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New Mercedes CLA launched at CES

Wednesday, 16th January, 2019 4:44pm

Mercedes has shown off its new CLA four-door coupe at a major event in Las Vegas.

Nothing unusual about that, you may think, but the event in question is the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), not a major motor show. Then again, the CES has become, in recent years, the most important de-facto American motor show as car makers queue up to show off their new technology to tech-savvy journalists, bloggers, and consumers.

The big difference here is that the CLA is ‘just’ a new car — unlike other car maker events at the CES, there’s nothing about the new CLA that is especially tech-y or advanced. Mercedes just decided that it would be the best venue for the car’s launch, rather than next week’s more traditional Detroit Motor Show.

Presumably, Mercedes felt that the audience at the CES was the right one for the relatively affordable CLA. They could be right, too.

Demand for Mercedes NGCC (New Generation Compact Class) cars, basically the A-Class and its offshoots, is dragging down the average age of a Mercedes buyer, most notably in China, where the average age is now under 30. The youthful, tech-oriented attendees of the CES could be just about ripe for a new CLA.

The CLA is, as before, a four-door coupe based on the same platform as the current A-Class and B-Class. That means front-wheel drive (although four-wheel drive will be available as an option on certain models) and a mixture of transversely-mounted four-cylinder turbo petrol and diesel engine options, including the recently-introduced 1.33 litre 140hp petrol, shared with Renault and Nissan.

It’s a little larger than the outgoing model (48mm longer, 53mm wider) and just fractionally lower-slung too — by 2mm.

Style wise, it’s almost indistinguishable from the old one in profile, but then evolutionary styling seems to be what most CLA customers crave. Even with an ageing model, it was still Mercedes’ third-best selling model in Ireland last year, just behind the C-Class in volume terms.

Look at the details and the change in style becomes a little more apparent, with closer and more overt links between the looks of this new CLA and the recently-introduced third-generation CLS coupe.

Inside, the CLA gets the same cabin as that of the A-Class, which is no bad thing — with its huge MBNUX ‘digital plank’ dashboard, it’s one of the most striking and contemporary vehicle interiors around.

There will be a barrier to the CLA’s continued success, though — this time around, Mercedes will also be launching a saloon version of the A-Class, and the differences between it and the CLA are pretty minimal.

With the A-Class saloon expected to be the better-priced of the pair, expect the CLA’s sales to start shrinking somewhat. Mercedes is likely to price it a little higher than before, to try and underline its role as a more exclusive model.

Irish sales of the new CLA should start just in time for the 192 registration period this summer.

Mercedes will also bring a new urban transport concept to the CES — called Urbanetic, it’s an autonomous, electrically-powered chassis onto which a variety of bodies can be dropped, from multi-seat passenger compartments to cargo carriers.

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