Mercedes-Benz showed off MBUX, its new infotainment interface, at last year’s CES show in Las Vegas, which makes some sense—CES is all about the latest in electronics. But it still strikes us as a strange place to debut an entire car, but that’s the venue Benz chose for its all-new 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA-class. At least the eensy four-door does feature MBUX.
The second-generation front-drive CLA250 and all-wheel-drive CLA250 4MATIC share their platform and most of their mechanicals with the recently released A-class sedan, which means they also pack a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four. But whereas the A220 gets 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque from the engine, the CLS250s will have 221 horses and 258 pound-feet, befitting their premium status within the M-B lineup. Compared to the previous CLA-class, that’s an additional 13 horses. (Even more power is almost definitely going to be available via CLA43 and CLA45 models from AMG; the A45, for example, is rumored to make more than 400 hp.) The engine is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Top speed is limited to 130 mph.
Looks-wise, the four-door CLA—which Mercedes still insists on calling a “coupe”—once again sports a fast rear roofline, but it looks less gawky and much better resolved than before. Helping in that regard are tracks increased by 2.5 inches up front and 2.2 inches wider at the rear. The bluff front end features a diamond-mesh pattern in the grille, while the hood has twin strakes that fade as they near the base of the windshield. Overall length is up by almost two inches to 184.6, and the CLA now rides on a wheelbase increased by 1.1 inches over the previous generation to 107.4.
Around back, the two-piece taillamps are slimmer and the license plate location has moved lower, to the bumper. The look is similar to that of the bigger E- and CLS-class models. The 2020 CLA rolls on 16-inch wheels as standard, at least in Europe, although up to 19-inch pieces are available.
If you’ve seen the inside of the A-class, the CLA’s innards will look familiar. There’s no longer a cowl above the instrument panel, which is now a floating panel incorporating both a customizable digital gauge panel and a widescreen 7.0-inch infotainment display. A new center-console touchpad, panoramic sunroof, and Mercedes’ now signature turbine-like air vents are all included as standard.
Front headroom has increased by 0.7 inch to 40.3, while rear headroom is up a hair—almost literally—to 35.7 inches from 35.6. We’d recommend continuing to be careful entering the back seat to protect your noggin. Trunk capacity is down by 0.4 cubic feet to 16.2 cubes on account of the more rounded overall styling.
In addition to the MBUX system with “Hey, Mercedes” voice commands and inquiries, there’s an “Interior Assist” function that can be accessed by holding your hand over the center console with your index and middle fingers spread into a V. This is said to allow any MBUX command to be stored for easier access, and the system is designed to recognize the different hands of multiple drivers and/or passengers, who can then store different features to the same hand gesture. Other functions can be controlled without programming a specific gesture. For instance, the driver can turn on their own reading lamp by extending a hand toward the rearview mirror, or the passenger lamp by waving a hand in the direction of the empty seat.
Mercedes-Benz also claims that the new CLA is now able to drive semi-autonomously in certain situations with the same improved camera and radar systems found in S-class models. Active Brake Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist are also both standard.
Pricing has yet to be announced, but we expect the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA-class to start a little higher than the A-class’s $35K entry point. It should arrive at dealerships by the end of the year.