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The glamour puss of the baby Mercedes family, the CLA four-door coupe, is new again.
It’s the next step in a small-car family that starts with the latest A Class and will eventually grow to include everything up to the GLA baby SUV.
The unveiling of the style master to coincide with the Consumer Electronics Show in the USA, where Mercedes is also highlighting its all-electric EQC production car, shows the youthful focus of the car.
It’s intended for new arrivals in the Benz family who are lured by the design of the car and also its technology.
The shape is new and more refined than the previous CLA, which was the first of its type. Inside, it picks up the basic layout and design of the A Class that’s already on sale in Australia, but adds the bells-and-whistles impact.
Pricing for the CLA is likely to follow the current model, which has a starting sticker of $49,400, although if it follows the A Class pattern there will be an increase that’s offset by extra standard equipment. The top-end CLA 45, the smallest of the hotrod AMG family, should still slide in below $100,000.
“The car will be here this year. But it will be late,” the spokesman for Mercedes-Benz Australia, David McCarthy, confirmed to Australian Business Traveller.
“It won’t go down in price but, like the A Class, the level of standard technology will be very significant."
“There will be a full suite of models. We don’t know yet which models we will be taking but it will definitely include the CLA 45 AMG.”
Apart from the design work on the car, including power bulges in the bonnet and a number plate that sits lower in the tail, Benz is touting technology including gesture control.
“Now we go to the next level with an intelligent interior assistance system for the compact class. By recognising gestures it facilitates natural operation,” says Ola Kallenius, the former AMG boss who now heads research-and-development for the whole Daimler group.
“This is not the only new feature by which the CLA offers a great deal of automotive intelligence.”
Benz has already introduced its ‘Hey Mercedes’ system, fitted to the A Class, which reacts to voice commands and also has artificial intelligence to learn and react to the owner’s needs.
In Australia, McCarthy says the CLA plays an important role in attracting new owners to the brand.
“CLA has just about the youngest ownership group. And this new model, with the technology and design and connectivity - and also the fact that the vehicle was unveiled at CES - is a reflection of that.
“Sales of the CLA in Australia have been very strong. It’s provided a vehicle that is very different to the A-Class, and B-Class and GLA. These are people that want a vehicle that is more stylish and more reflective of their personality."
“It’s brought a whole group of new buyers to the brand. It’s important that we have the successor to the original car, because other brands will try to snaffle those owners. Keeping them in the Mercedes-Benz family is what sustains the whole business long-term.”
But he says the CLA is not just a style pony with massive computer power.
“There has been an increased emphasis on dynamics and the ride. In the previous generation, the CLA45 AMG was a very strong seller. So there is a very strong AMG element to the new model.”
And the CLA is not the end of the A Class story, or even the roll-out of a new coupe.
“There will be a shooting brake again. It will be a very stylish small wagon based on the four-door coupe. It will be unveiled later this year, but the rest of the story will have to wait.”