When you think Mercedes-Benz you think high dollar luxury. The good life. A dream car. Something you can’t afford. Not low dollar luxury.
My tester this week changes the way you should think about the German luxury brand.
The 2014 Mercedes Benz CLA250 is an entry-level luxury sedan; entry level meaning a starting price under $30,000. Seriously. But in no way, does entry-level mean cheap or cutting corners, not when it came to my tester this week.
Rather, my CLA250 had high-class looks with a middle-class price tag. This all-new car is Mercedes’ first effort at making an affordable luxury car to attract younger buyers. And from everything I’ve seen, the first attempt is a good one. While not flawless, some minor tweaks and adjustments still need to be made, the CLA250 will expose the Mercedes brand and prestige to buyers who might not otherwise experience how the other half-lives.
Mercedes always produced the solid C-Class sedan as their start-up car, but with a price tag upwards of $40,000 for that rear-wheel drive car, they left a lot of consumer dollars on the table. That’s where the CLA comes in.
The front-wheel drive 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 has all the niceties of the C-Class, but a smaller price tag.
The CLA250 has a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo engine with direct injection. It makes 208 horsepower and 258 lb./ft. or torque. The engine output is spry and the handling is agile. A 7-speed automatic transmission comes with paddle shifters.
This car employs start/stop technology. Depress the brake (hard) and the engine cuts off at red lights. It will re-engage almost instantaneously. This technology is neat, but does take a little getting used to. It helps save on fuel economy however.
The CLA250 looks every bit the part of a Mercedes. The sleek, sculpted design is great for fuel-saving aerodynamics but also adds to the overall sex appeal of the car. It’s definitely attractive and has that luxurious/aggressive look of most Mercedes-Benz vehicles. The CLA is longer and wider than the C-Class models but boasts significantly better fuel economy.
Inside, the CLA250 continues to offer Mercedes-Benz luxury. Few corners were cut. High-quality materials are found throughout. The soft touch points are noticeable.
A 7-inch high resolution LCD touchscreen controls the infotainment system. It’s similar to other Mercedes systems and is as over engineered as those as well. Between the touchscreen and the joystick knob, there are an abundance of knobs that are counter intuitive. The cumbersome, eyes-off-the-road maintenance of simple tasks is frustrating, but this is not unique to the CLA, as it’s a problem throughout the Mercedes line.
Additionally, the awkward placement of the navigation system makes it stick out and ruins the luxurious feel and flow of the otherwise stellar interior.
Driver and front passenger will melt into comfortable, leather-wrapped seats. Rear passengers will be far less comfortable. Due to the sloping roofline and the angular C-pillar, headroom is minimal.
The trunk however offers a cavernous amount of space. The 13.1-cubic foot trunk will fit groceries, luggage or golf clubs easily.
While road noise is minimal, the ride comfort (despite comfortable seats) is rough. A sport-tuned suspension lets you really feel the road. Sports-car enthusiasts may appreciate that, but the general Mercedes-Benz consumer expects a quiet, smooth ride. That is actually not what you get with the 2014 CLA250. Between the front-wheel drive and the independent suspension, it doesn’t drive like a typical Mercedes.
Where the CLA exceeds more than any other Mercedes vehicle is in the fuel economy. With the streamline, aerodynamic design and the start/stop technology, the CLA250 has an EPA rating of 26 city and 38 highway. In a week’s worth of turbo-infused driving (i.e. heavy footed), I averaged 30 MPG.
For a punchy, fun-to-drive car, I’ll gladly take that kind of gas mileage.
Trims and options
As is the case with most Mercedes-Benz vehicles, there’s a standard trim offering, with options that can be added. Mercedes almost makes these items a la carte, where you can add various packages like a premium package (with heated seats, Harman/Kardon audio system) or a multimedia package (with advanced navigation, and rear view camera).
The 2014 Mercedes Benz CLA250 has a starting price of $29,900. With a few of those packages added on, my tester had a final price of $36,545.
Affordable and Mercedes-Benz rarely go together. But in the CLA250, they’ve created a car that will make you rethink Mercedes.
2014 Mercedes Benz CLA250 specs
PRICE/AS-TESTED PRICE………………………………………… $29,900/$35,545
MILEAGE…………………………………… 26 MPG (CITY); 38 MPG (HWY)
ENGINE……………………………………… 2.0-LITER 4-CYLINDER TURBO
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE…………………………… 208 HP/258 LB./FT.
TRANSMISSION…………………………… SEVEN-SPEED AUTOMATIC
DRIVE WHEELS……………. FRONT-WHEEL DRIVE
FINAL ASSEMBLY POINT……………. KECSKEMET, HUNGARY
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