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Mercedes uncovers new-generation CLA

Technology to the fore in Mercedes-Benz’ second-gen CLA four-door coupe

9 Jan 2019

MERCEDES-BENZ has chosen the technology-focused Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week instead of a traditional motor show to reveal its stylish second-generation CLA sedan that is due to hit Australian showrooms in the third quarter of this year.
However, with features such as an updated Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system that includes gesture control and a new ‘Energizing Coach’ function to individualise interior settings, the CLA is arguably more Silicon Valley than Detroit city.
Although styling of the swoopy four-door ‘coupe’ remains largely similar to its predecessor with a long bonnet, high waistline and sloping roof, the second-generation CLA now has sleeker headlights and a more chiselled front bumper.
The rear end is also updated with slimmer tail-lights and lower numberplate position, while a more prominent rear diffuser and integrated bumper can also be seen.
Measuring 4688mm long, 1830mm wide (excluding mirrors), 1439mm tall and with a 2729mm wheelbase, the new CLA has grown in every dimension with the exception of overall height which is 2mm lower than before.
The second-generation CLA is also roomier inside for both front and rear occupants, barring first-row legroom which is reduced by 1mm.
However, to accommodate more interior space for passengers, the boot capacity has taken a 10-litre penalty down to 460L, which is compensated by a deeper space and wider aperture.
Like most new Mercedes models in recent times, the CLA will be available with an Edition 1 pack for the first 12 months on sale that adds a number of cosmetic tweaks.
But it is the changes to the interior which are most noticeable thanks to the inclusion of the updated MBUX infotainment system.
According to Mercedes, “all (interior) elements are arranged according to the overarching design themes of ‘high tech’ and ‘youthful avant-garde’” – which is centred around a freestanding widescreen display to house the all-digital instrumentation and MBUX.
Largely mirroring its A-Class sibling, the CLA interior also features turbine-inspired air vents, a wraparound brushed metal design element, advanced multi-function steering wheel, new infotainment touchpad controller and ambient lighting.
Building on the debut of MBUX at last year’s CES, the updated version in the CLA offers better natural language speech recognition and, according to Mercedes-Benz Cars member of the divisional board for CASE (Connected, Autonomous, Shared, Electric) and head of digital vehicle and mobility Sajjad Khan, “is able to recognise and answer considerably more complex queries”.
“What’s more, the voice assistance no longer gets confused by other passengers conversing,” he said. “Instead, it only responds to the commands of the person who last said, ‘Hey Mercedes’ to activate the system.”
MBUX remains a drawcard but the new CLA’s Interior Assist handsfree gesture controls are sure to draw plenty of attention on the show floor at CES this week.
Mercedes says the Interior Assist system is functional in both high and low light situations and “enables the adaption of screen content as soon as a hand approaches the touchscreen in the dashboard or the touchpad on the centre console”.
The gesture controls also extend beyond the infotainment system, as extending a hand to the rearview mirror will also turn on or off the reading lamps and reaching over to an unoccupied front seat will automatically turn on the lights.
Finally, a unique V-shaped hand gesture can also be programmed to function as a shortcut to a number of operations such as navigating to a home address.
The new Energizing Coach function, meanwhile, can control climate settings and seat (heating, cooling, massaging) and lighting systems that “enables a specific wellness set-up tailored to the mood and need of the customers”.
The Energizing Coach system can also be paired to a compatible smartwatch for readings about the driver’s quality of sleep, stress levels and heart rate to ease commuting.
The new CLA was revealed in 250 form, powered by a 165kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, but more variants including a base 200 and range-topping AMG-fettled 45 are expected to emerge down the line.
Paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the CLA250 will return a fuel consumption figure of 6.1-6.3 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, while CO2 emissions are rated at 140-143g/km.
If the CLA line-up mirrors its mechanically related A-Class hatchback sibling, an Audi S3 sedan-rivalling CLA35 could also be in the works motivated by a 225kW/400Nm engine, while a plug-in hybrid powertrain could also materialise.
Underpinned by a multi-link rear suspension set-up in CLA250 guise, Benz’s latest sedan has a 63- and 55mm-wider track front and rear respectively compared with its predecessor, while adaptive dampers are available as an option. 
Safety systems in the new-generation CLA have also been upgraded with technology such as adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, active lane-change assist and rear pre-collision warning.
Daimler AG member of the board of management responsible for Mercedes-Benz cars marketing and sales Britta Seeger said the new-generation CLA is expected to continue the success of its predecessor.
“The new edition of the CLA has been developed further in an intelligent way and is even more emotional and sportier than its predecessor,” she said. “Coupled with new operating systems, it sets new benchmarks for the entire class.”
The original CLA was launched globally in 2013 and was crucial in luring new and younger buyers to the premium German brand, amassing around 750,000 sales in its lifetime.
In Australia, the CLA finished last year as the fourth most-popular Mercedes-Benz model with 3086 sales behind the C-Class (sedan, coupe, wagon and convertible body styles) on 6575 units, the GLC mid-size SUV that found 5605 new homes and the GLA crossover (3906).
Competing in the over $60,00 mid-size luxury car class, the CLA finished in second behind its C-Class stablemate and just seven units ahead of the third-placed BMW 3 Series (3079).


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