By Matt Degen
KBB Expert Rating: 7.8
Mercedes-Benz's high-end reputation was built on pricey cars like the commanding S-Class sedan and the iconic SL roadster, but the German manufacturer is hoping its all-new 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class sedan can draw more buyers from the growing entry luxury segment, attracting a younger generation of brand loyalists with an attractive starting MSRP of $29,900. Borrowing styling cues from the bigger and more upmarket CLS, which launched the so-called 4-door coupe trend, the all-new 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class wraps a more aggressive version of those looks into a smaller, tighter package that aims to steal car shoppers away from compact to mid-size sedans like the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Cadillac ATS. That's why we named it one of the 10 Best Luxury Cars Under $40,000 for 2014.
The Mercedes-Benz CLA boasts two primary selling points: premium looks and a surprisingly accessible price of entry. Sure, it's not an elegant, proportional masterpiece like its upmarket sibling the CLS, but this chip off the block is still arguably sexier than virtually all of its competitors.
If you're serious about using the rear seats, you might want to skip the CLA. While there's enough headroom for most folks under 6-feet tall, getting in and out of the rear quarters – not to mention maneuvering a car seat back there – poses a serious challenge.
The Mercedes-Benz CLA is all-new for 2014. Though it slots below the C-Class in the manufacturer's lineup (and undercuts the C250 by about $5,000), the CLA is slightly longer. However, when the redesigned C-Class debuts later this year, it will trump the CLA in size.
Driving Impressions If you were to slip behind the wheel of a standard Mercedes-Benz CLA250 and hit the road, you'd be hard pressed to tell it was a front-wheel-drive car. The car...... launches smartly off the line, and only under the most extreme dynamics does it reveal the "plowing" – aka, understeering tendency front drive cars are known for. Nonetheless, more dedicated drivers might want to opt for the 4Matic all-wheel-drive version, which better responds to aggressive steering and throttle input at the limit. The turbocharged 4-cylinder engine produces a mild 208 horsepower, but that's enough grunt to help the CLA feel peppy under most circumstances, thanks in part to the well-chosen ratios of its crisp shifting 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Hardcore enthusiasts should find their bliss in the CLA45 AMG, which packs a serious wallop with its 360-horsepower engine, stiffer suspension and standard all-wheel drive.
Especially since the CLA cabin is somewhat snug, the available panorama roof opens up the space to make it feel spacious and bright using a fixed polycarbonate cover, and a glass panel that slides back.
Many electric steering systems feel numb and disconnected, but the CLA's setup manages to infuse plenty of feel at the wheel, making for an entertaining dance partner on winding roads.
The Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class feels intimate on the inside, especially when compared to the C-Class sedan – which actually has a smaller overall footprint but a bigger interior. Credit (or criticize) the CLA's low-slung roofline for the counterintuitive discrepancy. Nonetheless, the CLA's cabin is outfitted with surprisingly decent materials, from the dash and trim components to the standard MB-Tex upholstery, which didn't make us miss real leather hides. Our only gripes came from small plastic bits like the cup holder and the mirror control surrounds. Other than those minor slips, the CLA's interior feels more upmarket than its price point might suggest.Exterior
The CLA takes on an aggressive stance with its arched silhouette and strong character lines, though its relatively narrow width and surprisingly skinny tires betray its otherwise imposing road presence. At least those items help the CLA250 achieve the title of "World's most aerodynamic car," beating hybrids like the Toyota Prius in the wind tunnel with a drag coefficient of only 0.23.
The CLA250 comes equipped with a surprising amount of standard bells and whistles, including rain-sensing windshield wipers, cruise control, and a power driver's seat. Hill-start assist and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters are also part of the $29,900 entry price, as well as safety features like collision prevention assist and attention assist. Bluetooth is also standard on the base model, though you'll have to opt for the Premium Package for an iPod/MP3 interface.
Spring for the Premium Package ($2,300), and you'll get a harman/kardon Logic7 Surround Sound system with SiriusXM satellite radio, heated seats (which are also available a la carte), and a few other goodies. A Multimedia Package ($2,370) offers a bigger 7-inch screen with navigation and SiriusXM traffic & weather, as well as a 10-gig music hard drive and a rearview camera. Standalone options include 4Matic all-wheel drive, blind-spot assist, and the "self-parking" Parktronic feature.
Mercedes-Benz's entry-level sedan is available with two powertrain configurations: a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 producing 208 horsepower on the CLA250, and the tire-slaying CLA45 AMG version of that engine churning 355 horsepower. The pumped-up AMG iteration earns the distinction of being the first 4-cylinder engine from Mercedes-Benz's in-house tuning branch. Both mills are mated to 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions. The standard configuration is front-drive, with 4Matic all-wheel drive available on the CLA250 and standard on the CLA45 AMG.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250/CLA250 4Matic
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
208 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 1,250-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/38 mpg
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG 4Matic
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
355 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
332 lb-ft of torque @ 2,250-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/31 mpg
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 starts at $30,825 including destination charges), though that price can swell towards the $40,000 mark when loaded with options. However, thanks to available bundles like the Premium and Multimedia packages, scoring a well-optioned CLA for around $35,000 should be feasible. The high-powered, specially tuned CLA45 AMG commands a noticeably higher price that starts at $48,375. Compared to the Audi A4 (which starts at $32,500) and the BMW 3 Series (with its $32,550 base price), the CLA250 proves an excellent value thanks to its decent basic equipment list and available standalone options like 18-inch wheels, heated seats and burl walnut wood trim. Residual value of the new Mercedes-Benz CLA is predicted to be well above average, though still below that of the Lexus IS 250.
By JJ on Wednesday, October 29, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "The hippest 3 pointed star in the US thus far."
Cons: "No cup holders in the back"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Best bang for the buck ever for the three pointed star. I couldn't afford the AMG45 but my CLA250 4Matic is still plenty of fun. For a base model-- bottom of the line, it still has many more features than many $30K 'loaded' cookie cutter cars. Auto start/stop, auto hold, collision avoidance, paddle shifter, auto wipers, auto tilt down mirror as well as all the usual accoutrements you would expect from the Teutons. The mileage is good too. I was averaging 38.5MPG during a 3 hours trip on the highway. However,the gas cap is on the wrong side!!! Don't they know German cars are supposed to fill up on the right side? If you're looking for cupholders in the back, stop looking. It isn't there. The start/stop function works well but it's a little crunchy. Also I wish I would have splurged a bit more on the uber cool options. Fortunately, sleek styling, cool interior and wonderful drive dynamic makes up for most of its inadequacies."
12 people out of 18 found this review helpful
By fox4gib on Tuesday, September 16, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 6,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Power, handling and economy with 4-door utility"
Cons: "Abysmal audio controls; DCT neither smooth nor fun"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"My CLA45-AMG meets or exceeds all my requirements for a high-performance, 4-door sedan. I use the car primarily for long-distance trips and prefer back roads over the interstate highways. Strengths include exceptional engine performance and brakes. I've owned two C7 Corvettes, and for all practical purposes the AMG can accelerate and pass as well as they could on public roads. More surprisingly, the fuel economy has been significantly better than I anticipated. When driven normally I get about 26 MPG in town and over 32 MPG on the open road. Obviously, when pushed hard the mileage suffers accordingly, but that is to be expected. The car is comfortable although the ride is firm which is what I prefer. I deliberately stayed with the standard equipment 18"wheels rather than the optional 19". Likewise, I choose standard, non run-flat tires which I detest. Dislikes include the audio system, which sounds fine, but is ridiculously complex to operate. The controls on my 2009 Cobalt work just as well and are infinitely simpler to use. What I can do with one push of a button on the Cobalt requires three and sometimes four button actions on the Mercedes. Just stupid! Likewise, the display screen in the middle of the dashboard works OK, but simply looks like an "add-on". The electronic steering is "over-assisted" in my opinion and doesn't provide the feedback I like/expect from a performance car. Also, this is the first car I've owned that had the dual clutch transmission. I'm not impressed. It's not as smooth as an automatic and no where near as fun/engaging as a manual. Likewise, the "stop/start" engine feature works as advertised when the "ECO" mode, but has a slight delay after brake release before the engine starts, which can be disconcerting when turning left across traffic. Bottom line: I'm satisfied. It does what I needed it to do, but I miss my Corvette!"
9 people out of 15 found this review helpful
By Happy in Chicago on Sunday, August 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 4,900overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great looking & driving M-B for $35K"
Cons: "Smaller rear seat, no spare tire, no rear armrest"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Purchased a Certified Pre-owned CLA250 (4,900 miles) two weeks ago. Went in to buy a 2 yr. old off lease C300 4matic but wife saw the Jupiter Red CLA on the showroom floor and fell in love with it. Two weeks on and all is well. I'm a long time M-B owner but always 2 or 3 generations behind, so I'm excited to have one of their newest products. Was concerned about "newness" factor but salesman the chassis had been in development for 5 years in Europe as the A class people carrier before coming to the USA. CLA handled well during the test drive with ride being pretty firm, which I like, but our car also has the 18" wheels with 40 series tires. Acceptable power from the 4 cyl engine, and changing into "Sport" mode definitely helped the acceleration. "Eco" mode shuts the car off at stops which takes some getting used to, but AC and other accessories seem to keep working so no problem there. Also like the interior look and feel. M-B text looks like leather and the stitching in the door panel and seats impressed my wife. Interior lighting layout is nice as well. I liked being able to buy a front drive car from Mercedes instead of all wheel drive for the Chicago winters. Was also looking for a fuel economy improvement over C300 which we got as well. Yes back seat is small but I'm 6ft and can get in and out OK. Not great for cross country but would handle 4 adults for a day trip nicely. Nice size trunk and flexibility of fold down rear seats will help make this a great everyday car once the newness wears off. Since our car was Certified Pre-Owned we received and extra year on the factory warranty and unlimited mileage. Purchased an extra two year warranty for $2450 giving us a total 6.25 years of warranty and unlimited mileage. Hoping I don't need to use any of it but we plan on keeping the car so thought it was good investment long term."
17 people out of 22 found this review helpful