When Mercedes-Benz debuted the outrageously efficient Vision EQXX concept, it left some questions about how much of that record EV efficiency could actually end up on a production car. The Concept CLA Class, a "close-to-production" take on the next generation of entry-level Mercedes, suggests that a surprising amount of that efficiency will come down from the hypermiling concept to the company's actual product line.
The concept represents the next CLA, but the bigger news is that it represents the debut of a new Mercedes-Benz Modular Architecture, or MMA. The brand says that new architecture is built around batteries attached by adhesive rather than screws, both reducing weight and adding a rigidity that helps in a crash. Two battery chemistry options, one using silicone-oxide and one utilizing lithium-iron, pair with an 800 V configuration to allow charging on a high-speed 250 kW DC charger; if such a charger is working at full capacity, that means the car can reach 248 miles of range in 15 minutes.
While the Concept CLA Class boasts a headlining 466-mile range on the more optimistic WLTP cycle, the real accomplishment is the efficiency. The brand says that the car delivers 5.2 miles of range per kWh of battery, placing it comfortably between the 4.4 miles the EQS claims and the world-beating 6.2 miles available from the EQXX. While that efficiency will pay dividends on every MMA-platform car, it is biggest of all here: In a world where big EVs are more popular because they can simply mask the weight of a larger battery, the CLA finds a way to offer huge range in a much smaller body.
This being a new Mercedes concept, the Concept CLA Class also debuts the brand's own operating system, MB.OS. The other new Mercedes architecture is built alongside chip partner NVIDIA around a "chip-to-chip" approach, allowing for "software-driven innovation." What exactly that means in practice to the driver remains entirely unclear, but the Concept CLA Class gets a new three-panel "Superscreen" interface on the dashboard and SAE level 2 advanced driver assistance systems.
Like the BMW Neue Klasse revealed on Saturday, the Concept CLA Class still has some concept car in its design that probably will not make it to production. That makes dissecting the style of these concepts in any detail a pointless task, but Mercedes is certainly at a point in its history where a production entry-level car with headlights shaped like the company's logo is a possibility.
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