Sunday, 9 August 2020

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4MATIC Coupe Review

 


Intro
The first generation CLA250 was introduced in 2013 as an entry level luxury vehicle to the Mercedes-Benz brand. It was a success at capturing younger buyers, selling over 100,000 units in its first year worldwide. With the entry level duty taken over by the new A Class, which we reviewed recently, the CLA has the chance to move upmarket. The second generation CLA250 is bigger, sportier, and most importantly, feels more premium from behind the wheels.

Thanks to Mercedes-Benz Canada, I was given the chance to test drive the 2020 CLA250 for one week. Below is my unbiased review.

Exterior
The exterior of the 2020 CLA250 is more refined compare to its predecessor. The body lines are much more subtle, with gentler curves replacing sharp creases. The car is roughly 2" longer and 2" wider, giving it a nicer proportion for what Mercedes called the "four-door coupe" design. At the side, the new CLA looks long and planted. The sloping roofline matches well with the frameless windows for a streamlined look. The coefficient of drag of the CLA is very low at 0.23, only slightly higher than the 0.22 figure of the A220. The low coefficient of drag helps the CLA to effortlessly slice through air, reducing wind noises, and increasing fuel efficiency. Our tester comes with the optional 19" AMG Matte Cross-Spoke wheels that look fantastic. Standard CLA only gets the 18" AMG wheels. In my opinion the 1000 dollar upgrade is well worth the money.

At the front, the shark nose style grille is slightly angled forward for a more aggressive look. It is decorated by a series of intricate hexagonal pins and the iconic Star emblem. The lower bumper is dominated by a large center intake and two side grilles. They are all decorated with wide black slats. The slender LED headlights are circled by boomerang style LED daytime running lights. They look more defined than the ones on the A Class.

At the rear, the new CLA looks quite different from its predecessor. The license plate holder is relocated to the lower bumper. The taillights are longer and slimmer, cutting into the trunk lid. The lower bumper has a large air diffuser in the middle, and two trapezoidal chrome exhaust tips on the sides. The exhaust tips are not actually connected to the tailpipe, just like the ones on the A220. The good news is, you won't have to worry about them getting smoked by the exhaust fume.

I very much enjoy the exterior of the new CLA250. It is cleaner, sportier, and more masculine looking compare to the previous generation. The Denim Blue paint seems to be a winner. Almost everyone commented on the car told me that they loved the color, and I agree.









Interior
The interior of the car feels very familiar if you have recently been in an A Class. The retro fighter plane style interior with the turbine inspired rounded vents and rounded dash trims gives the interior of the CLA250 a modern yet classy look. It is hard to spot any significant difference between the interior of the CLA and the A Class. Red accent stitching is applied on the dash, door panels, and the leather seats. Other than that, the two are almost identical. That is not to say that the interior of the CLA250 is sub par, quite the contrary. It only shows how high quality and tech savvy the interior of the A Class is compare to the rest of the segment.

The front seats of the CLA250 are both heated and cooled. They are covered by a mix of leather and alcantara material with ted accent stitching. Both the driver and passenger seats are power adjustable. The seats are very comfortable with good bolster and lumbar support. They also provide good leg and headroom for the front passengers.

The legroom in the rear cabin is decent, but the headroom suffers due to the sloping roofline. Thankfully, the panoramic sunroof opens up the view and makes it less claustrophobic for taller passengers in the back. A power roller shade lets occupants vary the amount of sunlight into the cabin. The opening and closing of the shade can be activated by the car's advanced voice control system, a cool party trick.














Infotainment
For 2020, the excellent MBUX system has been brought over to the CLA250. It is the same system we first observed in the A Class. The Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) system consists of a few different components. First, the standard 7"(10.25" in our tester) displays that are positioned right next to each other to appear as one giant screen. The left screen sits right in front of the steering wheel and displays important vehicle information like the speed, fuel economy, and the trip information. The right screen, which is also a touchscreen, sits right on top of the center console. It is multi-functional, and can be configured to show pretty much anything the user desires. 

The second part of the MBUX system are the touch buttons on the steering wheel. They are similar to the small touch pads I used to see on a Blackberry smartphone. The left one controls the left display, and vice versa for the right. I love the fact that you never have to take your hands off the steering wheel to access pretty much all the functions of the car.

There is another way you can control the many functions of the car without taking your hands off the wheel. That is via the LINGUATRONIC voice assist. It is a natural language smart assistant that functions like the Apple Siri or Google Assist. Simply say "Hey, Mercedes", or press the voice command button, and you can ask the CLA250 to make a phone call, plot a new navigation route, close the roller sunshade, or change the interior light color. The voice assistant can control basically anything that is not safety related. The system is smart enough to understand commands like "I am cold" or "I am hungry" to raise cabin temperature, or to find the closest restaurant.

The final part of the MBUX system is the track-pad that is located in the center console. There is a padded resting place for the wrist, which allows the fingers to scroll through the display menu or to hand-write inputs. 

The other really cool thing about the new infotainment system is the optional virtual reality style navigation system. When you are close to a junction, the center display would pull up the video feed from the front camera, and superimpose arrows to show you exactly where to turn. It is a very cool technology and I only wish the arrows would appear sooner.

There are 5 USB C ports in the car. You will need the provided adapter if you are still using USB A charging cables. With the Premium Package, the CLA250 also support Android Auto and Apple Carplay.





Safety and Driver Assistance
The CLA250 comes with the following standard safety features:
  • Active Brake Assist
  • In-vehicle, one-touch calling features
  • ATTENTION ASSIST
  • Rearview camera
  • Adaptive braking technology
  • Tire Pressure Loss Warning System
  • Heated windshield washer system
Many of the advanced safety features are optional. They include:
  • MULTIBEAM LED headlamps
  • Adaptive Highbeam Assist
  • Blind Spot Assist
  • Active Parking Assist
  • Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC
  • Active Steering Assist
  • Active Blind Spot Assist
  • Active Lane Keeping Assist
  • Active Lane Change Assist
  • Evasive Steering Assist
  • Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function
  • Active Emergency Stop Assist
  • Enhanced Stop-and-Go
  • Active Speed Limit Assist
  • Route-based Speed Adaptation
  • Traffic Sign Assist
  • Vehicle Exit Warning
  • 360 camera
  • PRE-SAFE
  • PRE-SAFE PLUS
  • PRE-SAFE Sound
  • Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC
Some of these safety features are unique and deserves some explaining. 
  • The Pre-Safe system tighten seat belts when the car senses that an impact is imminent. The Pre-Safe Sound system also emits a special "pink noise" to condition passenger's ears for the loud noises that follow after the crash. 
  • The vehicle exit warning alert the driver or passengers of rear approaching vehicles, cyclists, or pedestrians to prevent injuries by an open door. 
The 2020 CLA250 is yet to be rated by the IIHS or NHTSA at the time of writing.

Driving
The CLA250 features a 2.0L turbocharged inline-four engine that produces 221hp of horsepower and 258lb.ft. of torque. The engine is coupled to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission and either a standard front wheel drive or a 4Matic all wheel drive system. The engine output is a significant bump to the 188hp of horsepower possessed by the A220 sedan, and the difference is significant. The CLA goes from 0-100km/hr in 6.2 seconds, a second faster than the A220, but on par with the A250.

The gears are smooth when pushed hard, but struggles slightly at lower speed. When put in Sport mode, the gear tends to hang a bit too long, and the paddle shifter is not the most responsive as well.
The ECO Start/Stop system reacts more promptly than some of the other ones I have experienced, but I always choose to shut it off anyway. There are three dive modes: Eco, Comfort, and Sport. With each mode, the throttle response, shift points, and steering effort are all adjusted. A fourth "individual" mode allows the driver to create a custom profile. I find the Comfort mode to be the most suitable day to day drive mode.

The CLA feels more planted in corners compare to the A Class. That can be partially contributed to the increased wheelbase and wider stance. The 4-wheel independent suspension is lowered to enhance stability, but tuned to offer a refined ride quality. It is much more comfortable than the brutal hard rides of the first generation CLA, but body rolls are still kept well under control in corners.

Steering is precise with a very natural feel. The feedback is on point, and the electromechanical power steering system automatically varies the steering ratio based on how far you turn the steering wheel. It provides quick steering and lighter effort at low speed, and more stability and stronger feedback at higher speed. Standard Torque Vectoring Brake technology provides additional control in corners via targeted rear-wheel braking, while the optional 4Matic all wheel drive system sends up to 50% of the engine's torque to the rear wheels to limit wheel slippage. The CLA250 is a fantastic driving machine that is suitable for both the twisty mountain roads and urban traffics.

Mercedes-Benz has yet to release the fuel economy rating for the 2020 CLA250, but our one week city test drive returns a 10.7L/100km fuel economy rating.



Cargo Space & Storage
The wider rear profile of the 2020 CLA250 increases the trunk opening by 3.9", but the cargo capacity is actually decreased by 10L to 460L. It is by no means class leading, but nevertheless practical for daily use. The 40/20/40 split folding rear seats provide access to the additional storage space into the rear cabin.

In cabin storage options are plenty. They include the optional wireless charging pad, deep storage bin under the front armrest, deep door pockets, mesh pockets behind the front seatbacks, the small storage tray under the rear air vents, and the integrated cup holders in the rear folding armrest.







Verdict
While the new A220 is an outstanding entry level luxury sedan, the CLA250 is definitely an upgrade. With the more powerful engine and the improve handling, the CLA250 is much more fun to drive. I also find the exterior of the CLA250 to be sportier, and has more personality. On the other hand, the CLA250 does cost 6k more than the 4Matic version of its little brother. That difference is increased to 8k if you chose the front wheel drive version of the A220.

You will have to decide if all the upgrades are worth the price differences. To make it even more interesting, the hatchback version of the A Class, the A250 costs 5k less than the CLA250, and is equipped with the same 221hp 2.0L turbo. Being a hatchback lover myself, I would choose the A250 and spend the extra money on some of the optional packages.

Test Vehicle
2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4MATIC Coupe
MSRP
$43,000 CAD Base, $55,340 CAD as tested
Color
Demin blue

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