-based premium compacts are aimed at boosting overall sales and profitability, with the CLA-Class the most glamorous member of the clan. Though the new baby CLS is likely to cannibalize a few sales from the 2-door C-Class, it mainly targets Audi’s A5 Sportback hatch, which isn’t sold in America, and an expected Gran Coupe version of the latest F30 BMW 3-Series, which should come to America in 2014, perhaps sooner. Those rivals aside, the CLA will have no direct competition, as no premium-brand coupe-styled compact sedans are in the pipeline that we know of–though, of course, that could change if the CLA proves as big a hit as the CLS. Interestingly, the latest “fluidic sculpture” Hyundai Elantra is much the same idea, but without the premium-brand cachet–or spendiness.
What It Might Cost
Autocar expects the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class to price from £19,000 in UK-market trim. That’s $29,800 at current exchange rates, but presumably includes stiff British purchase taxes. Still, that sum is a sizeable $5,000 below the start point for the entry-level U.S.-market 2012 C-Class sedan, so it’s not inconceivable that the CLA would overlap the lower end of the C-Class line. All that said, we’d guess the CLA will open here at around $27,500, partly because of sourcing from a plant in lower-wage Hungary and partly because of the euro’s recent weakness against the dollar.
Design may be well down the list of car-buyer priorities now, or some surveys say, but it’s still a major sales driver, and that bodes well for the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class. Frankly, we think the car is gorgeous, and suspect many shoppers will agree. Add in superior fuel economy versus the larger, heavier CLS, plus the promise of brisk 4-cylinder performance, greater agility and all the usual Mercedes virtues–including brand snob appeal and high resale values–and it’s hard to see how the CLA can miss. It won’t be the roomiest or most practical small sedan, but that hasn’t hurt the latest Hyundai Elantra.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class Preliminary Specifications
Vehicle Type: premium-compact car
Drivetrain (CG estimates)
Drive wheels: front/all
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Torque: 185 pound-feet
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual
Dimensions (Concept Style Coupe)
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length: 182.5 inches
Width: 74.4 inches
Height: 55.0 inches
Base curb weight: 3,475 pounds (CG estimate).
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