Home » The Electric Mercedes-Benz Concept CLA Has A Two-Speed Transmission, Lots Of Range, And Seats That Look Like Hammerhead Sharks

The Electric Mercedes-Benz Concept CLA Has A Two-Speed Transmission, Lots Of Range, And Seats That Look Like Hammerhead Sharks

Mercedes Benz Concept Cla Class Mercedes Benz Concept Cla Class
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For the past decade, the Mercedes-Benz CLA has been the car to lease for people who just got their first professional job and own anything with a Gucci logo on it. It’s historically been an affordable slice of an iconic brand, but that could be changing. The next-generation CLA is going both electric and upmarket, and Mercedes has released a concept version at IAA Mobility Munich to whet everyone’s appetites. Beneath the horrifically tacky concept car trappings, this Baby Benz might just be Stuttgart’s most important entry-level sedan since the 190E.

Mercedes Benz Concept Cla Class Mercedes Benz Concept Cla Class

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Let’s get the show car glitz and glamor out of the way first. There are some decent things about the CLA concept’s styling, many of which could make it to production. The wheels are stellar, the soft lower bodyside surfacing is refreshingly subtle, and when was the last time you saw a concept car with mirrors? However, there are also some not-so-great things about the concept’s styling. It has the down-the-road graphic of an annoyed bass, the Mercedes logo in the light fixtures should directly appeal to desperately aspirational wankers, and I shudder to think what ideas AliExpress vendors are conjuring up after seeing an illuminated rear emblem. Still, most of the really bad stuff probably won’t make production, so let’s put that aside for now.

Mercedes Benz Concept Cla Class Mercedes Benz Concept Cla Class

On the inside, things get substantially more interesting. Each seat looks a bit like a hammerhead shark, the full-width finned HVAC vent is inspired, temperature displays the diameter of soup cans are intriguing, and the screen setup almost looks sensible. Sure, this latest variant of MBUX spans virtually the entire dashboard, but it looks tidier than what you’d get in an EQS or EQE. Mind you, most people won’t use at least one function of the infotainment system. According to the press release, “The MBUX Collectibles feature enables the creation of a private art gallery by connecting the customer’s personal NFT wallet and enabling them to browse an exhibition curated by Mercedes-Benz.” Um, gross.

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Mercedes Benz Concept Cla Class Mercedes Benz Concept Cla Class

Thankfully, the infotainment doesn’t manage to dominate the entire interior because everything’s so intricately detailed. We’re talking more shiny metal than your local jeweler has on deck, interesting textures and shapes, and a good whack of color. I wouldn’t expect everything in here to make production, but Mercedes-Benz is pursuing ornate cabins, so expect some of the craziness to stay. Right, flights of fancy over, let’s talk about the meat and potatoes.

Mercedes Benz Concept Cla Class

The bones of this concept car make up an all-new, all-electric architecture called, erm, the Mercedes-Benz Modular Architecture, or MMA for short. It’s not the most imaginative name, but it is an imaginative platform. In the near future, MMA will expand to cover every entry-level product Mercedes-Benz sells, even if the three-pointed star is paring that number down to four. Teasers released during IAA Munich suggest the lineup will consist of the CLA, one boxy GLB-like crossover, one more mainstream crossover, and a wagon, the latter of which doesn’t seem poised for American sale, given how the current CLA Shooting Brake is mostly a European affair.

Mercedes Benz Concept Cla Class Mercedes Benz Concept Cla Class

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This all-electric concept car is the first A-Class variant to be rear-wheel-drive, and what a drive unit it is. Not only does it push out a respectable 235 horsepower, it does so while featuring an integrated two-speed gearbox like you get on a Porsche Taycan, up to 93 percent energy efficiency, and a total weight of 243 pounds. Of course, Mercedes-Benz also has a really imaginative name for this component — Mercedes-Benz Electric Drive Unit, or MB.EDU for short.

Mercedes-Benz hasn’t divulged full specs on the CLA concept’s drivetrain, but the brand has given us enough information to calculate things out. On the optimistic WLTP cycle, this thing should be capable of more than 466 miles on a charge and efficiency of 5.2 mi/kWh. With some simple math, that should give the next CLA a battery pack capacity of more than 89.6 kWh, a big pack for a vehicle this small. For context, the Tesla Model 3’s largest available battery pack clocks in at 82 kWh, matching the capacity of a long-range 2024 Polestar 2. So how will Mercedes-Benz fit that much energy into an entry-level car? It all comes down to packaging and chemistry.

Mercedes Benz Concept Cla Class Mercedes Benz Concept Cla Class

While base CLAs will come with traditional lithium-ion battery chemistry, those flush with cash will be able to opt for silicon-oxide anodes for improved energy density. According to Mercedes-Benz battery partner ProLogium, cells with these silicon-oxide anodes 295-330 Wh/KG. Even if we use the conservative end of that spectrum as a theoretical baseline, that should mean 89.6 kWh worth of these cells would weigh just 670 pounds.

According to Mercedes-Benz, the CLA concept also uses cell-to-pack battery pack construction. Instead of traditional modules, expect all the cells to be bonded together to save space. We’ve seen cell-to-pack in certain variants of the Tesla Model Y, and so long as a sufficient chain of recyclability is established, I could see this method being used more in the future. Admittedly, it’s not great for serviceability, but improved chemistry can only go so far in meeting the desires of today’s drivers. Oh, and thanks to the MMA platform’s 800-volt architecture, the next CLA should juice up lickety-split, taking advantage of 250 kW or higher DC fast charging stations whenever available.

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Mercedes Benz Concept Cla Class Mercedes Benz Concept Cla Class

Pre-production models of the next Mercedes-Benz CLA have already been spied testing in zebra camouflage, which should signal a relatively swift arrival to market. Given how the first-generation car had a seven-year production cycle, we wouldn’t be surprised if the next-gen model is unveiled in 2025. Given the architecture-focused bent of this concept car, I’d say we have plenty to be excited about.

(Photo credits: Mercedes-Benz)

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ScottyB
ScottyB
9 months ago

It looks like an angry Chevron car, and the design accents inside all the lights resemble the Mitsubishi logo.

D M
D M
9 months ago

This doesn’t look like a high-dollar luxury car. It looks like a Kia…

Coater
Coater
9 months ago

congratulations, you made a 2013 Sonata

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
9 months ago

My late father was loaned a CLA 180 for a week while his E 280 was at the service centre. He called it the worst and stupidest Mercedes-Benz ever. Its resemblance to the roly poly immediately came to our minds.

He asked me to drive him to his favourite haunt for beers and social meet about 10 km away (this way, he could have a few beers rather than be teetotaller and drive home himself). My father and I could barely enter and exit through the “tiny” door openings. So did my mum who complained of tight headroom and legroom in the rear seat.

The service centre didn’t have anything that is “normal” saloon so we didn’t drive the car much.

Gerontius Garland
Gerontius Garland
9 months ago

Remember when Mercedes made classy and beautiful cars for people with some actual taste? Now they design cars for noveau rich d-bags who think everything should look like a rave at a nightclub. Do they at least have a night panel button so you can turn off all the stupid mood lighting?

“The MBUX Collectibles feature enables the creation of a private art gallery by connecting the customer’s personal NFT wallet and enabling them to browse an exhibition curated by Mercedes-Benz.”

JFC, I think they’ve truly jumped the shark with this one.

Goof
Goof
9 months ago

Did they jump the shark with the NFT garbage, or with the seats shaped like sharks?

Maybe we should have Torch create an NFT of a shark in a 190E that’s jumping over a large D-cell battery so we can figure out the answer.

The Dude
The Dude
9 months ago

I gotta say, this actually is a neat looking car, and I don’t say that very often about Mercedes. But the front… it just looks so… terrible. I almost spit out my coffee this morning out of laughter when I saw it.

Wolfpack57
Wolfpack57
9 months ago

What I find interesting is that they put the Mercedes logo lights over gaps in the sheetmetal that almost look like they were designed to fit headlights that match the design language better

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
9 months ago

This is the fugliest little fish-like thing I’ve ever seen. I don’t like the way it’s looking at me. Give me the Neue Klasse any day over this.

Thevenin
Thevenin
9 months ago

Boy, I wonder what brand this car is. If only there was a logo somewhere to tell me.

Brockstar
Brockstar
9 months ago

Whats with the MB OS glowing box below the dash? Is that its brain? Is that some Neural Net chip? Having that little glowing box on display makes me very uncomfortable.

Chronometric
Chronometric
9 months ago
Reply to  Brockstar

Flux Incapacitater

Angular Banjoes
Angular Banjoes
9 months ago
Reply to  Brockstar

Ooohhh.. I didn’t notice that at first. Is it the Mercedes HAL 9000? I don’t like it.

MrMcGeeIn3D
MrMcGeeIn3D
9 months ago

I really hope automakers start to reverse course on the current trend of filling the interior with as many screens as possible. As someone who works in IT, loves gadgets, and is an avid gamer, I HATE screen-filled cars. They’re distracting, impractical, and very annoying at night.

Daniel MacDonald
Daniel MacDonald
9 months ago

I almost feel bad for car product managers and designers, with the long production cycles they have it’s gotta be so hard to try stay up to date with digital tech-but how did anyone think it still made sense to hype this stupid NFT thing. No doubt when work was first started on this car it was during the height of the NFT craze, but still seems like a cheesy gimmick then and doubly so now nobody but die hards care about them.

like the basic lines of this car a lot more than the lozenge shaped EQS but why does the front end look like the angry face emoji?? Some interesting tech too with the 2 speed trans and very curious about this silicon oxide battery tech as this will likely trickle down over time. I think this is the thing EV doubters always seem to miss, lithium batteries have big problems-but there’s nothing saying that battery tech won’t change to more sustainable and green construction.

Citrus
Citrus
9 months ago

I mean, even with lead times, you can scrap a feature that nobody gives a shit about or would make fun of you for if you announced it. They could just not mention NFTs in the release instead of trying to leap on a fad that has already died.

Daniel MacDonald
Daniel MacDonald
9 months ago
Reply to  Citrus

Oh yeah sorry if that wasn’t clear since I alluded to how they could’ve left it out the press, they were fools to bring up the NFT thing like how little of a feel does Mercedes’ marketing have for the cultural pulse.

Chronometric
Chronometric
9 months ago

Marketing people are supposed to be feeling the cultural pulse but that one died two years ago.

Toecutter
Toecutter
9 months ago

This car as a single-speed(2-speed transmission delete), and with a smaller 40 kWh battery pack, could end up being an “affordable” 200+ mile range EV. At least as “affordable” as you’re going to get from Mercedes-Benz, so possibly around the $30-35k price point in Europe if they did this.

I think there would be a market for such a thing.

I suspect the two-speed transmission exists for Autobahn driving. The shorter gear is used for fast acceleration from a stop, the taller gear could possibly enable 150+ mph cruising. And with good aero, high speed range is most highly impacted in the right direction.

Thevenin
Thevenin
9 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

I feel like Mercedes could actually pull it off, too. The EQXX prototype really cranked up the efficiency.

Toecutter
Toecutter
9 months ago
Reply to  Thevenin

Almost all of the automakers have proven they could have the necessary aerodynamic efficiency with various prototypes… 40+ years ago.

The C111-III streamliner had a 0.19 Cd, in the 1970s. Imagine if they tried to sell that as a halo car with a 3.0L turbodiesel tuned to like 250 horsepower, because that is the sort of car that would have exceeded the fuel efficiency of anything you can buy today, while also being a supercar for the era with regard to performance, and they could have done something like that during a fuel crisis no less.

I’m glad to see that this consideration is being seriously made, finally.

MyCarDecisionsMakeFinancialAdvisorsCry
MyCarDecisionsMakeFinancialAdvisorsCry
9 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

And, take note of the 5.2 miles per KWh. First time I’ve seen a manufacturer brag about efficiency instead of outright range. Having the upper gear probably helps that, as paper napkin math tells me many mainstream EVs currently get 3-4 miles per kWh.

Toecutter
Toecutter
9 months ago

Electric motors have such a broad portion of their operating range where their efficiency is near peak that having different gears would generally make no difference in efficiency. I’d be amazed if a gearing change made more than a 5% difference in efficiency at a given highway cruising speed.

Mainstream EVs consume twice as much energy as they need to for a given degree of utility and occupant comfort, at least as far as cruising on the highway goes with minimal stop and go driving where long range is really needed, because their aero is still horrible like that of conventional cars. The Vision EQXX concept could do 6 miles per kWh, and it weighs 2 tons. The Solectria Sunrise, with similar aero to the EQXX but about 1 ton less in weight, gets 8 miles per kWh. I personally know people who built EV conversions that get 8-9 miles per kWh and did such with a heavy focus on drag reduction and mass reduction, my GT6 conversion included. There’s still some fat to trim on Mercedes’ part, but this CLA is a jump(not a mere step) in the right direction.

I’m a big proponent of efficiency because with the limitations of battery technology, it is the only way we will see a low-mass enthusiasts vehicle that isn’t penalized regarding range, and also currently a necessity for a long range EV to be inexpensive to produce.

MyCarDecisionsMakeFinancialAdvisorsCry
MyCarDecisionsMakeFinancialAdvisorsCry
9 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

That’s cool, and it means there is a lot of way to go for getting more miles per kWh. Think we both agree this is The Way Forward.

That said, what strikes me is that optimum speed for range seems to be 20-30mph, per Tesla’s graph at https://www.tesla.com/blog/model-s-efficiency-and-range. Have to figure adding a gear could raise this to highway speeds (ok, maybe 60ish, depending on car), just like it does with ICE engines.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
9 months ago

GM should sue for violating the patent on the Fashionaire Dynastar grille, unless that’s still under the ownership of RACER Trust or something

Chris D
Chris D
9 months ago

NFTs are so 2022.
And why are the wheels moldy?

Toecutter
Toecutter
9 months ago
Reply to  Chris D

I don’t know why they are “moldy”, but that aesthetic choice harkens back to the 2005 Mercedes Bionic concept car that had a 0.19 drag coefficient.

Lincoln Clown CaR
Lincoln Clown CaR
9 months ago

If I have one issue with my current ride, it’s my inability to display my collection of smoking ape pictures to my passengers while I drive.

Citrus
Citrus
9 months ago

Between styling it to look like one of those Reddit reaction images and including an NFT feature in 2023 someone’s nephew appears to have far too much influence at M-B.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
9 months ago

I like it! I’m not naive enough to assume it’ll look like that when it eventually goes to production, but hopefully some of the styling elements are retained in some way.

Also, whenever I see a CLA, I pronounce it like “Clah” rather than “See Ell Ay”, and I will continue to do so (Same deal with the “Glah” or GLA).

Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
9 months ago

I just want to know where Gorden touched this car, cause it looks PISSED.

Also weird they were hyping up this car to showcase MB.OS and then it’s still MBUX? Who really cares, it’s good software anyway.

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
9 months ago

Hopefully 89.6 kWh is enough power to make it to the nearest trash can. Coachella: the car, seems like an incredible unpleasant place to be. Who decided your average middle management CLA buyer wanted a moving nightclub to commute to their Excel job? I wouldn’t be surprised if a smoking area forms outside.

Daniel MacDonald
Daniel MacDonald
9 months ago

This has been Mercedes interior design aesthetic lately-have you seen an S class interior at night? Apparently someone decided night club was the interior ambiance that would keep them relevant and throw off their stodgy old mercedes image.

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
9 months ago

Yeah, like I’ve owned and worked on a lot of Mercedei, and I can’t think of anyone who has historically been into MBZ that’s interested in the new direction. Give me that sweet, sweet wood!

Toecutter
Toecutter
9 months ago

I wonder what the drag coefficient is?

The Vision EQXX concept has a Cd of 0.17, which in spite of its two-ton weight, allowed it to cruise 70 mph on only 165 Wh/mile. It also has a 600 mile range. THIS sort of slipperiness is how you can get long range and keep the battery cost down.

The CLA looks slippery. Hopefully it lost some weight too. If it has half the EQXX’s battery or less, it could end up with a weight less than most ICE cars.

Toecutter
Toecutter
9 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Finally got a chance to read the article. It has a large battery pack and probably will not be an inexpensive car. The efficiency figures are good, not EQXX good, but better than a Model 3. I suspect CdA value is around 0.19-0.20, which would make it the most slippery production car on the market once sold.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
9 months ago

Two speed transmissions on EV’s are something that sound correct on paper… but in practice are they really an improvement over single speed in terms of complexity (new failure point), motor efficiency, and power?

I think in some applications this could be a good idea (4×4’s, much larger weight class vehicles, specialty equipment) but for an entry level sedan I think its stupid and we can start a countdown clock to shift errors and failures associated with an unnecessarily complex drivetrain.

Last edited 9 months ago by Bizness Comma Nunya
Kevin B
Kevin B
9 months ago

Personally, I’m happy to see the Powerglide make a comeback.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
9 months ago
Reply to  Kevin B

hahaha, I guess I’m in the “dynaflow” camp then for EVs.

Last edited 9 months ago by Bizness Comma Nunya
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