2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA

Mercedes has been toying with bringing Americans a compact Benz since Harry Truman was in the White House. Okay, not quite, but it seems that way. Think of how much money Mercedes hasn’t made while BMW brought the 1 Series, and then several hundred thousand Minis, to the U.S.

Now Mercedes is finally pulling the trigger. What the CLA promises, Mercedes says, is something slicker than we’ve seen on American shores, and the first A-Class to grace the New World will arrive as an AMG with a muscular 300-hp turbocharged four-cylinder fed to all-wheel drive. It’s even possible we’ll see a double-clutch, seven-speed automatic.

Only the sedan version of the smallest Benz will come to America, probably because the hatch versions of the 1 Series and the Audi A3 haven’t sold well here. After the CLA AMG debuts, though, we will see more fuel-efficient CLAs with smaller engines, possibly a diesel, and front-wheel drive.

Though we’ve been spying prototypes for the upcoming Mercedes-Benz CLA Class, the sedan variant of the German automaker’s new small car family, for more than a year, so far all of these have been heavily camouflaged. However, an example of the new CLA, looking virtually production ready, has now been spotted in Iceland.

Images of the completed CLA, which have been posted to the website of German newspaper Der Spiegel, show Mercedes’ design team have managed to retain the distinctive look of the Concept Style Coupe unveiled at the 2012 Beijing Auto Show. The front of the car is almost identical to the latest A Class hatchback, while the body gets four-door couple styling that makes it resemble the latest CLS, albeit on a smaller scale.

The new CLA is a crucial model for Mercedes-Benz as this will be the first of the automaker’s new compact range headed to the U.S. It is expected to arrive in showrooms by the middle of next year, most likely as a 2014 model.

Under its pretty sheet metal is a version of Mercedes’ latest front-wheel drive platform, code-named MFA (Mercedes Frontwheel Architecture). This new platform is flexible enough to spawn a variety of models including hatchbacks, coupes and even a crossover, and it will offer the option of all-wheel drive. This latter configuration will feature in a high-performance AMG version of the new CLA Class, which is likely to be called the CLS45 AMG and come with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 330 horsepower.

Expect the base model in the U.S. to be called the CLA250 and come powered by a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 211 horsepower. A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission will be standard across the range.

Given the completed look of the car, we shouldn’t have to wait too long until it makes its international auto show debut. While you wait for its arrival, click here to watch a spy video of more prototypes.

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