2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA: Leaked photos expose Mercedes’ radically-styled compact

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA front three quarterMercedes-Benz’s latest niche luxury car has been revealed in a handful of leaked photos courtesy of AutoMonthly. The 2014 CLA-Class is a baby version of the CLS “four-door coupe,” taking the platform from Benz’s compact A-Class and wrapping it in more attractive styling.

The result is pretty dramatic. The CLA is not just a major change from the more utilitarian A-Class, it’s a major change from almost every other Mercedes. There have never been so many curved lines on a sedan (let’s face it: coupes have two doors) wearing the three-pointed star, and that includes the larger CLS. Overall, the look is more Hyundai Sonata than four-door Mercedes.

This is true of the details as well. The headlights and taillights look like they were taken off a C-Class, then given to Salvador Dali. There are some very un-Mercedes-like flared front air intakes and rear brake vents and the bumpers. The grille, contrasting the rest of the car, is big and upright, and features the same Lite-Brite mesh as the Concept Style Coupe the CLA is based on.

The Concept Style Coupe previewed most of these design elements, so the production CLA’s shape really shouldn’t be a surprise. Still, not every concept car’s styling makes it into production guise with so few changes.

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA rear three quarterThe CLA may have the lines of a larger sedan, but it will actually be among the smallest Mercedes cars ever sold in the United States. The A-Class platform means front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive will be optional.

So far, it looks like the CLA will be offered with a choice of four-cylinder engines, including: 1.6 and 2.0-liter gasoline and 1.8 and 2.1-liter diesels. We’ll have to wait for the CLA’s official debut for confirmation, but reports suggest that the only U.S.-spec drivetrain will be the 2.0-liter gasoline engine, which will be turbocharged and coupled with a seven-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.

A performance-oriented CLA45 AMG, with a 350 horsepower 2.0-liter turbo and all-wheel drive, is also in the works. This powertrain could be related to the one providing motivation in the A45 AMG. Whether it makes it to the U.S. or not, the CLA45 AMG will have the performance to match the regular CLA’s looks.