A slippery new entrant
Mercedes-Benz have been building high end luxury vehicles for decades. But it’s not only the well heeled who the German car maker is now targeting and the recent introduction of the appealing A-Class hatchback with a starting price in sub $50k territory is a testament that Mercedes-Benz aims to attract regular folk to its showrooms.
The CLA range has arrived and joins the new class of compact Mercedes-Benz vehicles on offer. Mercedes-Benz claim the CLA is the slipperiest production vehicle on the market with a drag co-efficient of just 0.23cd, achieved by the four-door sedan’s sleek coupe styling, being similar in appearance to its larger sibling the CLS.
The AMG performance arm adds the muscle
The CLA is available in three guises, starting with the CLA 200 fitted with a small but capable 1.6L turbocharged 115kW/250Nm engine, providing lively enough performance and is well matched to the chassis. Drivers craving more clout can opt for the CLA 250 that has a powerful 2.0L turbocharged engine pumping out a decent 155kW/350Nm.
The hero choice is the class leading CLA 45 AMG that Mercedes-Benz claim has the most potent four-pot 2.0L motor currently available in a production car with its colossal 265kW/450Nm. The CLA 45 and the A 45 AMG models use the same powerplant and it is the first time that a four-pot engine is accompanied by the AMG badge.
All the engines run on premium fuel and the thirstiest of the lot is the AMG model with a claimed frugal fuel economy rating of only 7.0L/100km in a combined cycle. But don’t go too heavy on the loud pedal, otherwise that figure will quickly increase.
All engines are mated to quick and smooth shifting seven speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, with all but the CLA 45 AMG driving the front wheels. Special treatment for the CLA 45 AMG driveline includes an AMG SPEEDSHIFT version of the auto ’box as well as the 4MATIC all-wheel drive setup.
Dare to be different
The gear lever stalk, located to the right of the steering wheel, takes some getting used to and mistaking it for the indicator or wiper switch can lead to a neutral gear selection but fortunately safety features ensure there is no chance of accidently slipping it into reverse or park while on the move.
The CLA has a McPherson strut front and Four-Link rear suspension setup that provides confident handling and a top notch ride quality for one so small, while the predictable and adequately weighted electrically-assisted steering offers a decent amount of driver feedback. Exceptional comfort levels and a quiet cabin provide a pleasing driving experience.
The interior is uncluttered and is dressed in quality materials throughout while the 5.7-inch audio display looks like a mini tablet that’s attached to the dashboard. The sports seats are comfortable and provide support in all the right places while the rear seating is best reserved for passengers of limited stature as the sloping roofline limits the headroom.
The CLA range is packed full of standard kit including a navigation system, electric parking brake, reverse camera, front and rear proximity sensors, ARTICO leather seats and 18-inch alloys shod with run-flat tyres. The CLA 250 adds sportier seats and wheel rims, a lower suspension tune, AMG body styling, red brake callipers and sport-style foot pedals. The CLA 45 AMG is a step up with 19-inch alloys, Harmon Kardon sound system, and a multitude of AMG kit.
Mercedes-Benz hasn’t skimped on safety either and the CLA’s standard active-safety equipment includes Attention Assist monitoring, Blind-Spot Assist, Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), Acceleration Skid Control (ASR), Collision Prevention Assist, and passive safety features include nine airbags.
The CLA200 has a recommended retail price of $65,900 while the CLA250 has a $12,000 premium at $77,900 and the CLA 45 AMG is stickered at $107,900.
The new CLA range is packed full of gear that we have come to expect from the premium brand and drivers who feel the need to customize their car can choose from a long list of options. But selecting a few of these will quickly up the price.
The entry level CLA200 is priced to attract plenty of showroom foot traffic and those individuals with a lifelong vision of one day owning a Mercedes-Benz will be a lot closer to realising the dream.