(Washington, DC) On October 1st 2013, the U.S. government partially shut down, unable to ratify the federal budget for the next fiscal year. The same day, we were in the U.S. capital to drive the all-new 2014 Mercedes -Benz CLA 250.
The United States is an important market for luxury cars, but the country is still having difficulty recovering from the economic crisis of 2008 and the enormous expenditures generated by two wars. A new model like the CLA 250 might be just what the doctor ordered. It offers all the luxury we are entitled to expect from a Mercede-Benz, but its starting price is far from exotic.
Could this be the perfect solution for Americans accustomed to an opulent lifestyle, but who find themselves a little cash strapped? We'll see. Anyway, we are more interested in what the CLA represents for Canadian buyers.
I might as well mention right off the bat that the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 is one of my favorite cars among the crop of new models being released this year. Rarely have I evaluated a car with so few shortcomings.
Especially since the Mercedes-Benz CLA is affordable for a car bearing the silver star emblem. Sure, its starting price of $ 33,900 does not tell the whole story given that at this price, the buyer does not even get heated seats. But still, if you show a little restraint when choosing your options, a well-equipped CLA can still be had for less than $ 40 000 before taxes.
The most beautiful car under $ 100 000
The Mercedes-Benz CLA is one of the most beautiful cars that I have had the opportunity to drive, at least among those costing less than $ 100 000. While everyone has a different opinion as to a car’s style, it remains that those that we encountered during our test had nothing bad to say about the CLA’s looks.
The Mercedes-Benz CLS was the first car to introduce the idea of the four-door coupe. The CLA is the first compact to adopt this oxymoronic style that, as the name suggests, combines the look of a two-door coupe with the functionality of a four-door car. In a way, it is the best of both worlds.
No matter what angle you look at the car, the proportions are always perfect. The CLA is low and wide and the standard 17 inch wheels fill the wheel arches nicely. The front adopts an aggressive style accentuated by the presence of the huge Mercedes-Benz emblem in the middle of the grille. The latter is flanked by sharp headlights that include LED lights in some versions.
Those who want a more aggressive visual signature can opt for the Sport Package, which adds an AMG aerodynamic package and AMG 18 inch rims. There is also the Edition 1 version that includes a uniquely-styled grille combined with the AMG Sport Package and black rims. The Edition 1 seems much faster than the simple CLA 250, even if it is not.
Inside, we would have forgiven Mercedes-Benz if it had tried to save on production costs by using materials of inferior quality or elaborated a simple design. But surprisingly, that's not the case at all. Our test model included a dashboard decorated in fake-but-very-nice wood inserts that went well with the beige leather seats. These reach a perfect balance between comfort and sportiness, with just enough lateral support to keep everyone in place when driving vigorously without becoming uncomfortable when one is simply cruising down the highway.
The center console is more minimalist in its design than what we find on other Mercedes-Benz cars, but it still remains stylish while at the same time being quite easy to understand and use. On the other hand, the designers could have found a better way to integrate the central screen that includes the navigation system. It looks more like an afterthought than something that was planned in the design.
Given the relatively low roof line, we did not have great expectations in regards to headroom. But, to our surprise, even drivers over 6 feet fit comfortably inside the cockpit, at least upfront. There is also ample leg and shoulder room in the front. In the back, my head did rub against the ceiling because of my 6 feet 1 inch frame, but my knees did not touch the seat in front of me. The width of the rear seat makes the CLA a four-seater, despite the presence of three seatbelts.
And what about the trunk? Its 470 liters easily swallowed my travel bag, all our video equipment, and my videographer’s backpack. We were in Washington for two days, but we had enough luggage for a week-long road trip to California.
Plenty of power
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 is powered by a four-cylinder turbocharged engine delivering 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque at low RPM. Why is this important? Simply because the quicker the torque is delivered, the more power one has when driving at low speeds in daily-driving situations. And in such a situation, the CLA 250 is plenty quick. Power is sent to the front wheels via a 7-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters mounted to the steering wheel.
Will this transmission eventually send the power to all four wheels? Yes, this spring, when the CLA 250 4Matic arrives.
As soon as you touch the accelerator, the car responds and lunges forward with a satisfying push. When we want to pass, again, the engine shows very little hesitation and before you know it, you are in front of the car you wanted to overtake.
On winding roads, handling is spot-on. Steering is precise and fast and it is a real joy to hold in your hands the small and sporty steering wheel. The suspension never feels unsettled and the chassis seems to have been created for spirited driving. This was one of the more surprising aspects of the CLA. After all, the car is built on the same platform as the B-Class, which is more functional than sporty. But, who’s complaining?
Despite all the fun one can have behind the wheel of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 , it is still an altogether fuel-efficient car. Mercedes-Benz claims an average consumption of 7.8 L/100 km in the city and 5.1 L/100 km on the highway. Our average amounted to 8.7 L/100 km after about 300 kilometers. Because the car had less than 2000 kilometers on the odometer, and given the fact that we made no effort to improve the CLA’s fuel consumption rating, we were impressed by our achieved number.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz 250 CLA is beautiful, comfortable, fun to drive, powerful and fuel efficient. Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the car. It does not have any surprising flaws. For example, the lack of headroom in the back is surely a shortcoming, but one that was expected. In the end, it offers all the luxury and refinement of a Mercedes-Benz without having to break the bank, or shutdown the government.