DRLs will be a star attraction for Mercedes in the future
The three-pointed star daytime-running lights (DRLs) on the new Mercedes-Benz Concept CLA will become a new design “signature” of its future electric cars that will be the equivalent to the exhaust pipes of a combustion-engined car, according to the firm's design boss.
The bold new concept features distinctive DRLs in the shape of the brand’s logo that are built into the round lights at the front and rear of the car. Along with a striking new digital grille, which is illuminated with a pattern of star graphics, they will be seen on the production version of the CLA and the three further compact models that will be built on the new MMA platform.
Asked which styling elements of the Concept CLA will be carried over to the production car, Mercedes design chief Gorden Wagener said: “Pretty much everything.”
Highlighting the new star-shaped DRLs, he said: “Iconic elements like the new daytime-running lights, the star – that’s a new signature for Mercedes and it’s very cool. It’s a new electric exhaust: electric cars obviously don’t have one, and for customers having good pipes is always great, so these are the new pipes.”
Wagener also highlighted the new grille as being a key element. He said: “It is a new interpretation of the Mercedes grille, but we still use the grille. There are so many faceless cars around and we want to make a difference here. Our grille is very iconic.
“Everything we do is along our design philosophy of central purity. So that’s a significant style for a luxury brand similar to the style of Chanel. We almost evolve it like an operating system – 1.2, 1.3 and so on – and at some point there will be 2.0, but that will be further in the future. This car is maybe 1.8, so already going into the new generation with a couple of things.
"What’s crucial for us is being iconic. We want to make a difference to the sea of sameness, all these faceless cars that have no identity. We want to stick out of that with iconic features, and with Mercedes we have all the possibilities to do so.”
What else do we know about the Mercedes CLA?
Mercedes showed its high-tech CLA replacement - the Concept CLA - at the 2023 Munich motor show. The Tesla Model 3 rival should be coming to UK showrooms in 2023 and it will be available with pure electric and internal-combustion drivetrains, as well as rear- and four-wheel drive systems. Range for the EV will be as much as 466 miles.
There will be a 223bhp EV model with rear-wheel drive and a two-speed transmission, a base level 201bhp variant and a dual-motor, and a four-wheel-drive AMG scorcher, earmarked for launch in 2025.
Mercedes has confirmed that the new CLA will be the first in a range of models based on the MMA (Mercedes Modular Architecture) – also including next generation Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake, Mercedes EQA and Mercedes EQB – to receive a new type of electric motor developed and produced in-house.
In a further development, Mercedes says its third electric saloon will offer the choice of lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) and lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt-oxide (NMC) batteries, with energy capacity of between 58kWh and 85kWh, Autocar has been told.
The LFP unit pioneers a new construction technique, with its cell modules held in place with adhesive rather than screws for reduced weight and more compact packaging.
Crucially, the new CLA will be the first production car from Mercedes-Benz to have an 800V electrical architecture, allowing charging at up to 250kW on a rapid DC charger. This enables a 248-mile top-up in just 15 minutes, according to Mercedes.
Additionally, the Concept CLA Class receives bi-directional charging capability, hinting the production version will be able to perform vehicle-to-home (V2H), vehicle-to-grid (V2G) and vehicle-to-appliance (V2A) tasks.
The new dedicated EV platform, electric motor and battery – a combination first previewed by the Mercedes Vision EQXX concept car – provides the Concept CLA Class with what Mercedes's chief technology officer Markus Schäfer described as “phenomenal efficiency."
Mounted within the rear axle assembly, the electric motor and transmission are integrated into one unit weighing less than 110kg, and feature a silicon-carbide inverter that's claimed to contribute to energy efficiency of up to 93% from battery to wheel at a constant cruising speed. This compares to the 89% efficiency of today's EQA.
The most efficient electric CLA is claimed to achieve average energy consumption of 5.2mpkWh on the WLTP test cycle, giving it a range of up to 466 miles.
The rear-wheel drive Tesla Model 3 Long Range, by comparison, receives an 82kWh battery and possesses a claimed WLTP range of 382 miles.
“The Concept CLA Class represents an entirely new approach for Mercedes-Benz. It incorporates many learnings from our Vision EQXX technology program. Our engineers have maximised efficiency by driving down losses in its 800V electric drive system. It also features a high level of integration, enabling excellent energy density.” said Schäfer.
The concept's exterior builds on the look of today's CLA with a more contemporary-looking front end, featuring a lower-set black panel grille with an illuminated Mercedes emblem. Newly shaped headlamps are connected by an LED light bar to accentuate the new car's width and give the new saloon a distinctive night-time graphic.
Along the sides there are frameless doors, a less exaggerated bow to the lower window line and largely unadorned surfacing.
Further back, the signature coupé-like roofline is retained in combination with a heavily angled rear screen, giving the new model a sleek profile. The new saloon also adopts more pronounced haunches over the rear wheels to give it a more confident stance than today's model.
At the rear, there is a short notchback-style boot lid and a full-width wraparound light bar with tube-style LED graphics featuring three-pointed star detailing.
Inside, the Concept CLA Class adopts a full-width MBUX Superscreen similar to that used by the Vision EQXX. Set to be retained for the production version, it runs Mercedes-Benz's new MB.OS operating system.
The new chip-to-cloud architecture, which will support Google Maps navigation among other embedded apps, represents a new approach to in-car infotainment for Mercedes-Benz, which says it will be included in all future models starting with the new CLA.
A further new development showcased by the latest Mercedes-Benz concept is the new CLA's Level 3 Lidar-based autonomous driving assistance system. It is not initially planned to appear on the new model, which will initially be limited to Level 2 autonomy, but Mercedes plans to offer regular updates via over-the-air software updates, opening the possibility of allowing owners to purchase Level 3 capability in the future.
Additionally, the Concept CLA Class includes a new Child Presence Detection (CPD) system designed to mitigate the risk of young children being left in the car during warm weather. Using sensors and cameras to detect breathing patterns, it is programmed to first warn then ultimately trigger the air conditioning and sound the horn when it detects the presence of a child without an adult.
Additional reporting by James Attwood