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2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class Styling

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The 2014 CLA takes its cues from the trend-setting CLS four-door "coupe," and the expressive look could hardly look better, scaled down as it is.

As cars get smaller, it's more difficult to make them look great--but somehow the CLA's high nose and side view preserve the best of the CLS, while giving up the long-nose proportions that define every other Mercedes-Benz.

The Mercedes CLA sports a mini-CLS silhouette, but gets interior inspiration from the sporty side of the haus.

That front end may be the best expression yet of the newest Mercedes identity: the tall vertical grille and contoured air intakes show up on this year's E-Class, too, toning down that car's overly angular nose. The frameless glass on the doors and the pretty profile were previewed on last year's Concept Style Coupe, and the production version keeps them intact, along with the jazzy design imprinted into the grille. The archetypal curves stamped into the rear fenders are the clearest connection to the CLS (or even to the ur-Corvette): they draw back through the sideview like a slingshot. There's softness in the way the CLA's rear glass rounds off quickly, but it's relieved by crisp LED taillamp ribs.

The CLA45 AMG toughens up in an amicable way. The grille pares down to a couple of blades, over an AMG fascia bored out with wider air intakes. Discreet "turbo" badges stud the sides, and at the rear, the CLA45 AMG has a pair of inlets that bracket the rear end like parentheses.

With its stubbier shape and less favorable aerodynamics, the CLA is still as sleek as it can be: with a coefficient of drag of just 0.23, Mercedes claims it's the most slippery shape in the production-car world. You can see the aerodynamic tricks in the lower reaches of the front end, where big air intakes shape the airflow, or the thin parentheses that let it escape at the tail.

The CLA cockpit borrows liberally from the sporty cars in the Mercedes lineup, not from the bigger sedans. It sports cut-tube gauges and five round vents, call-outs more to the sporty SLK end of the Mercedes lineup than the to the CLS. The interior's finished in a dark-grey trim, with walnut, ash, or aluminum trim that's optional on the CLA 250, standard on the CLA45 AMG (which also gets red seatbelts and red-stitched seats). MB-Tex synthetic upholstery is standard, with leather available. One clear afterthought caps the dash: the dash-mounted LCD screen looks like a plug-in navigation unit, less like a piece of technology planned in from the beginning of a model cycle, just like the one on BMW's current 3-Series.

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