Remember those $30,000 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sport Coupes that were super chintzy and slow from the early 2000’s? Mercedes-Benz is diving back into that pool with the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250.
This new Mercedes-Benz is based on the equally jaw-dropping Euro-spec A-Class hatchback. But, us Americans like our sedans with graceful, elegant lines. So, Mercedes-Benz took the A-Class and turned it into a lovely small sedan. Of course, when something makes your knees weak when you see it should tell anybody over 6 feet that they won’t want to be in the backseat! According to Motor Trend‘s Frank Markus, the headliner scraped his head, and the rear seat wasn’t super comfortable. I guess that nothing’s for everybody…If you want a CLA250 with the as-advertised $30,000 base price, let me know. Such tempting options as a self-parking feature, a panoramic sunroof, Distronic radar cruise control, a Harman/Kardon Logic 7 audio system, COMAND navigation, and all-wheel-drive all bring the price up to a more expensive $38,000, which is on par with the larger C250.
If you want a cheap German car that seats five and looks good, this isn’t the horrible C-Class Sport Coupe that would lure the innocent into showrooms. In fact, this car aims to bring a lot of younger people into showrooms, where they can get a relatively affordable car that immediately gives them more social status than a Toyota Camry.
Inside the CLA250, the interior is every bit as luxurious as the S-Class, which is a very good thing. The instruments and vent registers could have been pulled out of the SLS supercar, and vinyl is standard. Mercedes-Benz says that the MB Tex vinyl will pass for leather to the casual observer, and cowhide is optional. Since us Americans LOVE our sport seats, sport seats are standard. These seats offer plenty of support for any frame (Mercedes-Benz had people of different sizes and heights drive and give feedback. The engine gives a gleeful snarl when it’s nearing redline, and it is quiet at all other times. Plus, the 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque help move this sub-3300-pound car around with no problem. Part of that could be the excellent 7-speed automatic that is so smooth it could be mistaken for a CVT half of the time. That’s probably due to the twin clutches and paddle shifters.
One would think that torque steer would be an issue with such large amounts of torque on hand, but think again! That’s amazing considering that there isn’t a complicated steering setup, just a simple one. It could be magic, or the electric-assist steering that will allegedly compensate for extreme road crowns and crosswinds. It also applies corrective steering if the driver hasn’t mastered steering into a skid. I’m thinking that this just might be the perfect car for somebody who is very close to getting his driver’s license…
Because France keeps it’s roads micro detailed to the point where there aren’t any bumps except for speed bumps, but ride quality is very controlled and nice. And this is with the sport suspension that will initially be offered on U.S. spec cars. It’ll be interesting to see if Mercedes-Benz has the guts to put the optional 18-inch wheels on the sporty suspension. If not, expect to see the standard 17-inch wheels that look equally classy.
In terms of tires, the Continental ContiSportContact F5’s do a pretty good job of planting the car on the road, but you can hear the tires trumpeting their limit, so don’t be surprised! If you don’t like trumpeting tires, you can opt for Eagle F1 run-flat tires, which will only orchestrate their limit!
Motor Trend‘s Frank Markus went into the press launch thinking that the CLA250 was aimed squarely at the Volkswagen CC, but it’s not. The CC feels more grown-up and conservative, and the CLA feels more like a GTI in it’s driving dynamics, with interior fit and finish that rivals the Hyundai Genesis. What I’m sure all of you are dying to know is if the CLA250 is worth buying over the BMW 320i, Volvo S60, Cadillac ATS, and Audi A4. My personal opinion is that the CLA will hang on with those, and possibly be the car that sends BMW back to the drawing board. I doubt that will happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if BMW updated the 320i to make it drive more like the CLA to get more sales.
The CLA250 is what could be a breakthrough for Mercedes-Benz. It’s a lot nicer than the C-Class Sport Coupes of yore, and it looks way better than many of it’s competitors. It reminds me of the Mercedes-Benz 190e. The 190e helped Mercedes-Benz reach other markets and younger people, and I’m thinking that the young people driving the Volkswagen GTI will be wanting to get a CLA as their next car. It’s a far superior car than the Jetta GLI, and it drives more like the GTI than the GLI. Sure, the CLA isn’t for everybody, but it’s about as close as it gets. And, this might just happen if Volkswagen isn’t careful. In the comment section of a Motor Trend article starring the CLA250 and what information they had a month ago, everybody was saying that Mercedes-Benz hit a home run with this car. It’s the same size as a Ford Fusion, it looks similar, it’s got social status, Mercedes-Benz is known to be reliable, and it’s a nice car. If you go onto the Ford website and take a Fusion Titanium, it will cost about $37,000, which is pretty darn close to a loaded CLA. It would be interesting to see how well the CLA places against the Fusion, and some other loaded family sedans. You can oggle at the CLA at the link so graciously provided by Mercedes-Benz. http://www.mbusa.com/mercedes/benz/innovation/future/model-2014_CLA
By the way, I am expecting you faithful readers to pitch together somewhere between $30,000 and $38,000 to buy me a brand-new CLA250 when it comes to our shores in May…I won’t be happy if there isn’t a 2014 CLA in my driveway… Really, would you expect me to say something different!?