2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Review: Remarkably Better

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Review: Remarkably Better

My wife loves her a to-do list. Checking items off the list gives her a little spark of joy no matter how many boxes are left to check. I suspect the engineers on the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 program are more than a little happy themselves with the items they’ve crossed off their list.

Mercedes introduced the CLA in 2013 as a hip, inexpensive entry point meant to lure people out of their Accords and Camrys and into a Benz. Although it certainly attracted a fair number of buyers, it also attracted criticism, most notably for its low-grade interior, recalcitrant transmission, and droopy styling. You can imagine these would be at the top of the product refresh to-do list, and you can see it in the final result.

Far and away the greatest progress has been made inside. Where the previous car said C-Class but cheaper, the new one says technology and style. Not everyone loves the freestanding screen trend, but anyone can appreciate the clear influence from the many times more expensive S-Class. Options like two-tone color schemes and multicolor accent lighting really help dress it up, for a price. Also available at a price: an eye-opening list of high-tech features. Standouts include a combination of adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance, and the navigation system that allows the car to slow for corners automatically and change lanes automatically (the latter after you activate a turn signal) while the car is on cruise control, similar to Tesla’s Autopilot, Autosteer, and Navigate on Autopilot technologies.

Equally cool, though considerably less useful, an augmented reality navigation aid displays a forward-facing camera view on the navigation screen and overlays big arrows to show you where to go. It’s great for impressing your friends, but the arrows don’t show up until you’re 300 feet from your turn, and you’ll cover 300 feet in literal seconds, so if you’re relying on them, you’re going to be making a lot of last-minute maneuvers. You shouldn’t be, anyway, because the image is small and down on the dash, requiring you to completely take your eyes off the road for several seconds to digest it.

If you do find yourself making some sharp maneuvers, you’ll be pleased with how the car responds. The electrically assisted steering has just the right response for a sporty daily driver and a good weight to it. Similarly, the brakes have just the right amount of bite for confident stopping without being too grabby or too mushy. The CLA makes a fine trade on ride and handling, as well, the stiffness in the former reflected in the capability of the latter. It’s enough to make you smile on a back road but not frown on a poorly maintained one.

The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is remarkably improved but not quite finished. It’s considerably smoother than before and does an excellent job of covering any low points in the engine’s power delivery with smart, crisp shifts. It did, however, still give up a clunky downshift here and there, particularly when getting back into the throttle after coasting (for example, when approaching a red light that turns to green before you stop). The car now also defaults to its Comfort driving mode rather than the lethargic Eco mode our long-term 2015 CLA 250 always started in, greatly improving its responsiveness to the gas pedal.

There are a few other things still on the to-do list, as well. The interior can get fairly loud on rough pavement, and the digital assistant will butt in any time you use the word Mercedes, whether you’re addressing it or not (and the hail can’t be changed as it can in a BMW). The front seats are narrow, and my passenger and I found ourselves struggling to get comfortable the longer we were in them. The rear seats remain tight despite the 1-inch wheelbase stretch, and the dramatic roofline severely restricts headroom.

If you’re coming to the CLA for that roofline, though, you won’t be disappointed (and if you’re not, there’s now the A-Class sedan, which is the same car in a traditional shape). The new styling is sharper, sleeker, and more aggressive. The shark-nose profile up front is particularly notable, and the rear end no longer sags. What the first car started, design-wise, this one finishes.

With all the improvements and added features, it’s almost enough to make you forget the price has gone up considerably. The old CLA had already climbed from its mainstream-adjacent $30,000 entry point to $34,000, and now relieved of its brand-entry status by the A-Class, this one’s added another $3,550 to the price tag just to get started. Our well-equipped tester came in at an eye-watering $54,700, and there will be two AMG performance versions of this car with even higher price tags.

You’re getting a lot of tech for your money, but it’s enough to make you stop and take a look at other options, perhaps back at those non-luxury models Mercedes is trying to lure you out of. If the price is right, you’ll be getting a lot better car than before, albeit one that hasn’t quite finished its to-do list.


Source : Erika Pizano Link

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