The new CLA. Untamed

Unleash the beast: The new 4-door coupé from Mercedes-Benz is a landmark design concept – and it oozes aerodynamics that will take your breath away.

By Christof Vieweg

The first encounter was determined by fate. Last summer, the CLA remained one of Mercedes-Benz’s best-kept secrets. The car was actually supposed to be kept behind closed doors, but the prototype still stood in the very back corner of a big room. A quick glance made me think of a predator, and since then this picture has stuck in my mind – linked with a desire to investigate the matter further.

Several months later, I described this brief encounter to Gorden Wagener, Head of Design at Mercedes-Benz, to which he replied with a satisfied smile, “Well, we’ve obviously done our job well – it’s just the reaction a good design should get. The ability to bewitch, bring dreams to life and make our cars desirable – not only on the very first encounter, but over and over again every day.”

My second encounter with the CLA lasted somewhat longer, and my good first impression was confirmed. It appears very familiar, yet seems to be quite different: The grille with the large Mercedes star and the striking chrome pins which shine as bright as diamonds, headlights with the typical glow of yellow and white LED’s – these are the typical facial features of the new A-Class; young, dynamic, progressive.

Elegance and dynamics

The bonnet accentuates the independent profile and the two extra power domes emphasise that this car is quite unique. The car’s genes are a mix of the unmistakable features of the new compact class and a number of very individual attributes. Gorden Wagener speaks of elegance and dynamic, of tradition and progress and about senses and sensuality. Features that don’t really go together, but fit very naturally into the car’s characteristic appearance and radiate something quite special.

The concept of the car also sounds a little contradictory: A coupé with four doors. Mercedes-Benz first came with this idea in 2004, when they presented a model that combined the elegance of a coupé with the comfort and functionality of a saloon car: the CLS. The role model for a new type of car. Fascinatingly beautiful and fascinatingly different. Mercedes-Benz now transfers this fascination to the compact class, where the new coupé formulates today’s mode of expression.

Drop Shape – the new design

“Previously, our model design was characterized by a forward-facing wedge shape, where now it’s all about a dynamic line-formed flow towards the rear,” explains Wagener and demonstrates with his hand the progress of the so-called “Dropping Line”, an important feature of the new style. This line extends from the front wing to the rear door, with a slight curve towards the rear wheel.

The counterpart is called “Balance Line”: This line divides the lower area of the doors and extends upward toward the rear axle. “It gives an interesting “Drop Shape”, a sort of teardrop silhouette,” states Wagener about the design.

“Your gaze is drawn from the front of the car towards the rear, where our models now have their optical powerhouse. Powerful proportions defined by the long bonnet, the long wheelbase, the short rear end and the distinctive rear passenger compartment, enhances the new lines. Seen in this way, the design stands as a work of art on wheels: The arched, softly rounded surfaces take on a whole new emotional expressive power thanks to the tight lines.

Aerodynamic world record 

Just like the compact coupé, the shape of future Mercedes-Benz models will be even more stylish, sensual and progressive, promises the Head of Design. “An aura of glamour will surround our cars, and the fascination of the beauty will be further enhanced.” The CLA is just the beginning.

The new 4-door coupé is convincing, not only through its mode of expression, but it is also unsurpassed in terms of the aerodynamic features. Thanks to the low flow resistance the model has taken the world record for production cars. Truly a “beast” – and with style.