Just six months after the facelifted 2023 Mercedes-Benz CLA was unveiled, spy photographers have captured the next generation of the sedan undergoing hot weather and elevation testing in Spain.
The heavily camouflaged prototype confirms internal-combustion powertrains will live on with the next-gen model.
Previously spied prototypes of the model confirmed an electric powertrain for the model thanks to a charging port visible on the right rear of the vehicle, while this mule has a fuel cap on the left side to match the placement of the current CLA.
Additionally, a single exhaust pipe can be seen mounted to the right of the number plate.
While the exterior is still well hidden by a black and white camouflage wrap, we can get another good look at the redesigned front end featuring more angular headlights and a wide grille shouldered by large intakes.
At the rear, it appears only placeholder tail lights are fitted for the moment, but the unusually high boot lid from the previously spied mule has been toned down.
Other than appearing slightly more spacious at the rear, the third-generation CLA has maintained similar proportions to the outgoing model.
Last month, dealers in the US were shown the upcoming electric variant of the CLA sedan, which Mercedes-Benz claimed has a range of 644km.
It’s unclear if the new generation of the model will stick with the CLA nameplate for both combustion-powered and electric variants.
It looks possible after German publication Handelsblatt reported earlier this year that Mercedes-Benz will drop its EQ sub-brand from 2024 when it launches a new range of small electric vehicles.
The CLA Shooting Brake looks like it will also be a part of the next-gen offering, although the model is largely intended for the European market. The body style was offered in Australia only in first-generation guise.
The next CLA will be underpinned by the new Mercedes Modular Architecture (MMA), which can support combustion, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric powertrains, leaving the door open for Mercedes to offer the sedan in all guises.
The current CLA is offered with petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrains, depending on the market.
The new MMA small car architecture will debut in 2024, replacing the current MFA2 underpinnings, and will be the first to use the new Mercedes-Benz Operating System (MB.OS).
It may also be the last Mercedes-Benz platform to be introduced with the option of ICE power, as from 2025 onwards the company has said all new platforms will be electric-only.
As the facelifted CLA has only just started to reach customers in Europe – and will arrive here in the third quarter of 2023 – we can expect to be waiting at least until next year to get an official look at this next-gen model.