The Mercedes Concept Style Coupé (CSC) has received its debut at the Beijing motor show. The model previews the forthcoming Mercedes CLA compact saloon, which was confirmed for production at the show today by Mercedes boss Dieter Zetsche.
He described the CLA junior saloon, inspired by the success of the CLS and due on sale next year, as the"rebel".
"It is the avant-garde sibling that strives to be bold and different, to establish a strong non-conformist identity and to even show a bit of attitude," revealed Zetsche. "I promise the production version will do justice to this concept version."
Among the CLA’s four-door rivals will be a saloon version of the new Audi A3, also due next year, and a secret four-door version of the BMW 1-series, which is currently undergoing conceptual development with a view to introduction in 2015.
The CLA also has in its sights the Volkswagen Jetta - a car officials suggest they will target heavily in North America and China, markets considered crucial to the CLA’s success.
Long billed as a junior CLS, the CLA will sit below the Mercedes C-class saloon on price and features in the marques line-up. However, this CSC show car hints that Mercedes’ new entry-level saloon will be 47mm longer, a considerable 121mm wider and 47mm lower than the C-class saloon. The CSC is 4637mm long, 1891mm wide and 1398mm tall.
These official measurements also make it 345mm longer, the same width and 35mm lower than the new Mercedes A-class - a car with which the CLA shares its platform, chassis and driveline architecture.
Based on Mercedes’ new MFA platform, it has a 2699mm wheelbase — 59mm shorter than the C-class but the same as the A-class.
The CSC concept has been fitted with the same turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine confirmed for the new A250 at the Geneva show in March.
This engine kicks out a Volkswagen Golf GTI-equalling 208bhp. Drive is channelled through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox to all four wheels.
In production guise, the CLA will offer the choice of standard front-wheel drive or optional four-wheel drive. Gearboxes will include a standard six-speed manual or the same seven-speed dual-clutch unit as the CSC as an option.
The 208bhp engine showcased in the CSC is set to see the light of day in the CLA250. The junior saloon is also set to offer two other turbo four-pot petrol units: a 120bhp 1.6 in the CLA180 and a 154bhp 2.0 in the CLA200.
Three turbodiesel engines are also planned: two 1.8-litre units with 108bhp in the CLA180 CDI and 134bhp in the CLA200 CDI,and a 168bhp 2.2 in the CLA220 CDI.
The highlight of the line-up will be a four-wheel-drive AMG model running an uprated 2.0-litre turbo engine with up to 340bhp. Secrecy surrounds this model’s name. However, insiders suggest it may take the designation CLA45 AMG as a nod to AMG’s 45th anniversary.
Advancing the look first established by the F800 Style concept at the 2010 Geneva motor show, the CSC is described by Mercedes design boss Gorden Wagener as setting “a new benchmark for design in the executive segment. Its proportions, surfaces and lines are an expression of our dynamic design idiom”.
The CSC has clear visual links to the larger CLS — a car whose success as a stylistic figurehead for the rest of the Mercedes line-up and at showroom level heavily influenced the decision to add the CLA to the line-up.
Although Mercedes is quick to point out that the CSC is a one-off show car, Autocar sources privy to the final look of the CLA confirm that its styling is largely faithful to the production car. A source said: “Certain design elements have been subtly altered to lend a more powerful look for added presence on the show stand, but as a whole the exterior and interior reflect the true design of the production car.”
Mercedes undertook a similar approach to the unveiling of its latest A-class, which was previewed by the Mercedes Concept A-class show car at last year’s Shanghai motor show. But one source hinted: “You will see less change in the transformation of the Concept Style Coupé to the CLA than in the Concept A-class to the new A-class. It really does set the tone and capture the intrinsic visual character of the production car.”
Among the mild stylistic changes expected, the CLA will adopt less flamboyant bumpers, altered headlamp graphics (the CSC’s headlamps glow red in standby mode), more conventional exterior mirrors, the same pull-out door handles as on the A-class and smaller wheels and tyres than the 21-inch items that adorn the show car.
The CSC has an upgraded interior borrowed from the latest A-class. The same basic appointments will be used on the CLA. As with versions of its hatchback sibling equipped with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, the CSC forgoes a centre console-mounted gearlever in favour of a column-mounted shifter.
Whereas the production version of Mercedes’ new entry-level saloon will have a five-seat layout, the CSC concept car features a four-seat arrangement, with the individual rear seats divided by a prominent centre console. A similar arrangement could be offered as an option on the CLA.