SUNNYVALE, CA – The third-generation Mercedes-Benz CLA will offer the choice of battery-electric and mild-hybrid gasoline power when it goes on sale in North America in 2025.
To be previewed in concept form in September at the 2023 Munich auto show, the sedan is among four “Entry Luxury” models to be introduced by the German automaker over the next three years as part of a comprehensive restructuring of its compact car lineup under its “Electric First” strategy.
In a major shift from the current plan, Mercedes-Benz will reduce the number of compact models from the seven it offers today to just four by the end of 2026.
The existing internal-combustion-engine A-Class hatchback, standard-wheelbase A-Class sedan, Chinese-built long-wheelbase A-Class sedan and B-Class MPV all will cease production at the end of their respective model cycles.
In Mercedes-Benz’s revamped compact-model lineup, the CLA sedan will be joined by successors to the CLA Shooting Brake (pictured, below), GLA/EQA CUV and GLB/EQB SUV. All will be produced with both electric and gasoline power at Mercedes-Benz’s factories in Rastatt, Germany, and Kecskemet, Hungary.
A proposed fifth compact in the form of a junior G-Class-inspired off-roader is being discussed internally at Mercedes-Benz, according to Wards sources. They say, however, there is “no decision yet on whether it will form part of the new lineup.”
Detailing the compact-vehicle plans at a media event here at the automaker’s California R&D center, CEO Ola Kallenius says, “We will focus on the models that we believe are the most successful on a worldwide basis.”
With China and North America ranking as Mercedes-Benz’s largest markets by sales volume, the decision has been made to focus on sedan, CUV and SUV models.
Underpinning Mercedes-Benz’s future compact-model lineup is the new Mercedes Modular Architecture (MMA) platform, as previewed by the wind-cheating Vision EQXX concept car (pictured, below) revealed in 2022.
Unlike the larger and more sophisticated MB-EA platform, which Mercedes-Benz confirms will support only battery-electric models and is planned to go into production in 2025 as the basis for the upcoming electric version of the C-Class and GLC, the MMA platform is being engineered for both all-electric and internal-combustion-engine models.
Explaining the dual role of the new platform, Kallenius says: “It is electric first. But that doesn’t mean it is electric only.”
Details remain scarce more than 18 months prior to the CLA sedan’s planned unveiling, though Wards can reveal it will initially be sold in electric form from early 2025, with a new mild-hybrid gasoline engine also to be made available in selected markets about 6 months later under current plans.
In battery-electric form, the MMA supports an 800V electric architecture with charging at up to 350 kW, allowing a 10%-80% battery charge within 30 minutes on a high-powered DC system, says Mercedes-Benz.
The new platform has been conceived around a new lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) battery. It is based around a cell-to-pack production principle and is claimed to offer vastly improved efficiency over the lithium-ion units used by Mercedes-Benz today.
Mercedes-Benz also plans to introduce a new silicon-anode battery developed in partnership with U.S. company Sila in a long-range version of the CLA sedan. Nothing is official right now, but early testing is said to yield average energy consumption under 12 kWh/100 km.
With an 82-kWh battery capacity similar to that of the Tesla Model 3 Long Range, this would provide the CLA with a range of close to 435 miles (700 km). For now, though, the battery capacity of the upcoming sedan remains under wraps.
Both single-motor front- and dual-motor rear-wheel-drive models of the battery-electric CLA sedan and its Mercedes-Benz compact-model siblings are envisioned.
The electric motors are described as being second-generation permanent-magnet synchronous units. They will be coupled with a newly developed silicon carbide inverter and provide drive through a 2-speed gearbox.
The internal-combustion engine to be offered by Mercedes-Benz in the CLA sedan has been engineered and developed in partnership with Geely, which also will produce the new unit in China.
In addition to Geely, Mercedes-Benz has partnered with Geely-owned Volvo Cars in developing the new gasoline engine.
It will be offered exclusively in mild-hybrid form with a 48V electric architecture and a gearbox-mounted integrated starter motor providing additional power and torque under acceleration as well as coasting properties.
“A plug-in hybrid application is not planned for the new compact car line-up,” a source with knowledge of Mercedes-Benz’s future model lineup reveals.
The availability of a gasoline engine for the CLA sedan indicates AMG versions of the new model are also likely, though this is yet to be confirmed by Mercedes-Benz’s performance-car division.
Other developments to be featured on the CLA include Mercedes-Benz’s proprietary MB.OS operating system (pictured, below). Unveiled by Kallenius in February, the new chip-to-cloud architecture has been developed to support third-party applications and will provide access to Google Maps and other functions.
The Mercedes-Benz CEO also confirms all MMA-based models will receive Level 2 Plus assisted-driving functions.
The styling of the third-generation CLA progresses the design of today’s second-generation model. Key elements include a new-look grille set low in the front bumper along with angular headlamps connected by a light band at the front.
The rear end mirrors the look up front with taillamps joined by a light band across the rear of the trunklid.
A longer wheelbase than that of today’s CLA is claimed to improve access to both the front and rear of the cabin.
As part of recent moves to simplify the naming of Mercedes-Benz’s models, the CLA is expected to retain its traditional name in both battery-electric and internal-combustion models rather than adopt the EQ sub-branding given to electric models today.