Mercedes has ripped the wrap off its CLA, insisting that the four-door coupé actually kick-starts a new segment altogether, blending luxury, sports, and eye-catching styling. Borrowing more than a few design cues from Mercedes' Concept Style Coupé of last year, the CLA will hit showrooms from April priced from €28,977 ($38,700) though that swiftly rises if you opt for one of the meatier versions with performance closer to the avant-garde looks.
On the outside, the gaping grille leads a body that does mischievous things with convex and concave surfacing, throwing copious LEDs behind the lamp cover-glass for what Mercedes describes as "flare effect" lighting. A huge panoramic sunroof is an option, with both a fixed polycarbonate section up-front and a sliding mineral crystal panel at the back. The swoopy styling is also very slippery: drag area is down to 0.51m2, a record for production cars, while the BlueEFFICIENCY Edition version of the CLA will be even more efficient when it arrives in June.
Under the hood, the range kicks off with the CLA 180, packing a 1.6 litre petrol engine with 122HP and a 0-62 mph dash in 9.3s, topping out at 130mph. Those looking for more speed can step all the way up to the €38,675 CLA 250 ($52,000), with a 2.0 litre petrol engine mustering 211HP and a 0-62mph time of 6.7s; that pushes the top speed to to 150mph. A €37,991 diesel CLA 220 CDI ($51,000) manages 170HP and 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds, and shares the CLA 250's 7G-DCT dual-clutch auto transmission. The other models get Mercedes' 6-speed manual.
Inside, there's Siri integration if you're an iPhone user, with Glympse real-time location sharing, Facebook and Twitter social networking, internet radio, Garmin-powered navigation with Google Street View graphics, and the latest version of Mercedes' COMAND Online infotainment deck. That has Bluetooth, real-time traffic, and more. Ambient fiber-optic lighting is an option, while the four seats emphasize the outer seats, with Mercedes pushing the CLA as a 2+1-seater.
Bluntly, we'd been hoping for more in terms of performance from the CLA, with even the CLA 250 lacking the grunt to match its aggressive looks. Still, there's plenty of room for Mercedes to slot in higher-capacity engines from elsewhere in its range, and of course when tuner AMG gets its hands on the car, all bets are off. The Mercedes CLA is up for order now.