When Mercedes-Benz first introduced its CLA Coupé in 2013, it became the star of the German carmaker’s subcompact executive genre — a four-door fastback car that sold 100,000 units in its first year and subsequently, the carmaker’s best launch in 20 years. During the launch of its new-generation CLA Coupé this year, the star of Stuttgart unveiled its worthy successor — a visually arresting vehicle that also earns top marks in terms of power and performance.
“As a four-door coupé, the new CLA intrigues with its pure, seductive design and brings the design DNA of ‘sensual purity’ to a new level. It is compelling for its perfect proportions, which are very close to the initial sketches: a long, stretched bonnet, a compact greenhouse, a wide track with flared wheel arches and our typical GT rear end with a pronounced ‘Coke-bottle shoulder’,” says Daimler AG chief design officer Gorden Wagener. “In short, the CLA Coupé has the potential of becoming a modern design icon.”
The car was recently launched in Munich — which is about three hours’ drive from Stuttgart — amid stunning spring weather. From our base at the newly opened and incredibly chic Andaz Munich Schwabinger Tor, we had the chance to put the car through its paces, driving along the gorgeous city’s busy streets and snaking asphalt paths that cut through the pastoral Bavarian countryside. The new CLA Coupé’s line-up includes three diesel and six petrol-powered models, with engine displacements of between 1.3 and 2 litres.
Appearance-wise, this car is beyond reproach. The combination of a long, stretched entry line above the windows and frameless doors give the CLA Coupé its unmistakable sporty and elegant character. The striking front rakes forward like a shark’s nose with a long, stretched bonnet. Flat headlamps, together with a low-slung bonnet and diamond radiator grille with a central star, create the vehicle’s sporty face. The two-piece, narrow tail lamps and the number plate housed in the bumper make the rear of the car look especially muscular and wide.
With the greenhouse moved back, the rear achieves a balance between elegance and sportiness. Featuring pared-down lines, the precisely modelled side profile provides an interesting interplay of light and shade. Dispensing with the upper shaped edge of the side wall permits muscular and athletic shoulder shaping, stretching from the front wheel arch through to the sculptured rear. Flush with the outer edge of the body, the wheels with their flared arches and wide track epitomise dynamism and give the vehicle a sporty presence.
The drive experience is 100% Mercedes-Benz, right from the flawless handling to the sheer comfort once buckled in. On sports mode, the engine’s guttural growl matches the extra torque, which can be heard from within the cabin. If that is not music to your ears, the comfort mode is much less rowdy but also much less fun. That said, I must credit the car for being equally at ease no matter what we put it through — at speeds of 170kph on sports mode, it is responsive and agile while on comfort mode, it amicably plodded along, even weaving between 18-wheel trucks on the highway.
The new CLA Coupé is larger than its predecessor, with increased head and elbow room, and easy to load boot — an important consideration for toting luggage, a full load of groceries or even a heavy golf bag. As is the case with the A-Class sedan, the CLA Coupé’s interior architecture is shaped by the avant-garde dashboard design. A cowl above the cockpit, the wish-shaped dashboard extends from one front door to the other with no visual discontinuity. The ambient lighting — optional, but a cool party trick — and turbine-esque vents add to the sporty look and feel of the car.
Also in the new CLA Coupé is the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz user experience), which Options first got to try in last year’s A-Class, and this has been much improved. Hey Mercedes, we said, and it delivered — among other things, the enhanced system now can answer more complex questions and it can recognise who, in a crowded car, was the one who called for its help. We made MBUX play music, adjust the temperature and change our seat configurations. The system complied quickly and easily. Although the MBUX may not seem like a significant addition to the car, it quickly became something I would much rather be with than without.
The roads in Munich are remarkably easy to navigate. Once you get past the fact that you are driving on the other side of the road, getting around the Bavarian capital is a dream — signboards are aplenty and easy to understand, and the lush expanse of the Bavarian countryside is just 20 minutes outside the city limits. Our drive to the beautiful town of Tegernsee includes a long detour on account of a missed turn, during which time we got especially well acquainted with the digital offerings of the car.
This begins with a touchpad directly in front of the armrest on the centre console, which is an optional part of the holistic, intuitive touch-operated concept — a triad consisting of the media display touch screen, the touch controls on the steering wheel and the touchpad itself. The system can be operated using two fingers, which will enable a zoom-in feature on the navigation map or to scroll through the operating menu on the large media display if you would rather not stretch your arm out to do it.
The final siren song for the millennial buyer with German automotive predilections is Energising Coach — an intelligent algorithm-based service that optimises precise health and wellness solutions using personal data such as the driver’s stress level or sleep quality. This feature is compatible with the Mercedes-Benz Vivoactive 3 smartwatch or other Garmin wearables. It was not something we could test out for ourselves, but going on the intuitive nature of the MBUX, we daresay this would be a pretty cool thing to have.
The new CLA Coupé is available in three editions. The Progressive line includes 18-inch light-alloy wheels, a leather multifunction sports steering wheel and comfortable seats with adjustable cushions for depth and angle and a 40:20:40 split-folding rear-seat backrest. Externally, the Progressive line is also distinguishable by the visible exhaust tailpipes and the discreet chrome trim strip on the front and rear aprons. A sporty look inside and out comes courtesy of the AMG Line with 18-inch AMG light-alloy wheels, front and rear aprons, side sill panels along with sports seats and steering wheel in nappa leather.
In its first year, the new CLA Coupé will be available as an Edition 1. Both the exterior and the interior of this limited-edition model have numerous visual accents that underline its exclusivity — high-performance LED headlamps, 19-inch AMG light-alloy wheels with orange-painted rim flanges and sports seats. Numerous trim elements in orange colour run inside the car as well — top-stitching on the dashboard, sports seats, armrests, door panel waistlines and floor mats.
There is no confirmation yet on when the CLA Coupé will be available in Malaysia, even though global production is set to begin next month. So, if you are in the market for a zippy coupé just about spacious enough for a small family, we recommend you put a star by this option — rest assured, it will be more than worth the wait.
This article first appeared on Apr 22, 2019 in The Edge Malaysia.