DETROIT MOTOR SHOW: Benz pitches CLA upmarket

words - Bruce Newton
Mercedes-Benz C-Class-sized front-wheel drive four-door coupe to cost at least $50,000 in Australia

The swoopy new Mercedes-Benz CLA will be priced beyond $50,000 when it arrives in Australia late in 2013.

Mercedes’ CLS-inspired four-door ‘coupe’ will also be offered in a more limited engine range in Australia than its fellow front-wheel drive models, the B-Class and forthcoming A-Class, which goes on sale in March.

The CLA will be offered only as a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol CLA 200 BLUEEFFICIENCY and 1.8-litre turbo-diesel CLA 200 CDI, with the range set to be bolstered in 2014 by the addition of the 4MATIC all-wheel drive 2.0-litre turbo-petrol CLA 45 AMG. All cars will come only with a seven-speed dual-clutch 7G-DCT transmission.

The headline-grabbing CLA 180 BLUEEFFICIENCY, with its 0.22Cd coefficient of drag, will not come to Australia.

Despite the pricing and the limited range, Mercedes-Benz Australia-Pacific still expects to move between 200 and 250 CLAs per month to “style conscious buyers”, which is a rate close to what it expects for the much cheaper, five-door A-Class.

“Bear in mind the equipment is going to be very strong,” Mercedes-Benz Australia-Pacific Senior Corporate Communications Manager David McCarthy told at the CLA’s pre-reveal on the eve of the Detroit auto show.

“In terms of size and pricing it is going to be close to C-Class.

“The spec will more than justify the price. We have based this on the feedback from customers on what they want from the car… so we specced it upmarket deliberately because that’s what they wanted.”

Mr McCarthy said the flagship A250 Sport was similar in specification level to where the CLA starts: “But the CLA is more focussed on convenience rather than sport,” he cautioned.

Mr McCarthy confirmed that the CLA would - as a result of its 4.63-metre length, starting price and high equipment – inevitably cannibalise C-Class sales.

“But it’s hard to say how many sales it will take from the C-Class,” Mr McCarthy cautioned. “While it is a similar size to C-Class this is a market we haven’t really played in before.

Both cars are aimed at attracting new and younger buyers to Benz, giving the brand direct competition with the BMW 1 and 2 Series and Audi A3 line-up. Next up is a mini-SUV dubbed GLA, while a ‘Shooting Brake’ version of CLA – as per CLS – is mooted.

“CLA and A-Class are bringing new buyers to the brand that have never looked at us here before, that’s why we are not overly concerned if it pinches some sales from C-Class. We don’t think it will be hugely significant.”

It is known that Mercedes-Benz will respond to size of the CLA by growing the size of the next generation C-Class when it launches in 2014. It will also retain its signature rear-wheel drive.

Mr McCarthy doubted whether the CLA’s front-wheel drive would deter any potential buyers, despite Benz’s traditional rear-wheel drive base.

“The customers at the end of the day, if the car drives as they expect, don’t care if it is pushed or pulled.”

Mercedes-Benz has also announced a 250 CDI version of the CLS four-door for Australia. Priced at $119,900, the four-cylinder turbo-diesel undercuts its ‘Shooting Brake’ equivalent by $9100.

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Published : Monday, 14 January 2013
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