Las Vegas - The second-generation Mercedes-Benz CLA has finally revealed itself to the world, looking more like a ‘CLS junior’ than ever.
In fact, the compact coupé-inspired four-door has also broken the shackles of the A-Class design idiom, no longer sharing its frontal design with the hatch that it’s ultimately based on. And it makes perfect sense that the CLA would become more distinctive, given that there is now a conventional sedan version of the A - freeing the CLA up to be lower, sleeker and sexier.
On that note, the CLA is a good 139mm longer and 7mm lower than the A-Class sedan, while riding on the same 2729mm wheelbase, and in practical terms it offers similar headroom in the front but 36mm less in the back thanks to that sloping roofline, while the boot actually swallows 40 litres more (460).
There is far more to this sleek new four-door than just looks - it packs a whole entourage of smart technology, which would explain why its maker chose to reveal it at the CES technology showcase in Las Vegas.
For starters, the CLA comes with the latest version of the new MBUX infotainment system that debuted in the A-Class, featuring artificial intelligence algorithms that adapt to driver preferences, and an advanced voice control system. In US market versions initially, the ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice assistant can apparently handle more complex queries, even something like “Which child-friendly Asian restaurants are nearby which are neither Chinese nor Japanese?”, as well as complex questions about sport, share prices and so on.
It also no longer gets confused by car occupants conversing, Mercedes claims.
Also on offer here is a smart new gesture control system that can detect whether the driver or passenger is using it, while Merc’s Energising Coach takes the Mercedes-Benz climate, massage, lighting and musical ‘wellness programme’ a step further by syncing with and making recommendations based on data from certain compatible Garmin wearables, including the new Mercedes-Benz vivoactive 3 Smartwatch that also made its debut at the CES show.
CLA can (sometimes) drive itself
Thanks to a raft of driver assistance gadgets inherited from its bigger brothers, the little four-door is also able to drive semi-autonomously in certain situations, with advanced camera and radar systems allowing it to see up to half a kilometre ahead. Active Lane Change Assist is available too, while enhanced Active Brake Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist are fitted as standard.
The CLA was revealed in Sin City in Edition 1 launch spec (with all its associated stylistic bits and bobs), and the vehicle is fitted with the firm’s 2-litre turbopetrol engine, rated at 165kW and 350Nm and mated to a 7G-DCT dual-clutch gearbox.
However, there will eventually be a broad range of petrol and diesel engines, Mercedes promises, some featuring 4Matic all-wheel-drive. No doubt, the definition of 'broad' here also extends to CLA 35 and CLA 45 AMG versions.
The CLA is fitted with a decoupled multi-link rear suspension system, and adaptive damping is optional.
Current indications are that the new CLA will arrive in South Africa either in late 2019 or early 2020.