The 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA is like a personal assistant on wheels.
The MBUX interface can recall the latest football scores and stock prices.
An overhaul in the suspension department should make for a smoother ride too.
Mercedes is still making these things, eh? The latest iteration of the CLA “Coupe” is here, and it seems to be just as nice as its predecessor, which is good, considering Merc has been getting grief from some quarters. The only real complaint I have with the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupe is that it’s not a coupe at all.
But I’m kind of an automotive pendant that way.
Look, it’s got four doors. I don’t care how swoopy you make the roofline, how much you rake that tumblehome, how clever your marketing copy is, four doors means it’s a sedan, and that’s the end of the discussion. Whatever they decide to call it, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupe is an attractive car. And yes, I have concerns about all that style taking away from the rear seat utility (there’s no way the headroom is unaffected), but who cares.
It’s a nice looking car made by one of the best car companies on the planet.
So what do we get for our money?
Wider Is Better
Basically, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupe is bigger all the way around: height, width, and length. It has been restyled, so it not only looks new, but MB is really accentuating the width of the thing (sort of like the “Wide Track Pontiacs” in the 60s). The meat, however, is in the interior gizmos and suspension.
With the track widened, up 63 millimeters at the front and 55 millimeters at the rear, the center of gravity drops and the handling improves. The front stabilizer bar is now larger for less body roll and an optional adaptive damping system is on offer. Further, the multi-link axle at the rear is “decoupled” for reducing noise and vibration. The Direct-Steer system is now standard, and hydro-mounts up front to provide the quiet and calm you expect in a Mercedes-Benz.
Your wheel choices are 18 and 19 inchers.
Football, Food & Fat Content
Now, about those gizmos that everybody demands these days. Say hello to MBUX. MBUX stands for Mercedes-Benz User Experience, and boy is that a dumb name. But here we are. MBUX is like a Mercedes version of Amazon’s Alexa, a voice control deal that, theoretically, can make your most specific wishes come true. Just say “Hey Mercedes” (no seriously, that’s how you get MBUX’s attention) and your CLA will respond to your commands.
The central control screen works in both sunlight and complete darkness, “warming up” as a hand approaches the touchscreen. This will highlight individual elements on the “currently active menu.” The system can even distinguish between the hands of drivers and passengers, so it knows which seat needs the massage function activated.
The “Hey Mercedes” voice recognition part is said to be so smart (and sensitive) that you can ask it stuff like “Find child-friendly Asian restaurants nearby with a 4-star rating which are neither Chinese nor Japanese?” You can ask your CLA to compare the share price of Apple and Microsoft, or what the square root of 3 is. If your passengers are wondering how big Texas is, or the fat content of an avocado, the CLA knows.
Why you would need to know most of that stuff while driving is beyond me, but Stuttgart seems to think it’s a good idea.
Safety & Security: Extra Eyes
In addition to the MBUX system (which I think is pronounced em-bucks, not ma-bucks) the CLA also cribbed a bunch of tech goodies from the current S-Class. The CLA is able to drive semi-autonomously in certain situations thanks to improved camera and radar systems that can see over 1,600 feet ahead. Safety features include Active Distance Assist, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Active Lane Change Assist, and Active Brake Assist among others.
Pricing & Availability
Mercedes makes little mention of the engines available (a very worrying sign), saying only that the CLA 250 has a four-cylinder gasoline engine paired with a 7G-DCT dual-clutch transmission. It’s available with front-wheel or 4MATIC all-wheel drive. Hopefully there will be more gearhead-oriented info to come later on, when Mercedes-Benz announces the price and delivery dates near the end of the year.
In the meantime, the handy chart below the gallery outlines all the exterior and interior dimensions.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.