2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 (top, middle) & CLA 45 AMG. Click image to enlarge
First published October 28, 2013
Review and photos by Peter Bleakney
Virginia – With the anticipation of drawing a younger and shallower-pocketed demographic into the fold, Mercedes-Benz’s stylin’ front-drive and turbocharged four-cylinder CLA 250 sedan hits Canadian showrooms with a starting price of $33,900.
In Mercedes-speak, the CLA is a four-door ‘coupe’, and since they arguably invented the category with the original CLS of 2004, that’s what this entry level Benz is.
It certainly looks the part – very much like a CLS that was left in the dryer too long. It droops both front and back in the appropriate manner, with a payoff of having an impressively low drag coefficient. Yes, you do pay for that rakish profile with a distinct lack of rear headroom in the tight back seats, but perhaps that will not be a deterrent to the style and brand conscious nouveau upwardly mobile this car is designed to entice.
From the front, there is no mistaking the CLA for anything but a Mercedes-Benz. A fist-sized tri-pointed star lives front and centre in the big “black diamond” mesh grill. It’s a bold face with an aggressive lower fascia even in the base model. Reflector beam headlights are standard (bi-xenons optional) and the hood features a couple of retro-inspired powerdomes. All Canadian cars get a lowered sports suspension and standard 17-inch bi-colour five-spoke alloys.
Adding to the CLA 250’s sense of occasion are frameless windows, integrated lip spoiler and boldly scalloped side panels.
The $1,600 Sport Package comes off as quite a deal when considering it adds 18-inch alloys with summer performance tires, stronger brakes with drilled front discs, aluminum interior trim plus a host of sexy body upgrades (silver studded grill, flared side skirts, more aggressive air intakes, and recontoured derriere with twin polished stainless steel tailpipes).
Available now, the CLA 250 is initially front-wheel drive only. A 4Matic model is to follow in spring of 2014, with an expected premium of about $2,200.
Power comes from a new direct-injected turbocharged four-cylinder. Mounted transversely and hooked to an equally new seven-speed twin-clutch transmission, it makes 208 hp at 5,500 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque from 1,200 to 4,000 rpm. Three driving modes – Comfort, Sport, Manual – alter transmission mapping, and an Eco button on the dash (which defaults to “on” at startup) will override the largely unobtrusive auto start/stop function if you so desire.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250. Click image to enlarge
The base car gets 12-way front seats with memory, ambient lighting, shift paddles, 5.8-inch infotainment display, “Artico” faux leather upholstery, eight airbags, and standard Attention Assist and Collision Prevention Assist safety systems.
Most buyers will surely opt for the $2,800 Premium Package that adds such necessities as heated seats, dual-zone climate control, panoramic sunroof, rear-view camera, electronic compass, auto-dimming mirrors and powered exterior folding mirrors.
The CLA’s interior incorporates all the current Benz cues like silver highlighted main gauges and large chrome crosshair HVAC vents. The base seats are good – well contoured and comfortably snug over the long haul. Unlike rear passengers, folks in the front enjoy a fairly spacious experience. The infotainment screen perches precariously at the top of the centre console. Some may think it looks like an afterthought – or conversely it echoes your groovy flat-screen TV.
Despite the all-black environment of the cars I drove, the design, build quality and choice of materials convey a suitably upscale ambience worthy of a Benz. You won’t be thinking “entry level” in here.