Preview: 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA
Mercedes is still trying to play catch up to the other two premium German automotive manufacturers playing in the same arenas globally. BMW led again in the month of March 2013 selling 191,269 units which includes both Mini and Rolls-Royce. Audi has for some time now been attempting to chase BMW but for the same period they managed to move 147,700 units, the difference is however closing slowly. Mercedes on the other hand is still lagging behind these two having sold 139,920 units globally. A major chunk of Mercedes sales come from the E-Class, the C-Class and now those numbers are being shored up by the new M-Class. Yet what Mercedes needs to get back its crown is a product that will bring them mass appeal. To achieve that goal Mercedes will need to make a massive play in Europe and the USA, two of its largest markets. But the company also foresees increasing demand in countries like India, targeting the upwardly mobile looking for an affordable prestige brand. Its why the upcoming CLA, an entry level sedan is so, so important for Mercedes.
What will set the CLA apart is that none of Mercedes' rivals in India will have a sedan in the same segment. Yes the Audi A3 will come to India as well as the BMW 1 Series sedan but we assume Mercedes will enjoy first mover advantage.
When launched the CLA will be positioned lower than the C-Class. It will be the most affordable car from the brand with the three-point star, cheaper we expect than the current B-Class even. Mercedes will achieve this by assembling the car here in India though we don't expect them to localise any production, except for tyres and the battery.
Naturally you'd expect this to be a small sedan but you'd be surprised to know that the CLA is both longer and wider than the C-Class as you can see above. However it's lower than the C in keeping with that dynamic coupe like design. Both cars also have almost the same boot space. The fact that it's also a very handsome machine, much nicer to look at than anything Mercedes has to offer to India will also helps matters greatly. The swoopy CLA will definitely appeal to our buyers but what about the stuff that's beneath the suave skin. We take a look.
Actually let's start with the suave skin. It's not just a handsome face â" the CLA manages to be the most slippery shaped series production car in the world with a drag resistance coefficient of just 0.22Cd. That's thanks to a specially designed A-pillar, aerodynamic wheel arches, underbody paneling and a rear diffuser. Low drag means better performance and efficiency because the engine has to put in less effort for the car to slice through the air. In addition to this the CLA boasts low wind noise thanks to the frameless doors with a 'multi-stage sealing concept' and optimized mirror design. Another advantage of the aerodynamics is reduced soiling of the windscreen and windows while driving through the rain.
Suspension and chassis
The CLA features a MacPherson strut front axle and a multi link independent rear set up similar to the B-Class. It also features Direct Steer technology which the company claims improves feel from the electrically assisted steering. Essentially, steering assistance is only required when the steering wheel is actually turned. The ESP can also use the steering to countersteer in case the car breaks into oversteer. Two suspension setups are available, comfort and the optional sports suspension that lowers the car by 15mm at the front and 10mm at the rear. The comfort pack will be offered as standard equipment but we also keep our fingers crossed for the sportier setup option even though it may compromise ride quality.
Engines and transmissions
The CLA gets a choice of direct injection turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol and diesel motors. While there's a range of engines we expect to receive the 122PS CLA 180 which gets the same engine as the B-Class. As for diesel it's safe to expect the B200 CDI with a 136PS 1.8-litre oil burner. Both engines will be mated to the 7-speed dual clutch automatic that we've already seen in the B-Class. This will allow the driver to choose from three gearshift programs â" Efficiency, Sport and Manual. The engines are mounted transversely and will drive the front wheels. As for those with a penchant for more power, Mercedes will certainly offer the 360 horsepower AMG version as well to us and this is available with four wheel drive.
The CLA comes with Mercedes' Attention Assist that detects erratic driving behavior and suggests that the driver stop and take a break. Also as part of the standard kit is the radar based Collision Prevention Assist which alerts the driver with visual and audible warnings of possible collision and primes the Brake Assist function to provide the precise braking force required to avoid said collision. The system works from as low as 7kmph and helps prevent accidentally rear ending the vehicle ahead.
There's also a parking assist that automatically parks your car like the system we saw on the VW Passat. The company also offers plenty more optional assists like Lane Keeping Assist, a reversing camera and more.
Mercedes-Benz has always been the purveyor of safety and the CLA doesn't skimp on the technology bits. The car gets an active bonnet that rises by 60mm for improved pedestrian safety in a crash. Two stage airbags (upto nine airbags) and a collapsible steering column enhance safety on the inside.
Mercedes also offers their PRE-SAFE anticipatory protection system as an option. PRE-SAFE is activated by parameters like panic braking, exaggerated under or oversteer or extreme steering movements. The system then tightens the tension of the seatbelt, closes the windows and sunroof and moves the electrically adjustable seats to a position that is optimum for the working of the restraining systems such as the seatbelt.
Starts Rs 31.72 Lakhs
Starts Rs 30.5 Lakhs
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