2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250: Redwoods Road Trip Wrap-Up
April 28, 2014
After 10 hours driving from Eureka home to Los Angeles, my 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 road trip to the Redwoods has come to an end. Along the way, I added 1,561 miles to the CLA's odometer and found that it's a far more enjoyable and comfortable car outside the congested confines of greater Los Angeles.
Here are some final notes from the trip.
Overall trip: 33 mpg
The car said it got: 34.5 mpg
Best tank: 34 mpg during the return trip from Eureka to somewhere in the Central Valley
Worst tanks: 31.6 mpg achieved twice when driving on twistier mountain highways
Best range: 365 miles with about 40 to go according to the car's DTE gauge.
Throttle Problem Update: The throttle acted up again in the same manner as before just as I was leaving Eureka on Sunday morning. There were completely different conditions this time (the car had just started up, it was cold, I was driving in town versus hours of continuous use, it was warm, I was driving along a rural highway). Once again, I pulled over, turned off the car and turned it back on to correct the problem. It never returned. The car says it needs to be serviced in 2,300 miles, but we'll probably take it in earlier to see if our dealer can come up with a cause.
The Seats: Over the course of 1,561 miles, 684 of which were done in the course of 10 hours and one day, the CLA's seats were absolutely superb. They're firm, supportive and wrap around me like a big old hug. The degree of adjustment is sufficient for my 6-foot-3 body, while my tiny wife appreciated the passenger side height adjustment. These really are some of my favorite seats in any car.
Infotainment: I'm a big fan of Mercedes' COMAND electronics interface. I'll admit that the mix of dash buttons, knob and screen seems a bit haphazard, but it makes sense to me and I can quickly accomplish tasks both simple and complicated. I love the radio preset buttons and the iPod interface in particular is exceptional. I really hope the new touchpad found in the new C- and S-Classes doesn't muck it up.
Navigation: For the most part, I knew where I was going and really only wanted the nav system for its ability to provide a distance to go and an ETA. In this way, it was consistently spot-on. I also appreciated its general functionality, graphics and accurate real-time traffic. However, programming it can be a pain. Like many systems, it won't allow you to program a destination from scratch using the COMAND knob.
It does allow you to use voice commands, but these are incredibly frustrating. It asks you to all at once say the street number, street and city of the destination in question. This sounds convenient and easy enough, but it never worked. Our conversations generally went something like this.
James: "1155 Nonchalant Ave, Simi Valley"
Mercedes: "City is ambiguous. Please choose one of the choices from the listing: 1. Escondido. 2. Santa Cruz"
James: "What? Neither."
Mercedes: "City is ambiguous. Please choose one of the choices from the listing."
James: "You're ambiguous. Cancel!"
After two attempts at pronouncing all the words differently, I gave up and eventually realized you can work around this by saying individual address elements. However, you must do so by street, city, then house number. It's rather unintuitive. In Honda/Acura's system, you narrow its individual parts down by city, street, house number.
Basically, program the thing with the knob before taking off.
How did a Buick Verano Turbo do on roughly the same journey? Sure, that sounds like an odd question, but the Verano is about the same size as the CLA, has a similar amount of equipment and a similarly powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. I also took one to the redwoods a few years ago, a journey documented in the 2013 Buick Verano Turbo Road Test.
The Buick rides substantially better and was surprisingly adept at zinging itself along those same twisty bits of CA-1 and CA-101 where the CLA proved its own worth (the CLA ultimately feels far more agile). I also preferred the Buick's manual transmission (yes, a Buick) to the CLA's automanual. Both cars had roughly the same equipment. The Buick had a more spacious cabin (not really needed for two people); the CLA has a higher quality one. Finally, the Verano Turbo managed 29.5 mpg on its journey to the redwoods.
Which would I buy? I'd save up for the Mercedes.
Would I take the CLA on another long road trip: Definitely.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor in Santa Monica, Calif. @ 7,845 miles