The Mercedes-Benz Concept CLA-Class debuted on Sunday at the Munich motor show as a showcase for the upgraded EV technology the German luxury brand will put into its next generation of small EVs. Much of the Concept CLA’s tech was derived from the Vision EQXX, a car created to explore greater EV efficiency.
Shown as a coupe-like four-door sedan, Mercedes said the range will also spawn a wagon (called a shooting brake) and a pair of SUVs, likely replacements for the EQA- and EQB-Class models, as well as their GLA- and and GLB-Class gas counterparts.
The Concept CLA-Class is the first vehicle to use the brand’s new Mercedes Modular Architecture (MMA) platform that has been developed first for EVs but will also support internal-combustion engines, likely in hybrid configurations.
The concept also previews a battery system under development that will let buyers choose between two battery chemistries, the carry-over lithium-iron-phosphate design or a new silicon-oxide-anode design for better energy density. Mercedes says the latter battery has a smaller volume, its cells are held together with adhesive instead of screws, and is lighter and stiffer than the lithium battery.
The Concept CLA has a new 800-volt electrical architecture (all previous Mercedes EVs have had 400-volt systems) that will allow the silicon-oxide battery to recover up to 248 miles (likely as measured per the WLTP cycle) in 15 minutes on a DC fast charger pushing up to 250 kw. The car is also capable of vehicle-to-grid or vehicle-to-home bidirectional charging.
Mercedes claims the new battery will provide up to 466 miles of range on the generous WLTP cycle with an efficiency of 5.2 miles per kw/hr. That should still be 350 or more miles on the EPA cycle. Mercedes has not announced the sizes of the two batteries.
Power for the Concept CLA comes from a powertrain design developed for the EQXX. It’s a rear-mounted permanently excited synchronous motor that makes 235 hp. It’s mated to a 2-speed transmission. Including the power electronics, the powertrain weighs about 243 pounds, and Mercedes says it can deliver up to 93% efficiency from battery to wheel in long-distance driving. The percentage of rare earth metals is also reduced to “near zero.”
Exterior design plays off the look previous CLA generations, but with a techier flair especially in the use of lighting. The headlights and taillights take the shape of the Mercedes star logo, and the grille, which has a shark nose forward tilt, has 264 little Mercedes stars of its own as well as one large star logo. Each of the small stars can be lit up by three LEDs to create patterns to welcome a driver, say goodbye, or just impress onlookers. Another 652 stars are embossed into the glass roof, which has just one pillar for support at the front. Several more stars are found in the design of each wheel.
The overall profile is traditional CLA, though with cleaner side surfacing and wider rear haunches to accommodate wider rear tires as well as a wider rear track. The wheels span 21 inches and the tires measure 255/35 up front and 285/30 in the rear.
Inside, the Concept CLA features the Mercedes Superscreen that extends the width of the dash and incorporates analog and digital controls for the climate system via rings embedded in the glass at each end of the dash. A floating center console leaves room for purses and the like below it, and at the front of the firewall Mercedes highlights the MB.OS processor that runs the vehicles’ electronics.
The cabin’s sustainable interior materials also originated with the EQXX. They include fabric made from recycled PET plastic, nappa leather tanned with coffee bean shells, artificial silk, bamboo for the floor mats, and even treated paper for some trim. An improved heat pump, also from the EQXX, more efficiently warms the interior by using ambient air and heated air from the drivetrain.
Mercedes says the Concept CLA has SAE Level 2 driver-assistance systems that can handle the controls in some situations. Lidar will be added to the production car in the future, and Mercedes says SAE Level 3 self-driving will be available, though that will be subject to local regulations. A rear seat child detector system will be available from the start.
A production version of the Vision CLA will debut in late 2024 as the CLA-Class four-door coupe, probably as a 2025 model. Prototypes have been spotted testing. Look for an official reveal of the production car next year, and pricing and complete specs should follow closer to launch.
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