Is Mercedes-Benz planning compact SLA sports car after all?

The compact CLA-Class “four-door coupe” and redesigned A-Class hatchback have redefined Mercedes-Benz, but will the transformation stop there?

Mercedes previously said it would limit its new front-wheel drive platform to the existing five worldwide models, but AutoEvolution reports that there is at least one more in the works.

According to the site, a small sports car based on the same platform as the CLA and A-Class is still a possibility, and could be called the SLA.

Back in 2000, Mercedes unveiled the Vision SLA concept, a similarly tiny sports car based on the then-new first-generation A-Class, at the Detroit Auto Show.

Could it finally get its moment in the showroom?

Obviously, things have changed significantly since then. The original Vision SLA’s aluminum and plastic body  looks like a prop from a bad sic-fi show, and its 1.9-liter engine probably wouldn’t provide enough power for the modern Mercedes buyer.

However, with Mercedes touting the new A-Class as a sporty hot hatchback, the timing seems right for a drop-top version. Imagine a car the size of a Mazda Miata with the 355-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine from the CLA45 AMG.

What may not be appropriate is the platform’s front-wheel drive. The Mercury Capri and Lotus M100 Elan have shown that front-drive sports cars don’t really work. Mercedes may have to make the roadster all-wheel drive instead.

This is all speculation right now, but Mercedes’ desire to move downmarket – and the popularity of the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S twins – could get the SLA green-lighted, just as the popularity of the original Mazda Miata encouraged Mercedes to build its current small sports car, the SLK.

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