The new Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupe is not only the most emotional vehicle in its class, it is also highly intelligent: from MBUX Interior Assistant, which recognizes operational demands from gestures and equips the interior with intelligence, through Augmented Reality for Navigation and understanding indirect voice commands, the new CLA offers an array of clever solutions. There are also ingenious details when it comes to the aerodynamics and new driver assistance systems. The design underlines the coupe character with its stretched form and design elements such as the hood with power domes or the rear license plate which has been moved down. As such it does justice to its predecessor's status as a design icon. The new Mercedes-Benz CLA will celebrate its World Premiere at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2019 and will go on sale in the U.S. by late 2019.
With MBUX, Mercedes-Benz has been revolutionizing how to operate a car and communicate with it since the premiere of the new A-Class. "Now we go to the next level with an intelligent interior assistance system for the compact class. By recognizing gestures it facilitates natural operation," says Ola Källenius, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development. "This is not the only new feature by which the CLA offers a great deal of automotive intelligence.”
"With the first CLA we created a totally new segment with a four-door coupe and celebrated a huge success by selling some 750,000 CLA and CLA Shooting Brakes," adds Britta Seeger, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Mercedes-Benz Cars Marketing & Sales. "The new edition of the CLA has been developed further in an intelligent way and is even more emotional and sportier than its predecessor. Coupled with new operating systems, it sets new benchmarks for the entire class.”
The new generation of compacts has made a key contribution to the rejuvenation and image change of the Mercedes-Benz brand. The CLA is important for winning and retaining new customers in particular. The CLA Coupe was launched in the U.S. in 2013, making it the first compact Mercedes-Benz available in the U.S. market. At peak times, more than two thirds of CLA buyers in the U.S. came from competitors. On average, CLA customers in the USA are around ten years younger than the typical Mercedes-Benz customer. In Europe, too, CLA customers are among the youngest in the Mercedes portfolio. In 2017, one in two customers in Europe previously drove a competitor's vehicle. Over 75 percent of European customers who previously drove a CLA as a coupe or Shooting Brake chose a Mercedes-Benz again for their next vehicle. In total, some 750,000 units of the first-generation CLA Coupe and CLA Shooting Brake contributed considerably to the compact car's success.
Design: pure emotion
"As a four-door coupe, the new CLA intrigues with its puristic, seductive design and sets new standards in the design DNA of 'sensual purity.' It impresses with its perfect proportions reflecting the first design sketch: a long, stretched hood, a compact greenhouse, a wide track with exposed wheel arches and our typical GT rear end with a strong distinctive 'Coke-bottle shoulder,'" says Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer of Daimler AG. "In short - the CLA Coupe has the potential to become a modern design icon.”
The combination of the long, stretched entry line above the windows and frameless doors give the CLA Coupe its unmistakable sporty and elegant character. Forming the front end is the striking front section which is raked forward like a shark nose with a long, stretched hood featuring power domes.
Flat headlamps together with the low slung hood and the diamond-block grille with a central star create the vehicle's sporty face. The two-piece, narrow taillamps and the number plate housed in the bumper make the rear of the CLA look especially wide.
With the greenhouse moved back, the sporty GT 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 extremely 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 wheel arches and wide track give the vehicle a sporty presence.
In the interior, all elements are arranged according to the overarching design themes of 'high tech' and 'youthful avant-garde' – be that the steering wheel, the door handle operating module, the center console or the seats. As in the A-Class, the unique interior architecture is shaped in particular by the modern design of the dashboard; the designers completely dispensed with a cowl above the cockpit. As a result, the wing-shaped main body of the dashboard extends from one front door to the other with no visual discontinuity. The widescreen display is completely free-standing. The lower section is visually separated from the main body of the instrument cluster by a "trench," and it appears to float in front of the instrument cluster. The ambient lighting enhances this effect. The air vents in a sporty turbine-look are another highlight.
Suspension: exceptionally agile and yet comfortable
In terms of driving dynamics, the new CLA keeps the promise of its design: a wide track (an extra 63 mm at the front and 55 mm more at the rear compared to its predecessor) and a lower center of gravity are the two key features which give the CLA the sportiest driving characteristics of all models in the new generation of compacts from Mercedes-Benz. The technical specification includes a decoupled multi-link axle at the rear for reduced noise and vibration, a Direct-Steer system as standard and hydromounts at the front. A stabilizer bar with a larger diameter reduces body roll. As an option, an active adaptive damping system is available, giving the driver the choice between comfort, or a more uncompromising sporty tuning. The range of wheels starts at 18 inches and goes up to 19 inches. The ESP® has been specially adapted to the CLA's potentially high cornering speeds and handling performance.
One year since the premiere: MBUX keeps on learning
One year ago, MBUX – Mercedes-Benz User Experience – created a furor at its world premiere at CES in Las Vegas with a powerful computer, brilliant screens and graphics, customizable display, full color Head-up Display, Augmented Video for Navigation, software that can learn, and "Hey Mercedes" – the keyword for Voice Control that surpasses conventional automotive standards. This is how Mercedes-Benz is revolutionizing car operation and communication. Now the company is igniting the next level. MBUX Interior Assistant facilitates natural operation. The Voice Control feature now recognizes topical answers in a growing number of domains. Due to ongoing development of the system, it is also possible to take into consideration country-specific content providers.
"The latest version of Voice Control for MBUX – Mercedes-Benz User Experience – can be experienced in the new CLA. For example, the voice assistant, activated by the keyword 'Hey Mercedes,' is able to recognize and answer considerably more complex queries," says Sajjad Khan, Member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars for CASE and Head of Digital Vehicle & Mobility. "What's more, the voice assistance no longer gets confused by other passengers conversing. Instead it only responds to the commands of the person who last said 'Hey Mercedes' to activate the system.”
MBUX Interior Assistant: an even greater experience
By recognizing movements, MBUX Interior Assistant brings added intelligence to the interior. Thanks to innovative technology, MBUX now supports the occupants by making various comfort and MBUX functions even simpler and more intuitive. MBUX Interior Assistant operates in non-contact mode and functions both in sunlight and in complete darkness.
It enables the adaptation of screen content as soon as a hand approaches the touchscreen in the dashboard or the Touchpad on the center console. Individual elements are highlighted according to the currently active menu. In addition, the system is able to distinguish between the driver's and front passenger's hands and thus knows for whose seat the massage function is to be activated.
A special feature of MBUX Interior Assistant is the personal favorites function, which can be initiated with a horizontally outstretched index and middle finger. In this way, any command which is controllable via MBUX can be stored for simple access. One typical favorite command is "take me home." As the system is able to reliably recognize who is operating it, the driver and front passenger respectively can even assign different favorites to the same hand position.
There are other functions which can be controlled intuitively, without any need to practice corresponding gestures: In the dark, the reading lamp can be switched on and off by briefly extending a hand towards the rear-view mirror. If the driver reaches over towards the unoccupied front passenger seat in the dark, it will be illuminated automatically. This makes it easier to find any items which may have been set on the seat. As soon as the person's hand leaves this area, the light automatically switches off again.
"Hey Mercedes": better understanding and more clever responses
State-of-the-art Voice Control can also be experienced in the CLA as a part of the MBUX system. Here too seat recognition has been implemented. The voice assistance only responds to the commands of the person who last said "Hey Mercedes" to activate the system. When paired with Mercedes me connect, the voice assistant can recognize and respond to considerably more complex queries, for example: "Find child-friendly Asian restaurants nearby with a 4- star rating which are neither Chinese nor Japanese?" There is also a growing number of domains for which MBUX can understand complex questions and quickly reply: these include sports ("Hey Mercedes, how did the San Francisco 49ers play?"), the stock exchange ("Compare the share price of Apple Incorporated to Microsoft"), calculations ("What is the square root of 3?") or general knowledge ("How big is Texas?" or "What is the fat content of an avocado?”).
Aerodynamics: intelligent solutions intelligently designed
On the way to series production, the aerodynamics of the new CLA underwent a considerably longer phase of optimization than its predecessor in the form of simulations, before the first measurements of models were carried out in the wind tunnel. This was possible due to greater computing capacity, as well as more experience of working with simulation tools and their best possible use in the development process.
A key advantage of the simulation process is that it is easy to determine the exact proportions of the form, and to examine the effects of a change in form on flow at another point which is either before or after in the direction of flow, without it being necessary to make changes to the physical model.
Work on optimization was in close collaboration with the designers and was particularly intensive on the rear bumper, radiator grille, the fog lamp recesses (the relief-like diamond-shaped pattern of which was reduced to the edge on the CLA for aerodynamic reasons) and the height of the diffuser. Totally new are the wheel-arch spoilers with their fins in the longitudinal direction; they help air to flow around the wheels with minimal losses. Integrated as standard at the front of the vehicle is a two-piece shutter system behind the radiator grille, which regulates air flow through the engine compartment. The almost complete underbody paneling encompasses the engine compartment, the main floor, parts of the rear axle and the diffuser.
Intelligent Drive: functions from the S-Class
The CLA has the very latest driving assistance systems with cooperative driver support, and thus provides the highest level of active safety in this segment with functions adopted from the S-Class. For the first time, the CLA is able to drive semi-autonomously in certain situations. To do this, it keeps a close eye on the traffic situation. Improved camera and radar systems allow it to see up to 1,640 feet (500 meters) ahead. The CLA also uses map and navigation data for assistance functions. For example, Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC®, as part of the optional Driver Assistance Package, is able to provide route-based support to the driver in numerous situations, and to predictively and conveniently adjust the speed, for example when approaching bends, junctions or roundabouts. Also on board are Active Emergency Stop Assist and the intuitively understandable Active Lane Change Assist.
The new CLA comes with enhanced Active Brake Assist as standard. Depending on the situation, it can effectively help to mitigate the consequences of rear-end collisions with slower-moving, stopping or stationary vehicles ahead, and even with crossing pedestrians and cyclists, or to prevent them altogether.
Active Lane Keeping Assist is able to warn the driver by means of pulsed vibrations in the steering wheel when the vehicle is unintentionally drifting out of its lane at speeds between approximately 35 and 125 mph. If the vehicle passes over a solid line, it can pull the vehicle back into lane by applying the brakes on one side. In the case of a dotted line, such intervention takes place only when there is a danger of collision with a vehicle in the adjacent lane (including danger from oncoming traffic).
PRE-SAFE® PLUS can recognize an imminent rear-end collision from a vehicle from behind. If the danger of a collision persists, the system can also firmly apply the brakes of the stationary vehicle, thus lowering the risk of injuries by reducing the forward jolt caused by an impact from the rear.
LED Headlamps: better visibility in all conditions
Another example of automotive intelligence and the transfer of technology from the luxury segment to the compact class are the standard LED Headlamps and optionally available Active LED Headlamps. They allow extremely quick and precise, electronically controlled adjustment of the headlamps to suit the current traffic situation. Each headlamp on the CLA incorporates 18 individually controllable LEDs. The daylight-like light color of the LEDs is easy on the eyes and has a positive effect on concentration. The road ahead is precisely and brightly illuminated. The tail lamps are also available with all- LED technology.
Drive system: start with the most powerful engine
At the trade show presentation in Las Vegas, the CLA on display is the CLA 250 with the powerful four-cylinder gasoline engine, paired with a 7G-DCT dual-clutch transmission, available with front-wheel drive or 4MATIC all-wheel drive.
**many thanks Mercedes USA for the text and images**