Mercedes-Benz used Wednesday's New York International Auto Show to think small.
Sure, the automaker brought with it a trio of hyper-fast AMG cars (the E63 wagon, CLS63 four-door-coupe, and the C63 Edition 507) for their debut on U.S. soil.
But it was Mercedes' global debuts in New York that signify a new direction in the U.S. market for the German automaker. With the introduction of the all-electric B-Class and the CLA45 AMG, the German automaker demonstrated it is taking seriously the smaller end of the U.S. luxury segment.
The CLA45 AMG is the extra-fast, all-wheel-drive version of the more demure CLA250 that debuted ahead of the Detroit auto show. You may also remember it, or more likely its spokesmodel, Kate Upton, from the Super Bowl ads in February.
The CLA250 is a compact sedan, available in base form as a front-wheel-drive model. It slots below the larger C-Class in Mercedes' lineup, and its more expressive styling and lower price point are aimed at drawing younger buyers.
The AMG version of the CLA announced Wednesday has a similar 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine as the 250, but it's been tuned to pump out significantly more power.
Mercedes says the AMG model will make 355 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, gains of 147 and 74, respectively. That's enough to push the CLA45 AMG from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.
Putting power to all four wheels is a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox with paddle shifters. Mercedes said the transmission will also come with a rev-matching function, a race start feature, and Sport and Manual modes. Meanwhile, the exhaust system has been fitted with a butterfly valve that opens during aggressive acceleration for better sound, but remains closed during normal freeway motoring.
In order to tell your neighbors (and possibly Kate Upton) that this is no ordinary CLA, the AMG version will come with exterior upgrades like bi-xenon headlights, unique alloy wheels, chrome-plated tailpipes, and LED taillights. Inside, changes include synthetic leather seats, a multi-function steering wheel with paddle shifters, and brushed aluminum trim.
Mercedes said the CLA45 AMG will start at $48,375 when it hit showrooms in November. That's a $17,550 price increase over the base CLA250.
Mercedes fans looking for something a little more quiet and efficient have the B-Class Electric Drive to look forward to. This subcompact hatchback marks the first time the German automaker has offered an all-electric car in the market.
The B-Class uses a 100 kW electric motor (134 horsepower, 228 pound-feet of torque) that pushes power to the vehicle's front wheels. The motor is powered by a 28 kW lithium-ion battery, and Mercedes says this electric B-Class will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in "less than 10 seconds."
The car has an expected range of 115 city miles. Mercedes wouldn't say how long it takes to fully charge the batteries, but it did say the car would need about two hours to charge to a range of 60 miles, using a 240-volt outlet.
Owners will be able to use their smartphones or computers to remotely check the vehicle's charge status, verify its range at any given moment, or preset the climate control while it's plugged in.
Though this is the first time a B-Class of any kind has been sold in the U.S., the small hatchback has been sold around the world since 2005. The electric version unveiled in New York is based on the second-generation B-Class that went on sale elsewhere in 2011.
Pricing for this EV hasn't been announced, but Mercedes said it will be available in the U.S. in early 2014, with its European launch following shortly after that.