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Mercedes-Benz CLA unveiled

Fashionable Gen-Y buyers and the “young-at-heart” are the targets of Mercedes-Benz’s new four-door coupe, which will be priced in the $50,000s when it goes on sale in Australia late this year.

The CLA looks like a scaled-down version of the CLS but is based on a stretched platform of the front-wheel drive A-Class. All-wheel drive is optional across the line-up but Australia will only take all-paw grip in the high-performance AMG version. Similarly, Aussie-spec cars will use a dual-clutch seven speed as standard rather than opting for the six-speed manual.

Mercedes-Benz Australia spokesman David McCarthy says customers will care about the features and how the car drives, rather than which wheels are providing the traction. “If a car drives as the customer expects, they don’t care whether it’s push or pull,” he says. “We don’t see it (AWD) as a big issue for us.”

Three versions of the CLA will be sold in Australia: a 1.6-litre turbo petrol, 1.6-litre turbo diesel and an AMG 2.0-litre performance turbo petrol.

All cars will be highly specified, with a radar-based “Collision Prevention Assist” system that warns drivers of imminent crashes at speeds above 7km/h. Linked to the adaptive cruise control, the CLA will auto brake if the driver fails to respond.

Telematics are also a major focus to woo Gen-Y buyers and include internet connectivity with Facebook and Twitter, Siri voice control and location sharing. The CLA is the third model spun off Mercedes-Benz’s modular front-drive MLA architecture, following the A and B-Class cars.

Another two versions are planned: one has been confirmed as the GLA baby SUV and the other is expected to be a shooting brake version of the CLA. The car is bigger than the current C-Class sedan, giving a good indication the next-gen C will also grow in size to differentiate itself from the front-wheel drive model.

The interior look is similar to the A-Class, with extensive use of alloy finishes, the SLS-style round air vents (though three vents in the centre of the dash is probably overkill) and a stand-alone touchscreen. The exterior design is edgy and stylish, with strong contour lines along the flanks and over the bonnet that pictures don’t do justice to. Mercedes-Benz sales and marketing head Dr Joachim Schmidt says the CLA is “a real Mercedes, but not as you know it”

“Our new CLA-Class has everything to attract new customers and it’s one of the few new cars to turn heads. But at the same time it comes packed with all of the traditional values which are typical for a Mercedes,” he notes.