Some people want a Mercedes just for the three-pointed star on the bonnet, others are fans of how well it is engineered, and others still are bowled over by the comfort, refinement and sheer driving pleasure. The price of Mercedes cars, however, has been steadily on the rise over the years, putting a brand new one out of reach of everyday car buyers.
The CLA-Class hopes to change all that when it is launched this month at an expected price of R27-32 lakh. One of the hottest-selling sedans launched last year, the CLA is a runaway success in markets like the US and China due to its rakish looks. The question is, how competitive will it be against cars like the new A3? Here’s what you can expect.
The CLA is a sedan version of the A-Class. Dissect the name CLA and you can break it up into CL and A. ‘CL’ in Mercedes terminology stands for a low-slung, coupe-like four-door car. First seen on the E-Class based CLS-Class, this low-rider profile created a sensation when it was launched back in 2004. And Mercedes expects the CLA to galvanise the market here as well when it is launched; it is targeted at a very young customer base, after all. The second part of the name—’A’—tells you this car is based on the same mechanical bits as the A-Class.
The talking point of this car, of course, is the low-slung, sporty roof, which loops back to the rear in one clean swoop. It looks stunning, and it’s not just the roof; the rear of the car is also beautifully designed, with the lines on the sides and the top appearing to converge in the boot. What’s also nice is that the already-much-appreciated nose of the car gels nicely with the rest of the design. There’s little doubt the CLA is an attractive looking car that’s much appreciated.
Mercedes plans to power the CLA with the same set of engines that power the GLA in India. The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine is likely to make 181 bhp of power and will be the one to go for if you want strong performance. Expect a 0-100 kmph time of around 7.5 seconds. The diesel CLA 200 CDI is likely to be less performance-oriented, with the 2,143cc engine making only 134 bhp. A seven-speed double clutch gearbox is likely to be the only choice as far as gearboxes are concerned. One change we will get on Indian cars is a more comfortable ride.
Step into the cabin and the A-Class family link is visible too. The architecture of the dashboard, in fact, is almost identical to that of the hatchback. Where the CLA will differ from the A-Class is in its use of materials. While it’s not clear what we will get on India-spec cars, you can safely expect a bit more chrome, leather and equipment in the sedan. Then there’s the fact that even the A-Class is built well, the plastics, buttons and switches delivering a good impression of luxury. Also, as we’ve seen with the CLA 45 AMG, Mercedes has several tricks up its sleeve when it comes to making the cabin look more upmarket.
While space and comfort are ample on the front seats, the CLA is a bit cramped in the rear. It’s not that the Audi A3 sedan, its natural competitor, is that much better when you sit in the back. It’s just that with the CLA’s low roof, you need to bend a bit more when getting in and out. And headroom in the back is tight for tall passengers.
Mercedes is expected to price its most affordable sedan quite competitively, without going in for a stripped down version with an attractive sticker price. It still may do an ‘Executive Edition’ at a later stage, but prices for the CLA are expected to start at around R27 lakh (ex-showroom). Top-of-the-line versions could easily cross the Rs 30-lakh mark, with the most expensive versions going up to around R32 lakh. No, the CLA is unlikely to give you the full Mercedes-Benz sedan experience, but if you are keen on the looks and want to drive a sedan with a three-pointed star on the nose, this could be the car for you.