A whole generation of cars, in a variety of sub-segments has spawned ever since the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class made its debut back in 2004. The four door coupe made a big dent in the automotive design universe, questioning those who believed that the words ‘coupe’ and ‘four-door’ cannot be spoken in the same breath. The big saloon, with a swooping roofline captured the imagination of the filthy rich, creating a fantastic success story for itself, and leaving a trail of clues for the rivals to flatter M-B with imitation. Some of the best known cars of our generation, including, but not limited to the Audi A7 Sportback, BMW 6-series Gran Coupe and even the super successful X6 have all taken cues from the bigger CLS.
It’s been more than a decade since the car first made its appearance. And the clamor for its authentically rebellious lines has only increased with time. However crazy and functionally impaired that dropping roofline may have sounded upon its origin, it has passed the toughest test, that of time with authority. This form is here to stay, and defines the single biggest design revolution for the cars in its time and generation.
So when the whole of the automotive world is doing its bit to copy the CLS’s roofline is a slightly different way and call it their own, Mercedes-Benz, too realizes the relevance and appeal of this relatively new styling language. To implement it across the length and breadth of its product range and especially in the more accessible categories is only a natural progression.
And thus, the CLA. A mini-me version of sorts, of the CLS. The car which made its concept debut in 2012, and got launched in 2013 is finally here to take the style quotient to a new level among its peers. A democratic representation of the most revolutionary expression in automotive design, the CLA is out here to redefine what one should expect from a premium car in its price range stylistically. If looking cool is what you buy a premium car for, this new car is going to make you think hard before you put your money anywhere else.
Design and style
Sure, that beautiful dropping roof-line isn’t very conducive for the health of them tall guys’ heads. It’s been bashed for having put form over function, which isn’t a very good thing, but the CLA has its own, very strong retort. The rather compact four-door mocks its detractors by being the slipperiest production car in the universe. With an incredibly low drag coefficient of .22 cd, the CLA holds the world record for being the most aerodynamically correct production automobile. The CLA, then is resisted less by the air as it moves, saving precious fuel every inch it moves and killing less butterflies in the process. Let a few heads get mildly hurt for the noble cause.
Sharing its face with the swashbuckling A-class to a large extent, the CLA has a swagger of its own. Low, squat with that aggressive snout, those power bulges on the bonnet and those boomerang LED’s – the CLA looks decidedly sportier than anything in its class as it crosses you in the opposing lane. I realized how good it looked when I saw one zoom by on the highway during the media drive event.
The shape of the CLA’s grille is the same as the A-Class. The glittery diamonds on the latter have been replaced by glossy black studs here for distinction, and a bit of cost saving too. The avant-garde grill with a satin silver slat with shiny chrome on top, holding the big triple pointed star with pride in the middle makes the CLA look absolutely smashing. Aggressive central and side air dams further enhance the CLA’s sporty appearance. Those pronounced creases atop the bonnet, or what Mercedes prefers calling power domes have been used outside of an AMG product for the first time.
On the sides, in addition to that sharply dipping roofline, the two creases shared with the S-Class and the C-class make an appearance on the CLS as well. Adding tremendous tension and athleticism to the car’s profile, those lines endow the CLA with a sense of motion even when it’s at a standstill. The greenhouse is lined with thick, hi-quality chrome. The 5-spoke two-tone 17 inch wheels look sporty and add vastly to the CLA’s appeal. The crease emanating from the tail lamps, converging half-way into the rear door lends the CLA a pair of sculpted haunches. I particularly like how the boot deck, with its integrated spoiler looks in profile. Adds a touch of performance oriented visual character to the car discreetly, yet assertively.
Still talking about the sides, those frame-less doors look astonishing, but that’s something you get to behold only when the car is on the standstill and the doors are swung open. The CLA won’t be caught in that state too often, not while it’s on the move, but every time it does, it’ll make a big statement.
The rear is dominated by that curvy LED tail-lamp, which looks fantastic when lit. A black diffuser beneath the rear bumper, accentuated by chrome and flanked by twin trapezoidal exhausts lends the CLA’s behind a distinctive, premium, aggressive air.
Those sharply styled head lamps with bi-Xenon illumination and boomerang shaped LED DRLs look positively mean.
Curvy, all-LED tail lamps add a lot of oomph to the hind side, especially when lit.
Although not an AMG model, aggressive central and side air dams on the front bumper further enhance the CLA’s sporty appearance.
AMG-specific power domes on the bonnet have been used outside of an AMG product for the first time.
The black diffuser beneath the rear bumper is accentuated by a chrome strip and flanked by twin trapezoidal exhausts.
Classy, 5-spoke two-tone 17 inch wheels, wrapped around by 225 section tubeless tires.
Sexy, frame-less doors look astonishing, but one can only behold ’em when they are swung open.
BMW Shark Fin style rear antenna looks the part, but isn’t color coded.
Power-train and performance
The CLA, upon its launch will be offered with two engines options. Petrol power comes in the form of an 2.0 liter 4-cylinder petrol engine with 184PS of power produced at 5500 rpm. The engine also produces 300 rpm of torque between 1200-1400 rpm. There is also a 2143cc turbo diesel on offer with 136bhp of power output @ 3600-4400 rpm with torque output rated at 300Nm between 1600 and 3000 rpm. Both engines come mated with the 7G-DCT dual clutch transmission with ECO, Manual and Sport modes to select from and steering mounted pedal shifters for manual shifts.
We drove the CLA in both the flavors during Mercedes’ media drive event. Let’s begin with the less powerful diesel engine first. The power output of 136bhp isn’t too high and resultantly the diesel powered CLA isn’t a particularly quick car. There is a fair bit of engine noise filtering into the cabin too. The upside however, is the linear nature of the engine, delivering bushels of torque from as low as 1300 rpm and endowing the CLA with great cruising capabilities with very low consumption.
The diesel CLA does its 0-100km/h sprint in a little less than 10 seconds, which isn’t very quick. The ARAI certified fuel efficiency of 17.9 kmpl is segment leading though. As we discovered during the drive, the 2.1 liter engine is a fine companion for stress free, relaxed cruising with a high fuel efficiency output. It’s got ample torque for reassuring overtakes when required; it doesn’t like being hustled though.
The 2.0 liter petrol variant, however, is a fine performer. The 0-100km/h timing for this one is 7.8 seconds, and the fuel efficiency figure, at 15.04 kmpl is impressive for the engine size. Redlined at 5700 rpm, this engine isn’t a particularly high revving one, but has plenty of shove at hand. Unlike the relatively unhurried diesel, the petrol powered CLA feels sporty and intent. The difference in acceleration is very evident right from the word go. With its higher output and no forced induction, the petrol engine feels a more natural option for the athletically styled CLA. We could have done with a sportier sound note and bit more rev-happiness for the engine though.
As mentioned before, both engines come mated with the 7G-DCT dual clutch transmission. While Mercedes-Benz have adopted the twin clutch technology for their mainstream cars with the DCT, they still have to hone it a bit more to make it work at the blazing fast speeds we have come to expect from rival transmission systems. It does a great job of swapping ratios efficiently and intelligently in the auto mode and doesn’t leave much to complain about for everyday driving. However, once you let the racer instincts within gather force and demand extreme performance, the transmission leaves you somewhat wanting for more. Response to kickdowns takes a teeny bit, which is acceptable in most cases, but sometimes when you’re really gunning for it, makes you wish it were that slight bit quicker.
The CLA comes equipped with auto start/stop to save fuel wherever possible. There are Eco / Manual / Sport modes to choose from. As you’d expect looking at those names, the ECO mode enhances efficiency to the fullest, while Sport mode ensures maximum engine-transmission performance with some alterations made to the steering as well. Manual mode lets the driver hang on to a specific rev for as long as he wants, disallowing up-shifts. Of the two cars, the petrol variant, quite naturally, is the pick of the two options for its superior performance. The diesel CLA is practical and efficient, but it can’t bring that wicked grin on your face.
Ride and handling
Mercedes-Benz have worked extensively on the suspension of the CLA to ensure that it suits the requirements of the Indian customers particularly well. The engineers have really gone all out to make sure that the CLA doesn’t have the stiff ride quality the A and B-Class were criticized to an extent for. The ride height has also been raised marginally to let the CLA sail smoothly over the turbulent Indian roads. And what an exemplary job have they pulled off! The CLA absolutely astonishes with its ability to flatten any impediments the notorious Indian roads may throw at it.
During our test run, impressed with the exceptional poise exhibited by the CLA over some broken roads, we took it to an entirely tattered stretch to torture test its abilities, and the car ensured that our high opinion about its exceptional suspension did not change one bit. So impressive have been the results of the fine-tuning of the suspension that Mercedes-Benz India is contemplating giving the 2015 versions of the A, B and GLA – Class a similar tune-up treatment. Of the two variants on offer here, the diesel feels a bit more nose heavy as compared to the petrol. Thanks to the added weight it feels ever so marginally softer than the petrol version. The lighter petrol variant feels very mildly more firm.
The petrol version also feels a wee bit more nimble and balanced than the diesel powered option. When pushed around tighter bends, the petrol version also feels a more neutral exhibiting less understeer. The steering on both cars is medially weighed at slow to medium speeds. It gathers weight as you build speed, though doesn’t feel as heavy as on some of the other German cars.
Just like the suspension, the steering also insulates you from the information about what’s being trampled by those 225-section Yokohamas. The feel and feedback at the wheel isn’t something great to write home about though it’s quite precise and allows you to place the car confidently while handling bends. High speed stability in a straight line is not a bother. Wavy undulations on a confined stretch of deserted road, at a very high speed saw us getting momentarily airborne in the CLA. Neither did the CLA bottom out, nor did it lose its line upon landing, which says a lot about the capabilities of its underpinnings.
Thanks to its power output, the petrol version of the CLA presents itself as a thoroughly enjoyable car to drive. Even with its front wheel drive layout, it feels nimble and is easy to break traction and put into a slide. Given a smooth surface, the CLA in the petrol guise should be able to put a big smile on the faces of those who know how to play with it.
Interior and Features (in details):
The CLA Class shares its immaculately built cabin with the A and B class to a large extent. The turbine shaped five air-con vents on the dashboard, steering wheel, the door panels, the space between the seats – almost everything is shared between the three models.
There’s a very clearly perceptible solidity about the Mercedes-Benz cabins, and the perception has only strengthened with the newer models.
The quality of materials used among other things is where mainstream Mercedes cars really stand out, and the CLA is no different.
So while most bits on the dash of the CLA are shared with its smaller A and B class siblings, the infotainment system, what Mercedes-Benz likes calling NTG-5 version is an upgrade over the NTG version 4.5 that the older cars ran.
The freestanding central screen is now bigger at 17.8 cm, more hi-resolution and boasts a bunch of new features.
To start with, it supports two USB slots now, and also has an SD card slot which powers the maps for the upgraded Garmin sat-nav.
The new maps feature more than 10.3 million points of interest and are superior to the previous gen system in many ways.
The new screen also allows for showing photos, and playing them in a slideshow. You can now use the screen to browse the internet using your phone’s internet connection via Bluetooth.
A couple of new Mercedes-Benz apps have also been added to the interface, though these require a strong and constant internet connectivity to function properly.
The sporty front seats the pronounced side bolstering look great. A satin silver accent highlighting the gap between the backrest and headrest offers contrast and character to the black ‘Artico’ leather seats.
Overall, the front seats are quite comfortable and offer great lateral support, though a bit more of thigh support would have been nice.
Panoramic sunroof is offered standard, and features rain sensors for an auto-shut function on detecting water.
Our test cars came with all black interiors with textured wavy silver inserts on the dashboard, which looked and felt great to touch. There were a few test cars with a beige interior too, but we hear those cars will not be available to the customers upon launch.
Harman Kardon Logic 7 surround sound system comes as standard with the CLA, and as you would assume, sounds fantastic.
Twin-pod, SLS AMG inspired, instrument cluster looks neat, and is carried over from the A Class.
The car also features ambient lighting which can be controlled via the infotainment system.
Illuminated Mercedes-Benz branding on the door sills further ups the cool quotient in dark.
The space at the backseat, thanks to the stylish roof-line, has taken a hit. The headroom is a bit of an issue and the six footers would find their heads constantly brushing with the CLA’s roof.
The backseats also don’t get adjustable headrests, though, interestingly, the central headrest is adjustable.
Legroom, though manageable is not generous. Rear seats like their frontal counterparts, are sportily designed in a bucket shape and along with a lack of width mean that the CLA can seat only two in the backseat.
The CLA class doesn’t have a rear A/C vent, nor does it have a dual zone climate control.
The AC by itself is quite powerful though and did a good job of cooling the cabin quickly enough on an unusually hot Goa day in January.
We also realized that the grab handles above the front doors are missing.
The door panels have space for a full sized water bottle and plenty more.
The relatively lack of space in the backseat aside, there is no dearth of cubbyholes and small storage spaces in the CLA.
The armrest between the front seats contains a reasonably large storage area with two cup-holders ahead of it.
Decent sized glove-box isn’t illuminated from the inside.
But what takes the cake really is the 470 liters of boot space, which is unmatched in the class. Unfortunately a big percentage of that space is taken up by the space saver spare which sits atop the boot floor.
The CLA class will be imported to India via the CBU route for the first couple of months, so don’t expect A3 bashing prices. M-B India will start assembling the car locally by April 2015, but the prices are not expected to go down significantly even then. We’ll reserve the final word till 22nd January, which is the launch date of the car.
What we can say conclusively for now, though, is that the CLA has style, quality and features as its strong USPs. For the style and image conscious, the CLA doesn’t quite have a match, and if the premium segment is all about image, the CLA should tower above all its rivals.
Mercedes-Benz CLA 200 CDI Technical Specifications
|POWER||100 KW @ 3600-4400 RPM|
136 HP @ 3600-4400 RPM
134 BHP @ 3600-4400 RPM
|TORQUE||221 lb-ft @ 1600-3000 RPM|
300 Nm @ 1600-3000 RPM
|FUEL SYSTEM||Common-rail Direct Injection|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||107 g/km|
|TOP SPEED||220 km/h|
|ACCELERATION 0-62 MPH (0-100 km/h)||9.9 seconds|
|FUEL EFFICIENCY||17.9 kmpl (ARAI certified)|
|DRIVE TYPE||Front Wheel Drive|
|TRANSMISSION||7G-DCT dual-clutch automatic transmission|
|FRONT brakes||Ventilated Discs|
|REAR brakes||Solid Discs|
|TIRE SIZE||205/55 R 16|
|FRONT/REAR TRACK||1,549/1,547 mm|
|GROUND CLEARANCE||94 mm|
|CARGO VOLUME||470 L|
|UNLADEN WEIGHT||1505 kg|
|GROSS WEIGHT LIMIT||1985 kg|