Mercedes-Benz Concept CLA Class Debuts Next Week

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Mercedes-Benz plans to introduce the MMA-based (Mercedes Modular Architecture) Concept CLA Class at the IAA Mobility Show in Germany this weekend. This will preview the brand’s all-new “MB.OS” operating system and the vehicle it's putting on the front line to help draw in a new generation of customers. 

"The Concept CLA Class is the forerunner for an entirely new portfolio of electric-first vehicles that will serve as the gateway into the world of Mercedes-Benz," explained Ola Kallenius, Chairman of the Management Board for Mercedes-Benz Group AG. "We will massively elevate our offering in this segment — developed from scratch on our new dedicated MMA platform. All of these models are designed to fulfill one mission: Redefining every aspect of what customers can expect in this format."

Basically, Mercedes wants new entry-level products that leadership believes will appeal to younger buyers and isn’t afraid to get a little weird with the design to accomplish this task. While we don’t have any technical specifications for the CLA concept or photos of its interior, the automaker has said it would utilize the next-generation electric powertrain derived from the Vision EQXX program focused on maximizing mileage. Mercedes likewise suggested that a production variant could boast an all-electric range exceeding 460 miles, which would be sufficient for any daily duties other than heavy road-tripping. 

But it’s difficult to call the concept truly novel based on the marketing materials being teased out. Mercedes has been promising to go all-electric for years and its designs don’t seem to be getting any more conservative. While its exteriors are toned down compared to a few of the products we’ve seen coming from BMW of late, some Benz interiors are about as subtle as a pair of leopard-print boots. 

Fortunately, they’re also rich in features and brimming with modern technologies. Though it’s not abundantly clear that’s what today’s customers are actually gravitating toward. Surveys have indicated a decline in overall satisfaction in recent years and the biggest culprit seems to be unappealing (perhaps even overbearing) infotainment systems or wonky user interfaces. 

Have you ever wondered why automakers are so quick to promote Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity? It’s because buyers often prefer using systems native to their phone, rather than the default operating system that came with the car. Drivers are tired of captive buttons, haptic feedback, drop-down menus, unnecessary features, automobiles trying to predict their desires, and all those little changes designed to make your vehicle a better phone and a worse automobile. 

Mercedes has leaned into tech about as hard as it could and married it to interior designs that are lavish and often quite loud compared to their German peers. This has undoubtedly been polarizing for its fans, as there’s no shortage of forum posts where long-time customers bemoan the brand’s boldly styled cabins. But this has also helped set them apart from rivals and helped them retain some clout in markets like China — where the big-screen trend is seen as a sign of affluence. 

The Concept CLA looks to be trying to check as many boxes as possible, including Mercedes’ penchant for hiding its own logo wherever possible. However, this time it seems to have done away with any subtlety to simply place its three-pointed star where you’d normally expect to see normal-looking headlights.

It’s also assumed to boast an egg-shaped body. Despite the form falling into and then immediately out of favor in the late 1990s, it’s one of the most aerodynamic designs and MB has been readapting it for some of their newer vehicles — especially those that feature all-electric propulsion. 

We’ll get a better look at the CLA concept (really more of a prototype) next week and its Sunday debut is to be followed by the formal reveal of the 2024 Mercedes-Benz E Class All-Terrain and Mercedes-AMG GT Concept E Performance.

[Images: Mercedes-Benz]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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2 of 20 comments
  • SPPPP SPPPP on Sep 04, 2023

    That teaser photo looks like a parody. But I don't think Mercedes wants us to laugh at their new vehicles, do they? Also, this statement sounds silly: "All of these models are designed to fulfill one mission: Redefining every aspect of what customers can expect in this format." I really don't think you can claim to be "focused on everything", to paraphrase.

    • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Sep 05, 2023

      Trying to be everything to everyone, and fill every niche. So much for "Engineered like no other car in the world".

  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Sep 05, 2023

    If the rest of it is that ugly, it'll flop spectacularly.

  • VoGhost Key phrase: "The EV market has grown." Yup, EV sales are up yet again, contrary to what nearly every article on the topic has been claiming. It's almost as if the press gets 30% of ad revenues from oil companies and legacy ICE OEMs.
  • Leonard Ostrander Daniel J, you are making the assertion. It's up to you to produce the evidence.
  • VoGhost I remember all those years when the brilliant TTAC commenters told me over and over how easy it was for legacy automakers to switch to making EVs, and that Tesla was due to be crushed by them in just a few months.
  • D "smaller vehicles" - sorry, that's way too much common sense! Americans won't go along because clever marketing convinced us our egos need big@ss trucks, which give auto manufacturers the profit margin they want, and everybody feels vulnerable now unless they too have a huge vehicle. Lower speed limits could help, but no politician wants to push that losing policy. We'll just go on building more lanes and driving faster and faster behind our vehicle's tinted privacy glass. Visions of Slim Pickens riding a big black jacked up truck out of a B-52.
  • NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys dudes off the rails on drugs and full of hate and retribution. so is musky.