Scheduled for a Singapore launch in Q4 2019, the smallest “coupe” to wear the three-pointed star is basically a smartphone shaped like a car
Mercedes-Benz may have built its reputation on large luxury saloons, but these days it’s doubling down on the compact class. As we reported last year, the platform that spawned the A-Class hatchback will eventually see service in eight separate models.
So far, we’ve driven the A 200 in Singapore (as well as the first of two AMG variants), and the B-Class mini-MPV in Spain; poked around the China-only A-Class L Sedan in Beijing, and previewed the regular-sized A Sedan.
Now, the fifth member of the “family” has arrived, the new second-generation CLA four-door coupe. This means that, together with the A-Class Sedan there will soon be two four-door baby Benzes for buyers to choose from.
Considering a proper A Sedan has now come on song to take care of family-oriented buyers, it’s a bit disappointing to see that the company hasn’t chosen to make the CLA even more coupe-like and sporty (the previous one was essentially the small Merc saloon substitute, remember).
The front end looks distinctly similar to the A-Class, although the CLA’s rear end does ape its much bigger brother, the CLS.
The interior is identical to the A-Class too, featuring the same tiered dashboard, twin-screen display setup, and jet turbine aircon vents.
Compared to its predecessor, the CLA is now 48mm longer, 53mm wider, and 2mm lower, with a 30mm longer wheelbase, so it looks less dumpy than before.
It’s also longer, wide and lower than the A-Class Sedan (4688 vs 4549mm long, 1830 vs 1796mm wide and 1439 vs 1446mm tall), but its wheelbase is the same, which will inevitably make for a slightly more cramped-feeling experience in the CLA. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of how they look:
As far as engines go, the only one Mercedes has mentioned so far is the 2.0-litre turbo four-pot in the CLA 250, with 225hp and 350Nm, but as is the way with the brand, you can definitely expect both more and less powerful versions to follow, such as a CLA 180/200, and AMG 35/45.
Interestingly, that’s all that Mercedes has mentioned so far that’s car-like about the CLA. Almost all other information reads like a smartphone, rather than a car launch.
That’s primarily because the Siri-like onboard assistant, MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User eXperience), is cleverer than ever.
For example, it can now recognise and distinguish between single voices, responding only to the person who last said the activation phrase “Hey Mercedes”, instead of getting confused by passengers holding a conversation.
MBUX can now also understand and answer significantly more complex queries, both in terms of specificity (“Hey Mercedes, find child-friendly Asian restaurants nearby with 4-star rating which are neither Chinese nor Japanese.”), as well as across more categories like sport (“How did the San Francisco 49ers play? ’), the stock exchange (“Compare the share price of Apple to Microsoft”), calculations (“What is the square root of 3?”) or general knowledge (“What is the fat content of avocados?”).
That’s right, in addition to transportation, the CLA (and subsequent models featuring MBUX) can also be your newscaster, encyclopedia, and math teacher all rolled into one.
This may sound like plenty of complicated functionality for a car, but at least Mercedes has tried to make it has intuitive to use as possible.
Gesture control is something we’ve derided in the past for being overly finicky and imprecise to use, but in the CLA, it’s simplified; just move your hand toward the touchscreen and your more commonly used functions will be highlighted to make them easier to select.
The system can even detect to whom the hand belongs to – driver or passenger – to make actions like adjusting the seat massager or climate control easier.
MBUX also accepts the programming of a favourite command to a specific “favourites” gesture (hold your middle and index fingers up in a V shape), such as navigating home or selecting a specific radio station, which sounds like a nifty shortcut to have.
No pricing or launch details are available yet for the CLA, local distributor Cycle & Carriage estimates a Singaporean debut for Q4 of this year.
Looking forward, we can probably expect the rest of the Baby Benz family to be revealed at the various major international motorshows over the course of the year, starting with a CLA Shooting Brake, which has been spied undergoing tests, followed by a new GLA compact crossover.
The final piece of the puzzle, we guess, could be a new electric model, under Mercedes’ new EQ sub-brand.