The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is a four-door coupe. Here in the world of auto-writing that is like saying “jumbo-shrimp” or some other nonsense combination of words that should not make sense together, but somehow do. The entire premise of the 4-door coupe is that the car is not frumpy, and conservative in its styling, like many four doors are, but rather has the cool look of a 2-door. Mercedes was the pioneer in this look, and now all of the German car companies offer such styling, usually as an add-on to the base 4-door the car is modeled after. VW’s Passat CC is the closest match to this CLA ins style size and drivetrain.
Four Door Coupe Design
Initially, the design idea of the 4-door coupe was to mimic the look of the Mercedes CLS which had no B-pillar. This may seem like a minor thing, but it is not. When all the glass is down a car with no B-pillar has a very distinctive sporty look that is also elegant. Mercedes did produce cars with this design. However, removing the B-pillar does very bad things for side impact testing. In fact, the B-Pillar is the most important part of the car when it comes to driver protection when hit from the side. So that design element is no longer being employed. Instead, the B-Pillar is hidden from view as much as possible. The other design element that is key in this type of design is to slope the roof back, rather than have an abrupt drop angle when the roof meets the rear glass. Mercedes does that well. Finally, hiding the rear two doors is essential. This is done in a variety of ways, but minimizing the panel gap is the first step and then a flowing line in the side panel that takes the eye off the rear door is used. Job well done in this department on the CLA. Some manufacturers even hide the rear door handles, but Mercedes has not done that here.
The Mercedes-Benz CLA will have class leading aerodynamics and it has a style not often seen in one’s daily ride. Mercedes calls the CLA a “Style Rebel.” Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, put it this way in a press release, "We have transferred the expressive design of the Concept Style Coupe seamlessly into series production. With its unique design language, I am convinced that the CLA will make a powerful mark on the image of the Mercedes-Benz brand." If the CLA is parked next to a VW Passat CC one might say “There are two unique style rebels.” Prof Dr Thomas Weber, Member of the Daimler Board of Management, responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development commented saying "...by setting new benchmarks in things like aerodynamics, efficiency and driver assistance systems, the CLA remains true to Mercedes- Benz's core values." This is true. Mercedes has been a pioneer in this area. Finally, Dr Joachim Schmidt, Executive Vice President Mercedes-Benz Cars, Sales and Marketing made an unusual statement regarding the CLA, saying "We aim to reach new target groups with the CLA – including those who never wanted to drive a Mercedes." From the point of view of an auto enthusiast, and auto-writer it is odd to hear that there were people who didn’t want to drive a Mercedes. Couldn’t afford a Mercedes maybe, but didn’t want to?
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class will have a new 2.0 liter, four cylinder engine. This engine will be turbocharged and produce 208 HP and 258 lb-ft of torque. This could not be closer to the VW Passat, which has almost identical specifications. The reason for the smaller engine is simply cost. In the smaller, mid-size segment, the amount of safety, luxury, and infotainment features required to compete means that something has to go. Power goes. That is not to say that customers will miss it. Many customers in this segment prefer the lower power engines when given a choice, as is proven by the sales figures. Since the car will have a 7-speed, dual-clutch transmission (Hmmm. The VW Passat CC also has a dual clutch transmission) the car can step off the line quickly with two torquey low gears and then jump to either third or up to a very high gear quickly for fuel economy. The daily drive will be fine. If the driver finds themselves tempted to try to keep up with a Honda Accord V6 and a Toyota Camry V6, they may want to take a bit of time to adjust their audio settings and let those two race off to avoid embarrassment.
Mercedes has downsized the lovely CLS to fit more buyer's budgets and has done so with no loss of flair.