Mercedes Concept CLA Class revealed in Munich | CAR Magazine

Mercedes Concept CLA Class revealed in Munich

Published: 03 September 2023 Updated: 04 September 2023

► Concept CLA Class: Merc’s new chapter
► New styling, groundbreaking tech inside
► Previews the next generation of road cars

This is the new Mercedes-Benz Concept CLA Class, a new electric vehicle that looks to the past as well as the future.

Unveiled the day before the official start of the IAA Munich motor show, it showcases Mercedes next-generation MMA platform, and combines it with a design language that blends modern technology with retro looks. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s exactly what BMW’s Vision Neue Klasse, also unveiled at the Munich motor show, aims to do, too.

The new Concept CLA Class won’t make it to production, but its DNA will be carried into four new production cars that’ll also use the MMA platform. Mercedes says the concept you see here will spawn a four-door saloon, a shooting brake and two SUVs. The first of those will be the four-door coupe, and we’ll see that towards the end of 2024.

Mercedes Concept CLA points to the next generation of Merc EVs

What’s new?

But back to the Concept CLA Class revealed in Munich. In the same way the Neue Klasse presents a new chapter for BMW, the Concept CLA Class ushers in a new direction for Daimler, as it combines new powertrain tech with an evolved styling direction. 

Let’s get to the styling first: the new Concept CLA Class continues Mercedes’ two biggest design trends – increasingly complex light signatures, and the use of the brand logo as a design highlight (a method used by many luxury fashion houses). 

Featuring two circular headlights nestling under a ‘monobrow’ lightbar that wraps around the snout encircling the bonnet and bleeding into the flanks, the new CLA is designed to look elegant and aggressive at the same time. Neo-classical charm, or the face of an Angry Bird? You decide.

Either way, you’ll find the same as the back; the rear lights get the same treatment.

Concept CLA side

The entire grille is tilted slightly forward, giving the new concept a shark-nose stance reminiscent of cars from the 1960s and ’70s. As you’d expect it’s also packed with lots of three-pointed stars, too.

The CLA concept benefits from short front and rear overhangs; this may be a lengthy car, but most of it is contained within the wheelbase. A swooping glasshouse echoes earlier CLA and CLS four-doors with a slammed flavour, while a glass roof etched with three-pointed stars should certainly make for an airy cabin. Similar to the roof on the EQ cars, we’d expect the aero stance helps the Concept CLA Class cut through the air well too. 

Like other Mercedes designs in recent years, the CLA runs on 21-inch wheels which once again repurpose the three-pointed star into a distinctive motif. 

What’s the tech like? 

This is the first Mercedes to use the brand’s new MMA platform, tech that’ll soon power every other electric Mercedes. Like most next-gen powertrains, the MMA platform uses 800-volt technology with improved energy density, making it both smaller and lighter than before.

The MMA architecture powers just the rear wheels in this concept, though its modular design means it can be configured for all-wheel drive too.

MMA also gives customers a choice of battery chemistries: an entry-level configuration uses lithium-ion phosphate batteries, but deploys glue instead of screws for a smaller, stiffer and more compact unit. The higher-end version uses an anode design with silicon-oxide instead, for even better energy density. 

The result? The Concept CLA should do 466 miles WLTP on a single charge, and can also accept high-powered 250kW DC charging – for 248 miles of range in just 15 minutes, claims Merc. Just like the E-GMP platform from the Hyundai Motor Group, the MMA platform is also capable of bi-directional charging, so you can power your house or a camping fridge from the car. 

Mercedes-Benz Concept CLA Class at the 2023 IAA car show

Sustainability is increasingly key, so it’s significant that the platform uses close to 0% rare earth metals, and a carbon footprint reduction of 40%, according to Daimler. 

New motors 

Another MMA innovation is the new Electric Drive unit that comprises of a motor, transmission and power electronics. Modular and developed inhouse, it’s the first in a new breed of solutions from Stuttgart, and will pair a 175kW permanently excited synchronous motor with a two-speed transmission. 

Mercedes engineers have also incorporated power electronics for the motor and transmission in the same unit, resulting in a more efficient device that weighs just 110kg. When used together with a silicon carbide inverter, energy efficiency can be as high as 93% on longer journeys, engineers say. 

What’s the interior like? 

CLA interior

The inside of Mercedes’ latest concept is equally bold in its execution, and features a mixture of aluminium and neon lighting for a futuristic but retro feel. Think Mr Freeze from Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin meets the current A-class, and you’re pretty much there.

Tech-wise, there’s an MBUX Superscreen with efficient mini-LEDs that also features local dimming, technology usually found on high-end televisions. Instead of the entire screen being backlit, local dimming allows parts of the screen to be effectively shut off, making blacks ‘blacker’ and improving efficiency in the process.  

The entire interior has a sculpted feel; the infotainment system is enclosed in an aluminium unibody design while bucket seats at the front are forged in one piece, and upholstered in sustainably treated nappa leather.

Anything else?

The Concept CLA Class also sees the debut of MB.OS, a new inhouse hardware and software solution that will act as the brain of the car – and all future Mercedes EVs going forward. By combining everything infotainment one system and doing so inhouse, Mercedes is clearly framing it as another differentiator between its cars and the competition’s.

In the concept, the MB.OS chip is displayed in pride of place on the dashboard, suggesting it’s a key part – not just in how Mercedes’ EVs will function – but also how they’ll be marketed.

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's Digital Editor, F1 and sim-racing enthusiast. Partial to clever tech and sports bikes