Mercedes is touting its new CLA-Class as "a real Mercedes. But not as you know it." The new mid-size four-door coupe is designed to bring the three points into a new demographic of garages, broadening Mercedes' appeal to a younger generation of buyer. The CLA is essentially a baby CLS, which Mercedes says is Germany's best-selling luxury car. The four-door, based on last year's Concept Style Coupe, was revealed at a preview event on the night before this year's North American International Auto Show.
"We aim to reach new target groups with the CLA – including those who never wanted to drive a Mercedes," said Dr Joachim Schmidt, executive vice president Mercedes-Benz cars, sales and marketing, in a statement.
Mercedes pins those hopes on sporty styling that it refers to as "rebel" and "avant-garde." Like the Style Coupe concept, the CLA has a sporty flair defined by a sloped profile and interplay between concave and convex surfaces. Three distinct lines carved across the flanks team together to give the car a sophisticated, dynamic look.
Meanwhile, the rear quarter and its subtle haunches are designed to convey a sense of power to the eye, letting you know the CLA is ready to burst forward when rallied into action. The panoramic sunroof that connects front and rear windshields is available as an option.
The CLA-Class's flowing curves pay off with a drag coefficient of 0.23, which Mercedes says is the lowest of any series-production vehicle. Those airflow characteristics should ensure that the 208-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder will be able to deliver riveting performance while getting the most out of the gas in the tank. The engine is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and available with a 4MATIC permanent all-wheel-drive system.
Mercedes uses a combination of McPherson strut suspension up front, independent multi-link suspension in back, electromechanical power steering, and flexible decoupling of the rear axle sub-frame to give the youthful CLA buyer a ride that should be lively and spry.
The CLA-Class comes standard with safety assistance systems, including the Attention Assist drowsiness detection and radar-based Collision Prevention Assist with adaptive Brake Assist. Other technologies like Blind Spot Assist and Lane Keeping Assist can be added optionally.
The CLA supports the connected lifestyle with Mercedes' mbrace2 connectivity platform that connects to the cloud for apps and concierge services. The car will also include Mercedes' new Apple Siri integration. A 5.8-inch display and Bluetooth come standard, and the optional 7-inch display with the Multimedia package brings the COMAND system with hard-drive navigation, voice control, an SD card slot, an in-dash 6-disc CD/DVD changer, a 10 GB music register, a rear-view camera and SiriusXM Traffic & Weather.
The CLA will become the entry point for the Mercedes-Benz brand when it goes on sale in September 2013 (4MATIC version in 2014), and Mercedes describes the price point as "unexpected." It will reveal just how unexpected in a Super Bowl commercial next month.
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