CLA-d in non-conformity

Three cars in three months. 

Mercedes-Benz importer and distributor Auto Nation Group pulled off a premium-car hattrick in as many months, capped off with last night’s launch of the CLA – heralded as a dichotomic “four-door coupé” with a “(pure), seductive profile (highlighted by) 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,'” according to Gorden Wagener, chief design officer of Daimler AG, in a release.

In a speech before the unveiling at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, Auto Nation Group, Inc. chief operating officer Francis Jonathan Ang described the CLA (or Coupé Light A-Class) as “distinctively unique,” adding, “It’s too big for a sports car, too sporty for a sedan, too special to fit into any category… (It’s the) only four-door compact coupe in its segment.”

The Stuttgart-headquartered premium auto marque considers the second generation of the front wheel-driven CLA as the “most emotive in its class… (with) design (underlining) the coupé character with its stretched form and design elements such as the bonnet with powerdomes.”

On its distinctive shark nose are LED high-performance headlamps with daylight running lamps, fringing a diamond grille echoing the classic design of past Benzes. The rear, on the other hand, features slim taillights, with the number plate housed in the bumper to accentuate width and a sporty gait. The sole variant locally available is equipped with 18-inch multi-spoke light alloy wheels.

Auto Nation Group, Inc. chief operating officer Francis Jonathan Ang delivers a speech before the Mercedes-Benz CLA’s unveiling at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.

“It’s a little bit bigger and wider than its predecessor. The styling definitely has changed in the exterior, but the focal point for me personally is the interior of the car,” said Ang in an exclusive interview with WHEELS.PH.

From left are Ang; Mercedes-Benz head of sales and marketing Romel Franco; and
CATS Motor, Inc. president Rene Nuñez

Inside the CLA, Mercedes-Benz wants to purvey “high tech” and “youthful avant-garde” concepts — from a leather multi-function steering wheel and new touchpad to Artico-leather seats and other design enhancements in the dashboard. Three memory functions are accommodated by the electrically adjustable driver seat.

The front occupants benefit from increased headroom (+17mm) and elbow room (+35mm). Loading cargo into the boot is easier via a wider opening (+262mm). Seat cushions are adjustable for depth and angle, with a 40:20:40 split-folding rear seat backrest.

As in the recently launched models, beginning with the all-new A-Class, the CLA boasts the so-called Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX). The system is able to learn preferences of the driver and such thanks to artificial intelligence. Two seven-inch digital screens make up the instrument cluster and the media display. 

A “highly intelligent virtual assistant” is activated by pressing a button in the steering wheel or by simply saying “Hey Mercedes” from anywhere in the cabin. The system caters to voice commands to attend to infotainment functions such as destination input, phone call, music selection, and climate control. A natural speech recognition program allows the MBUX to understand nearly all sentences from the fields of multimedia and vehicle operation. The infotainment system also offers Apple CarPlay smartphone integration for a more hands-free driving experience.

Ang shared, “Previously, all of the hardware technologies used to start with the S-Class, then slowly worked their way down the portfolio. But if you notice (now), the software technologies like the MBUX, (are) all starting at the entry level of the brand. It’s about introducing new technologies to a very different segment of the market.”

He added that the CLA is no longer the entry-point sedan in the Mercedes-Benz portfolio. “This role is now filled by the A-Class sedan.”

Under the hood of the CLA is a turbocharged 1.3-liter inline-four mated with a 7G-DCT seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, producing an output and torque of 136hp (at 5,550rpm) and 200Nm (at 1,460rpm), respectively. Dynamic Select lets the driver between various driving modes to suit driving style, weather, and road conditions. The CLA 180 Progressive variant here is also equipped with a comfort suspension package and direct steering assist.

Safety equipment includes active parking assist with rearview camera, active brake assist, adaptive brake lights, anti-lock braking system, electronic stability program, acceleration skid control, and hill-start assist, among others. The CLA also has a pedestrian protection active bonnet as well as multiple airbags for the driver and front passenger including windowbags and kneebag for the driver.

“There’s no competition at this compact segment,” insisted Ang. “You get more bang for the buck. If you want a European coupé then this is the car for you.”

The Mercedes-Benz CLA 180 comes in the following colors: Polar White, Digital White, Night Black, Mountain Gray, Denim Blue, Sun Yellow, Jupiter Red, Mojave Silver, and Cosmos Black. It is priced at P3.19 million.

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