2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250: What's It Like to Live With?
Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 as our editors live with this car for a year.
What do you want to know about?
- The Buying Landscape
- Interior Tour
- Handsome or Not?
- Squeaking Comand Screen
- Surprisingly Fun to Drive
- Engine Break-In Procedure
- Check Engine Light Reset Attempt
- Fuel Economy Update for November
- Nice Air Vents
- Tuned for Performance
- Small Luxury Alternatives
- Transmission Error
- Performance Testing
- Seat Comfort
- New Mercedes Cruise Control
- It'll Meet Your Basic Hauling Requirements
- Don't Love the Ride
- Exterior Styling Inspired by the CLS550
- No Rear Center Armrest
- Standard Memory Front Seats
- Fuel Economy Update for January
- Nice Space Saving Trick
- Perfect Steering Wheel
- Tight Pedal Box
- It's Worth Stretching for the Sport Package
- Not Much Headroom in Back
- Booster and Child Safety Seats
- I Like Its Four-Cylinder Engine
- Long-Distance Driving Impressions
- Coupe Styling Makes for Limited Rearward Visibility
- Fuel Economy Update for February
- Is It a Good Value?
- Does this Climate Control Button Mean Anything?
- We Found a Semi-Useful Display
- Is This Acceptable Cost Savings?
- It Is Possible To Beat EPA Estimates, But Only for a Little While
- The Case for MBTex
- Hold Feature
- Decoding the Rearview Camera
- Fuel Economy Update for March
- Rearview Camera Blackout
- 5,000-Mile Update
- Arizona Road Trip
- Stop the Auto Stop-Start
- Redwood Road Trip Part 1
- Redwoods Road Trip Part 2
- Redwood Road Trip Part 3
- Redwoods Road Trip Part 4
- Redwoods Road Trip Part 5
- Redwoods Road Trip Wrap-Up
- Wiring Harness Repair
- Fuel Economy Update for April
- Aftermarket Looks, Mercedes Performance
- Anti-Theft Protection Gremlins
- Drivetrain Electronic Gremlins
- Smart Key, Dumb Locks
- Post Road Trip Notes
- Carpool Savvy Nav
- CLA or BMW 3 Series?
- 10,000 Miles
- Fuel Economy Update for May
- First Scheduled Maintenance
- Needs Transmission and Ride Quality Improvements
- Engine Feels Better Than Ever
- Service A at 10,000 Miles
- Accommodating Center Console
- Fuel Economy Update for June
- Small Car, Big Trunk
- Cramped Pedal Box
- Misaligned Trim Piece
- Getting Gas, the Long Way
- A Lawnmower Fits
- Child Seat Won't Fit
- Quick Trunk Release
- Fuel Economy Update for July
- City-Sized Benz
- Low Tire Pressure. Or Not?
- A Car You Could Be Proud To Bring Home
- Intimate or Cramped Interior?
- Upgrade From a Hot Hatch
- Limited COMAND Audio Presets
- Alternative, Cheaper Navigation
- 15,000 Miles
- Fuel Economy Update for August
- First Impressions
- First Aid Kit
- Is It a Luxury Bargain or a Cut-Rate Compromise?
- Good at Finding Gas Stations
- Road Tripping and Fuel Economy
- Difficult Child Seat Install
- The Worst Option. Ever.
- Fuel Economy Update for September
- Low Tire Pressure Warning
- Fun to Throw Around
- Palm Springs Road Trip
- Notes for Seniors
- Subtle Mood Lighting
- Integrated Headrests
- Fuel Economy Update for October
- Rough Rider
- Likes to Go Fast
- Defaults to Weak-O
- A Disappointing Year
- Fuel Economy Update for November 2014
- Sold to CarMax
Back in February, actor Willem Defoe starred as the devil in a commercial for the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250, enticing a young man to sell his soul for the chance to enjoy Benz's sleek new coupe-ish sedan and the bountiful success that supposedly comes with it. The "deal" is ultimately turned down when the CLA's affordable base price of $29,900 is revealed.
This wildly successful ad made Mercedes' new entry-level model one of the most hotly anticipated new cars of the year, and its appeal certainly transcends the thespian efforts of the guy who played the Green Goblin. The CLA's styling mimics that of the hugely desirable CLS-Class, the nearly-as-fashionable cabin is nicely equipped and its turbocharged four-cylinder is not only more powerful than Mercedes' previous entry-level sedan (the pricier C250) but it achieves an EPA-estimated 30 mpg combined. That impressively low base price helps, too.
With such hype and interest, adding a 2014 CLA250 to our long-term fleet for 12 months and 20,000 miles was an absolute no-brainer. And for the record, we purchased it with good old American dollars: no souls necessary.
What We Bought
As it turns out, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class doesn't really cost $29,900. That number doesn't factor in the $925 destination charge, so what you're really looking at is a base price of $30,825. That's not as eye-catching, but it still represents a very low price for a Mercedes-Benz sedan.
For that base price, you get the only powertrain combination available: a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder good for 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, and perhaps most notably for a Mercedes-Benz, front-wheel drive. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic lights and wipers, eight-way power front seats with memory and lumbar adjustments, MBTex premium vinyl upholstery (you'd swear it was leather), Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, mbrace2 emergency telematics/smartphone integration and Mercedes' driver inattention warning system.
That's actually a decent amount of stuff, and we probably could live with a so-equipped car. However, consumers rarely stick with the base car, so we decided to select a pair of optional packages CLA buyers seem likely to select.
The $2,300 Premium package nets you dual-zone climate control, driver side and interior auto-dimming mirrors, heated front seats, satellite radio, an iPod/MP3 player interface and a Harman Kardon sound system. The $2,370 Multimedia package supplants the standard COMAND system's 5.8-inch display with a 7-inch one and adds a rearview camera, a six-CD/DVD changer, 10GB of digital music storage, real-time traffic and weather, voice commands and a Mercedes navigation system (versus the Becker Map Pilot software that can be integrated into the standard interface as a stand-alone option).
With those two packages only and our no-cost Cirrus White paint selection, the Edmunds long-term CLA250 came to a grand total of $35,495. Some negotiation brought our price down to $35K even. We feel this is pretty indicative of the cars that'll be leaving dealer lots, and its sticker price undercuts the most basic C250 sedan by $1,230. Equally equipped, the price difference is $6,590.
Why We Bought It
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class has been one of the most frequently researched cars on Edmunds.com. It routinely draws more eyeballs than best-sellers like the Honda CR-V and Toyota Camry. Buying a CLA was largely an example of giving the people what they want.
However, there are many questions to answer about what is a rather significant departure for Mercedes-Benz. Will its engine deliver the promised fuel economy? Will its dual-clutch transmission be a smooth operator or a herky-jerky mess? What will a front-wheel-drive Mercedes perform like? Moving beyond the powertrain, will its cabin quality live up to our expectations for a Mercedes-Benz, and how much practicality does that sleek styling sacrifice? Finally, is the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 worth the hype?
We'll provide those answers and more in the next year as we drive it for 20,000 miles. Follow along on the long-term road test page for daily updates on our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 and the rest of our fleet.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is one of the most researched models on Edmunds.com. This meant that it was a no-brainer for us to add it to the long-term fleet. My marching orders were simple: "Buy a CLA and keep it under $35,000."
Not surprisingly, the $29,900 CLA that shoppers see in commercials is pretty rare. In the real world, the bottom-floor price for a CLA is about $31,025. This includes the $925 destination fee and $200 to pre-wire the car for the Becker navigation. If you wanted to move forward with the Becker navigation, it would cost another $600.
On the top floor of pricing, I saw that a dealer in Beverly Hills was selling a loaded CLA250 for $44,010. So much for that "entry level" car.
We settled on a model that included the premium and multimedia packages. That's it. We felt that this was a nice representation of what most CLA buyers would get. Check the model review for what comes in those packages. Next up was color choice.
I'm a fan of cool, offbeat colors and I had zeroed in on Northern Lights Violet (picture a dark shade of wine). Mercedes also offers a matte silver paint for $2,500, but I didn't run across any cars with this option. We ended up with Cirrus White, a good choice for resale purposes.
I found the car at Penske Mercedes in West Covina, Calif. The MSRP was $35,495. Edmunds TMV showed that the CLA250 has been holding its value and selling at MSRP. I kept this in mind, but figured I'd try to shave a little off that sticker price. I offered $35,000 and after checking in with his manager, the salesman and I had a deal.
Penske Mercedes delivered the CLA250 to our offices and offered us a walk-around of the car and all its features. It was a good shopping and buying experience, and I'll definitely keep the team at Penske in mind the next time we're in the market for a Mercedes.
If you bought a CLA250, what color and options would you get?
Here is a video tour of our new long-term 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 interior. Please ignore my sweat socks.
Click through for video.
When I was driving our long-term 2013 Mercedes CLA250, I had several people tell me they think the car is handsome.
But I've seen a couple of you commenting otherwise.
What is the verdict, handsome or not? And how do feel about the color white? Vote in the comments section.
The Comand screen started a persistent squeak within only four days and less than 400 miles into our time with the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. Even the tiniest bump or road imperfection causes it, which makes it hugely annoying. On the upside, it's abundantly clear the squeak is coming from the dash-mounted screen, so it should in theory be easy to tighten a screw or squirt in some WD40 or whatever has to be done to fix it. And if it were my car, I would've already thrown the keys at a service advisor and demanded my brand new car be fixed immediately.
Now, does this mean that Mercedes-Benz build quality has been shot to hell? That it has gone down in recent years? That it was never good to begin with? That this Mercedes flashy new entry model is chintzy garbage? That you'd be nuts to buy one of these instead of (INSERT CAR)?
No. It's one car. Show me multiple examples of the same issue and then I'll start drawing conclusions. This goes for Cadillacs and Mercedes, and for squeaky display screens and more serious mechanical issues. We've had a Honda leave us stranded and a Jaguar go to Alaska and back. One car of one model does not equal a trend.
Having said all that, we're only in our first month with the CLA. There's an awful lot of driving still to do.
The CLA-Class is an entirely different type of Mercedes-Benz. It's front-wheel drive. It has a dual-clutch automated gearbox. It has a turbocharged four-cylinder. It costs about $30,000.
It's also surprisingly nimble. While driving the mountain roads selected for its photo shoot, the CLA250 demonstrated the sort of darty, light-on-its-toes feel I expect from the best compact front drivers. That turbo-4 has plenty of right-now, low-end power and its gearbox is quick-acting. I frankly wasn't expecting the CLA to be that much fun, but it absolutely was. An agile, torquey small car with good looks to boot? That, my friends, is my kind of car.
The CLA doesn't really feel like a classic Mercedes to drive, which in this respect is neither a good nor a bad thing. It's just different. Hopefully, though, it still possesses some of its bigger, more expensive siblings' penchant for eating up road trip miles.
According to the owner's manual, this is the recommended engine break-in procedure for our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. The condensed version:
- Vary engine speeds for the first 1,000 miles.
- Avoid driving at full throttle during this period.
- Change gears before throttle is two-thirds of the way to redline.
- Do not manually downshift to engine brake.
- If possible, do not depress the gas pedal enough to cause a downshift.
- Ideally, drive in "E" mode for the first 1,000 miles.
- Do not drive faster than 85 mph.
- Only allow the engine to reach 4,500 rpm briefly
A couple of days ago the Check Engine light winked on while another staffer was piloting our near-new 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250. However, as is often the case, he couldn't correlate its arrival to anything special he was doing at the time. It did not come on during the startup sequence or while climbing a steep grade. He was just, you know, driving.
For its part, the car is fine. No hiccups, no reluctant acceleration, just the dang light on the dash. Well, maybe the fuel economy is a little underwhelming, but it's hard to be sure that's a thing with just 476 total miles on the clock.
I have a couple of low-cost OBD code scanners at home, so I hooked each of them up to see what they could tell me.
The first was the Scan Gauge II. It came back with a single diagnostic trouble code with an ominous-sounding title: P0004 - Fuel Volume Regulator Control Circuit High.
Farther on in the definition, though, it points out that this code is "not common and sometimes is shown in error due to the design of the code reader." It goes on to say the first thing I should do is attempt to re-read the code with a higher-quality code reader.
Our CarMD is a fancier device, and it came back with a fancier code: P24D6. But this one is not defined on the common DTC-code websites except to say that it's an automaker-specific code. In other words, it's not one of the required OBD-II codes and I can't decode it without Mercedes equipment.
So I went back to the advice page for P0004: reset the Check Engine light and see if it comes back. That worked for the entire weekend, some 250 miles of unhurried driving, a typical mix of city and freeway errand-running and holiday shopping. "Must have been a fluke," I thought.
But then I started the engine in order to read the odometer mileage in preparation for writing this status update. Of course the light chose that moment to wink back on.
Enough messing around with toys. It's time for a dealer visit.
We're not the only ones. I've since learned that Mercedes CLA forums began lighting up in October with complaints from others about the P24D6 fault code. Like our car, their DTCs appeared in the first few hundred miles.
At first there was no remedy for what has been described as an OBD software glitch, but that changed in early November. Thing is, that's about the same time we took delivery of our car. We must have missed the fix by days, maybe hours.
We'll keep you posted once we schedule an appointment and bring it in. But at least it doesn't sound like a big deal, except for the hassle.
It's way too early to draw any conclusions just yet. Our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 has just barely passed the 750-mile mark on the way to being broken in.
That said, we're driving our CLA gently in these introductory miles. I would have expected its MPG to be reasonable, at least. But so far this car's impressive-on-paper EPA ratings seem like wishful thinking in the extreme.
The CLA250 is powered by a 2-liter turbo engine. It feeds its power through a seven-speed automated-manual transmission. A stop-start system kills the engine at traffic signals and the like to reduce idle fuel consumption. This trifecta of the latest efficiency trends results in an official EPA rating of 30 mpg Combined (26 mpg City/38 mpg Highway).
That's great, but our average (so far) is just 23.3 mpg. I was the one driving the most recent tank and managed just 26.9 mpg, barely eclipsing the city rating despite a mix that was about equal parts city and freeway driving. What's more, I left the start-stop system on to do its thing and I was fairly conservative with the throttle when under way.
I'm not impressed, even with the break-in and the newness and all. But the real story will begin to emerge in the next month or two.
Let's hope my simmering theory about the new crop of small-displacement "Eco-turbos," the one that suspects they're prone to missing their EPA ratings by a much greater percentage in the real world than the larger non-turbo engines they're meant to replace, is proven wrong.
Worst Fill: 19.6 mpg
Best Fill: 26.9 mpg
Lifetime Average: 23.3 mpg
EPA Combined Rating: 30 mpg (26 City/38 Highway)
Best Range: 218 miles
Current Odometer: 762 miles
I don't usually wax on about air vents, but the ones in our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 are noteworthy. There are five of them, and the three in the middle are just about the most prominent feature of the cabin aside from the stand-up navi screen.
They look good, and they feel nicely made when you aim them. And you can shut the flow off entirely if you turn any one of them 90 degrees to the right. A satisfying and well-oiled "click" accompanies that action.
The vanes are styled so they look slightly different when closed, but not so much that it disturbs the symmetry. The middle vent is the one that's closed in the above shot.
So, yeah, no big deal, but well done.
As the entry-level model in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, the CLA250 has to satisfy a wide variety of buyers. This is especially true given its price point. All too often, catering to such a broad swath of buyers leads to suspension setups that are tuned for comfort over performance. This isn't the case with the CLA.
Don't get me wrong, our CLA is not uncomfortable on the road, but it does have the distinct feel of a sport sedan. Its responses are sharp and there's a good feel for the pavement. I would have guessed it had a sport package of some kind but it doesn't. And even if it did, the options that come with it don't affect the ride quality, only the looks.
I haven't taken any extended trips yet, so its long-haul comfort is still to be determined, but as it stands now I like the way the CLA feels. Firm and responsive without being jarring or harsh. A good start I'd say.
I have a senior friend who currently drives a Nissan Murano. When she took her Murano is for repairs recently, she received a Volkswagen Jetta as a loaner. She loved how much easier it was for her to drive and park.
She asked me to help her find a car that would be similar in size to the Jetta but more luxurious.
My first thought was the Mercedes CLA250. But I also came up with the Buick Verano, and since she is used to an SUV, a BMW X1. The Mercedes and BMW would probably cost her in the mid-30s, while the Verano would be in the mid-20s.
Can you think of any other cars I should recommend to her?
I might be in the minority here, but I am not a fan of the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission in our 2014 Mercedes CLA250.
Most of my regular driving involves stop-and-go traffic. It's L.A., after all. That means there's a lot of creeping forward a few car lengths at a time. Our CLA250 is uncharacteristically lurchy under these conditions.
There's a sizable delay between the moment I ease into the throttle and when the car finally starts moving. In that time, I can feel the clutch engage and try to release smoothly. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it feels like a driver is learning to drive stick for the first time. On top of that, it's hard to predict which reaction I'll get.
Then there are three-point turns. I had to come about in the middle of a block and the road had a pretty noticeable crown in the middle. As I shifted from drive to reverse, the car began to roll towards the curb until I gave it more gas. And I had to give it much more pedal pressure than I'm accustomed to. The clutch finally engaged and I lurched backwards. Sigh.
I've been told to use sport mode, as this alleviates some of these problems, but the car defaults to ECO mode on startup. Plus, I'd be sacrificing some fuel economy in the long run. Color me unimpressed.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is one of the hottest cars on the road right now. Dealers can't keep them in stock, and we can't go 15 feet in LA without seeing one. They're everywhere.
It's also very, very interesting as the CLA250 is, insofar as Mercedes go, an oddity. Turbocharged four-cylinders are old-hat for automakers these days, what really makes the CLA special is that it's the first front-wheel-drive car Mercedes has sold in America.
As Riswick said when we first got it, the CLA250 is nimble, easy to drive quickly and the turbo-4 and dual-clutch transmission work well when pushed.
So, let's for a moment take a break from opinions (we've got a whole year for that) and look at the cold, hard numbers from our 208-horsepower, entry-level, front-drive Mercedes.
Driver: Chris Walton
Drive Type: Front engine, Front-wheel drive
Transmission Type: seven-speed automated manual
Engine Type: Transverse, turbocharged, direct-injected, inline-4
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 1,991 / 121
Redline (rpm): 6,250
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 208 @ 5,500
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 258 @ 1,250
Brake Type (front): Ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Brake Type (rear): Solid discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Suspension Type(front): Independent MacPherson struts, coil springs, monotube dampers, stabilizer bar
Suspension Type (rear): Independent multilink, coil springs, monotube dampers, stabilizer bar
Tire Size (front): 225/45R17 91H M+S
Tire Size (rear): 225/45R17 91H M+S
Tire Brand: Pirelli
Tire Model: Cinturato P7
Tire Type: All Season
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,277
0-30 (sec): 2.6 (w/TC on 2.6)
0-45 (sec): 4.3 (w/TC on 4.4)
0-60 (sec): 6.4 (w/TC on 6.5)
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 6.1 (w/TC on 6.2)
0-75 (sec): 9.3 w/TC on 9.5)
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 14.6 @ 95.3 (w/TC on 14.7 @ 94.4)
30-0 (ft): 30
60-0 (ft): 121
Slalom (mph): 65.6 (62.9 w/ESC on)
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g): 0.84 (0.84 w/ESC on)
RPM @ 70: 1,800
Acceleration: I quickly learned that selecting Manual (from Eco, Sport, or Manual) provided the quickest shifts of the bunch. Also that the transmission would still auto-upshift in manual. The car protests and refuses to leave from a stop if both gas and brake are pressed for more than a fraction of a second. There's no 'launch' mode or advantage to this technique. The power isn't quite what I'd call 'linear' in the same way I might describe a V6 with as much power, but it doesn't feel like turbo-lag in the historical sense. I'm sure some people will like this, and it is rather noticeable. As the quarter-mile trap speeds remained admirably high throughout the tests, it shows ample engine cooling for the hard-working turbo-four.
Braking: First stop was dramatically shorter than those that followed, which is normal for some cars, but not what I'd expect from a Mercedes-Benz. Directionality was good, pedal remained firm and communicative, but effectiveness began to fade.
Slalom: This car initially feels sporty and quick to react in rapid transitions, but then at rather low threshold it begins to lose grip (rather dramatically) at the front, and the electronic stability system (ESC) reacts harshly and applies the brakes HARD, and the car goes straight despite the steering wheel being turned. There's a slightly higher performance threshold with traction control disabled, but the onset of the skid and resulting ESC intrusion keeps this from being a fun car to drive anywhere near its unpredictable limits.
Skidpad: Steering weight is appropriate, but it's not a communicative feel through the wheel, just springy weight.
The seats in our long-term 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 are comfortable, well-bolstered (but forgiving) and they fit my 5-foot-8-inch frame perfectly. I haven't had the chance to get a lot of seat time in this car yet, but city traffic and some enthusiastic driving both proved to be supremely comfortable enterprises.
With the 2013 Scion FR-S out of our fleet, these are definitely front-runners for my favorite seats in the Edmunds garage.
Back in June, I praised the cruise controls in our departed Mercedes-Benz SLS Roadster. I appreciated the stalk's location above the turn signal, but clearly I was in the minority since this long-standing Mercedes set-up has been changed from the M-Class onward. This includes our long-term 2014 Mercedes CLA250.
Although the new stalk functions the same (set up or down, resume toward you, cancel away from you), they've been moved under the turn signal, which has been moved up to a location similar to that of most cars. The turn signal is now easier to use (middle or index finger instead of ring or pinky), but the cruise one is difficult to see and I have to slide my hand further to use it.
I still like the old set-up better. Luckily, our CL65 AMG is a relic of an earlier cruise control time.
No one's buying a 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 because utility is a priority. It's primarily a personal-use car. Still, trunk capacity isn't as bad as you would think. Mercedes lists it at 13.1 cubic feet on its consumer site, which is actually more than you get in the soon-to-be-replaced C-Class sedan (12.4 cubic feet).
Recently, I put our long-term CLA250's trunk through the most basic of real-world tests: I put a week's worth of groceries in it, plus my overstuffed laptop messenger bag.
Obviously, this was an evening when I'd forgotten my reusable cloth grocery bags, but the height of the trunk easily accommodates the 10-cent paper bags I was compelled to purchase. The bags just fit under the sheathed hinges, so getting four bags across would be no problem. There's also space behind this row of bags, so owners shopping for larger, hungrier households could get eight full bags in here.
The fact that our CLA-Class sedan has enough trunk capacity to enable a trip to the grocery is not big news. But the shape of the trunk, combined with the convenience of a lid that opens automatically (and completely) when you hit the button on the remote, could make the CLA250 a viable second car for families of four who already own a primary vehicle that's larger and more practical.
Every time I get into the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250, I'm struck by its entertainment value in normal commuter traffic.
It's not a sport sedan. Yet, its steering feels quick, and the CLA has enough grip to feel fun as you're jockeying for better position on highway entrance ramps. And the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine is certainly potent enough to accommodate decisive maneuvers (258 pound-feet of torque will do that for you).
After 30 minutes in our 2014 CLA250, though, I start to get tired of it.
The ride quality is tough to take. I feel every imperfection in the road when I drive the CLA250, and given all the grooves and seams on our Southern California roads, it eventually starts to give me a headache. No doubt, some of my colleagues are tougher and younger than I am, but to me, this is too big a tradeoff on a semi-sporty sedan with 225/45R17 all-season tires.
You might recall from our CLA250 first drive that Mercedes offers this car with two different states of suspension tune ("luxury" and "sport') in other parts of the world, but decided to offer only the sport version in the United States. Evidently, this is one of the few occasions when I would have voted for the softer setup.
The window line on our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is one of my favorite parts of its design. The long sloping rear window and the pillar-less doors make for a smooth character line along the rear of the car and it looks quite a bit like a baby CLS-Class.
Since the CLA is almost a foot shorter than the CLS550, the proportions are obviously different, but I think this sleek profile is one of the reasons this $35,000 sedan still feels like a high-class Mercedes.
The shape of the headlights and grill make the CLA seem larger than it is. The biggish front fascia gives it some personality, along with a feeling that it's more substantial than it is. So not only is our long-term 2014 CLA250 good to drive, but it's easy on the eyes, too.
You do not buy the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA for its back seat. The legroom is acceptable, but the sloped roofline will leave you slouching. Frankly, that's OK. For many, including myself, a back seat is an occasional-use feature. The fact that it exists, and that its rear doors gain access to it, are sufficient. If you need more, buy something with headroom and the blockier styling that goes with it.
Having said that, the CLA has no rear center armrest. It's a common feature, and headroom or no, it's a puzzling omission. My cramped and/or short rear passengers should at least be afforded the dignity of a well-rested elbow.
Although we bought our 2014 Mercedes CLA with the Premium and Multimedia packages, it certainly wasn't necessary. Despite what you might expect, the base CLA250 comes reasonably well-equipped. One of the highlights is the standard eight-way power front seats with three memory settings.
This is noteworthy for two reasons. First, memory settings are almost always an option in this price range. As someone who is 6-foot-3 with a 5-foot wife, the ability to get such a hugely convenient feature without it being bundled with a bunch of stuff I don't need is very appealing. Second, eight-way power for the passenger seat is often an option or not available at all in entry-level luxury cars. Memory functions for the passenger are rarer still.
Though I too would probably opt for the Premium and Multimedia packages, I wouldn't feel short changed without them.
In November's fuel-economy update for the 2014 Mercedes CLA250, Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds wrote that he was concerned about the CLA's ability to hit its EPA ratings during real-world testing.
Two thousand miles later, it seems Dan's theory may be holding true. Although our CLA250 achieved 36.7 mpg for one fill-up, it's still holding below 25 mpg for its life-time average.
With official EPA ratings of 26/38 mpg city/highway, our car is still significantly off the mark.
Worst Fill MPG: 17.8
Best Fill MPG: 36.7
Average Lifetime MPG: 23.4
EPA MPG Rating: 30 mpg (26 City/38 Highway)
Best Range: 218 miles
Current Odometer: 2,649 miles
This is the transmission lever in the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. It's a small stalk on the right side of the steering wheel and it does take some getting used to. Various cars from different manufacturers have tried such a setup over the years, but not many have stuck with it.
I'm glad Mercedes did stick with this setup in the CLA. It saves space in the center console, and in a small car like this that matters. Instead of a big console shifter there are two usable cupholders plus a sizable storage bin right where you need it. Feels like a good tradeoff to me.
You can't underestimate the importance of a car's steering wheel. After all, you're in constant contact with this vital piece of equipment. And the wheel in the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 looks and feels just right for me.
In addition to its generous range of tilt and telescopic adjustments, the wheel's smaller overall diameter feels sporty while the rim thickness is meaty enough without feeling like you're holding a Python. The thumb reliefs at 9 and 3 are nice too.
Lastly, it looks damn good, with a small airbag hub, elegant spokes and tasteful metallic accents.
Generally speaking, there are two types of drivers: those who pick their foot up to transfer from gas to brake, and those who pivot off of their heel to get from pedal to pedal.
I fall into the latter category and happen to wear a size 12. This isn't ideal with the CLA.
There's just not enough foot space in the pedal box. I alternate between thwacking the outside of my right foot against the hard, loud plastic that butts up against the gas pedal, and getting the left corner of my shoe trapped under the brake. It's not so bad as to interfere with the way either of the pedals work, but it is bad enough to be really, really annoying.
As base models go, the 2014 Mercedes CLA250's wheels aren't bad. They have a sturdy, chiseled appearance that makes them look expensive, and the two-tone coloring helps, too.
That said, if I were buying a CLA I would definitely stretch to get the $2,200 sport package. It adds a set of 18-inch, double-spoke wheels that look even more expensive, not to mention a tasteful body kit, chrome grille and drilled front brake rotors.
Clearly, it's a sport package that's designed to add a sporty look more so than actual performance. That's fine with me, though, as it does the job. It transforms it from a mildly handsome car into a truly eye-catching sedan that gets noticed. The extra $2,200 isn't peanuts, but in this case it's worth it.
You didn't think Mercedes could get away with a roofline like the 2014 CLA250's and not have a downside did ya? Well, here's what you have to live with in the back seat. Not much headroom and a tight squeeze to get in thanks to the small door openings.
Surprisingly enough, there's decent space for your knees and toes once you're in. Anyone under six feet would be just fine unless the front seats were adjusted all the way back.
Would it be a little claustrophobic? Maybe, but the CLA only has a 106.3-inch wheelbase to work with. Add that sloping roofline to the mix and there's only so much space to go around.
If you're thinking about purchasing a small entry-level luxury sedan like a 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, I'd guess that a family-friendly back seat isn't one of your priorities. Still, there are times when a CLA might have to be used to transport young children. Here are some observations about installing child safety seats in our long-term CLA250's back seat.
Placing the pictured Recaro child booster seat in back was straightforward. The CLA's rear seats are a little narrow, which means the booster seat might make it hard for small children to buckle the seat belt, but this isn't uncommon.
For a bulkier safety seat, whether front-facing or rear-facing, the CLA isn't as accommodating.
The CLA's rear door openings aren't particularly generous, for starters. But you might have bigger issues with the rear seat's fixed outboard head restraints. In my experience installing this Britax Marathon safety seat that I own, I almost always remove a car's head restraint to allow a better and more secure fit for the seat against the backrest. I can't do that with the CLA, so I have to choose either having the safety seat's base not be at its recommended perpendicular level or have the seat moved far off from the seatback. The fixed outboard head restraints also prevent easy access to the top tether anchor points.
The middle seat position does have an adjustable head restraint. And, in my test, it was easier to install the Marathon safety seat in the middle position. Still, our CLA is the least welcoming sedan for a front-facing safety seat we've ever had in our long-term test fleet.
You wouldn't likely encounter these issues with a rear-facing child safety seat. But you do need a lot of available legroom. Here, the CLA fares adequately for this class of car. I did move the front passenger seat up, but a normal-sized adult would probably be OK for a short trip.
Now, these are just my observations using one particular brand and model of safety seat and booster seat. Your child safety seats could very well fit differently. But I strongly recommend test-fitting some safety seats if you think you'll be using them in Mercedes' new CLA.
When you think of Mercedes-Benz engines, the first ones to come to mind are likely the monster AMG V8s and V12s gracing flagship cars like the S-Class or SLS AMG. So how about fuel-economy-minded, small-displacement four-cylinders from Mercedes? Yeah, not so much.
And sure enough, the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine found in our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 will never achieve anything close to legendary status. This is an engine that's like your dishwasher: It's there to simply get the job done. But it's still a Mercedes engine, and it gets the job done quite well, thank you.
That turbocharged engine produces 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque and is good for a 0-60-mph sprint of 6.4 seconds. For this class of car, this amount of power and acceleration seems just about right.
More than that, though, it's very well mannered. The engine produces an impressive amount of torque even right above idle, so you never feel lag or bogging when you first accelerate from a stop. If you get hard on the gas, there's no torque steer. The steering wheel stays arrow-straight in your hands. The engine also revs cleanly to redline with no excess vibrations or noise. As for fuel-economy, the jury's still out on that, but the EPA numbers are solid, at least.
Of course, Audi's been doing this exact same thing for years with its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and others (like BMW or GM's 2.0-liter) crank out more power. So what the CLA offers isn't groundbreaking. But it is the kind of engine I'd expect from a small Mercedes, and it certainly contributes to the car's sporty personality.
We've yet to take our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 on any really long road trips, like we have with our Corvette Stingray. But I have done a couple of 250-mile trips in the CLA250. Here are some thoughts on the CLA250 as a long-distance companion.
For me (I'm 5-foot 10-inches tall), the driver seat is comfortable and I don't have any issue being in the seat for 4 to 6 hours. I also like the driving position. I'm able to adjust the seat to my liking, and the view out the windshield is pretty wide.
The CLA250 is also quiet at highway speeds. At one point my wife called me while I was driving and the first thing she asked was, "Where are you?" She knew I was supposed to be driving, but the lack of wind and road noise threw her off. Other nice aspects include a respectable amount of storage space for your personal effects (water bottles, phone, etc.), and the solid sound coming from our CLA250's optional Harman/Kardon sound system.
One thing that could be an issue for drivers, though, is the firm ride quality. As Erin Riches wrote previously, the CLA250 essentially comes standard with a sport-tuned suspension. While this contributes to the car's sporty personality when driving through turns, it also can jostle you about when driving over rough or bumpy pavement. On California's under-maintained freeways, you get a lot of that.
Personally, I don't mind our CLA's suspension tune, and it's what I'd want if I were buying a CLA250. But putting myself in the shoes of a more typical luxury sedan buyer, I could see a lot of people getting turned off by this.
Do you see that? That's the rearward view from the driver's seat of the Mercedes-Benz CLA250. Credit the lack of scenery to the sloping roofline and gargantuan C-pillars. It's the price you pay for the CLA's exterior style.
I can see why some would complain, but it's not an issue for me. For one, I use my mirrors. A properly adjusted passenger-side mirror eliminates any blind spots and liberal use of the rear-view mirror keeps anyone from sneaking up on me.
Does that mean I never look over my shoulder? No, but I certainly don't rely on it. And if I'm in doubt I don't make the move. Problem solved.
Despite somebody's best efforts to do the opposite (with a 16-mpg fill-up), the average fuel economy of our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 inched ever closer to the official EPA city estimate in February.
We added a commendable 1,200 miles since the last update, yet our car is still struggling to make the hoped-for numbers.
Worst Fill MPG: 16.0
Best Fill MPG: 36.7
Average Lifetime MPG: 24.7 (up from 23.4)
EPA MPG Rating: 30 mpg (26 City/38 Highway)
Best Range: 318 miles
Current Odometer: 3,810 miles
Janis Joplin sang, "Oh lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz?" Well, if Janis were alive today she might not even need the good lord's help. The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 starts at $30,825 (with destination). And our car, with its well-chosen extras, still checked in at a seemingly quite reasonable $35,495. That's not much scratch for a luxury-branded car these days.
But I was curious to learn more on whether this represented a solid value for an entry-level luxury sedan or if you're paying a price premium to get that three-pointed star in the grille. Here are my thoughts.
For the 2014 model year, I compared our CLA250 to the Acura ILX and Buick Verano. It's not possible to get an exact match in terms of features, but you can get both the ILX and Verano fully loaded for less than the Mercedes. A top-level 2014 ILX with the Technology package is $32,495 (with destination). A Verano with the top-level Premium package (includes the 260-hp turbocharged engine) and the navigation system is $30,785.
So, yes, you're paying thousands more for the Mercedes in comparison to these two cars. But I do think you're getting your money's worth here. The CLA250 is quicker and sportier than the ILX by a significant margin, and is a more polished car overall than the Buick. Equally important, there's a chance with the ILX and Verano that you'll never shake the feeling that all you bought was a fancy version of a Civic or Cruze. The CLA? Yep, still a Mercedes.
Another comparison can be had with the upcoming 2015 Audi A3. Here, the pricing gets a lot closer, and equipping an A3 with features similar to our CLA250 does get you right in the $35,000 range. Unfortunately, I've yet to drive the new A3, but going from some early reports from my coworkers who have driven it, the two cars are pretty evenly matched.
Of course, "value" is always dependent on your viewpoint and what you're looking for in a car. But for me, the Mercedes CLA250 is priced competitively. Go ahead and get that Benz, Janis.
I wonder why nobody has said anything yet about the recirculation button in our long-term 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. Do you see it? Click to the next page to see what I mean.
Boom. Elsewhere in the world, there's a really nifty version of our car, but it's simply called the A-Class. Our "recirc" button clearly looks like that car and not our coupe-ish sedan. Makes us wonder if this is simply a cost-conscious measure or a glimpse of things to come.
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know that the fuel economy of our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is a hot topic. We're continually striving to improve it. Well, some of us are. I've been driving it for a few days in the default Eco mode, both the transmission setting as well as the auto stop-start functions.
Looking to see if there was anything more I could adjust to eke out better fuel economy, I found this Eco Display tucked a few screens deep in the instrument panel. Huh. I coasted a lot, accelerated a little less, and hardly ever went a constant speed. The result is a "76% Since Start." I assume 100% would be best. I'll keep trying.
As we all know, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 doesn't really roll out the dealership doors at that often-quoted "$29,900." Still, there must be signs that this Mercedes-Benz has been built to a price rather than a standard. Do you see it?
There it is. Would you care if the CLA250 has a prop-rod instead of a strut? Do you think most Mercedes drivers would know what that means? Honestly, we imagine most owners of this car will never, ever pop the hood, much less reach for the thingy that keeps it from hitting them in the head. No harm, no foul.
Granted, we've yet to validate the onboard fuel economy calculator in our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250, but for now, we're going to say it works. Why? Because we've been struggling even to meet the EPA's city estimate of 26 mpg, so seeing the display report 39.8 mpg was a cause for celebration. The EPA says we should be able to earn 38 mpg on the highway.
Yes, we know how to reset it while going down a big hill so it reads, "99.9" or some such thing, but this was not the case this time.
My mother was recently shopping for a new compact crossover and briefly considered the Mercedes-Benz GLK350. When finding out that leather was not standard, she was dismayed. Even when I presented the argument for the standard MBTex premium vinyl upholstery I'm about to share with you, there was simply no way around the notion that luxury cars must have leather and it must be standard. It's a notion that's certainly prevalent, but not one to which I adhere.
Nevertheless, here is my case for MBTex found in our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 long-term car and many other Mercedes models.
1) While on the GLK press launch in muggy western Virginia, my driving partner opined tentatively that the standard MBTex seemed to be breathing better than the genuine leather included in $1,850 Leather package. When he shared this observation with a Mercedes engineer, we were surprised when he admitted that the observation was actually correct. MBTex is in no way that old slick vinyl you'd find in a Chevy truck, nor even the swampy leatherette found in our old long-term BMW 135i. MBTex is a more advanced material and indeed breathes better than leather.
2) In our recent comparison test between our CLA250 and the Audi A3, one of the key equipment differences between the two cars was that the Audi came standard with leather. However, it was difficult to tell the difference between the two seat coverings. If I lined up 10 people and asked them to identify which car had the real stuff, I guarantee the ratio would be close to equal. I certainly think the CLA's MBTex looks and feels better than the leather in quite a few cars, including our $100,000 Tesla.
In other words, your passengers are likely to think your car has leather even though it doesn't.
3) MBTex, as you'd expect from vinyl, should wear substantially better over time. I highly doubt our CLA will show the same scraping and creasing on the left driver-side seat bolster we observe on virtually every leather-equipped long-term car. Furthermore, take a look at the vinyl upholstery from a 1970s Mercedes. There's a very good chance it looks as good as new. Then look at leather from a 1990s Mercedes. It's probably not looking so great.
4) Why does the interior of my car need to be covered in cow hide? I'm not exactly a member of PETA, but if something does a better job than leather, why use the animal?
5) In a similar vein, if something does a better job than leather and nobody will be able to tell the difference, why pay extra for it?
Despite these arguments, my mother wouldn't budge. It didn't matter that MBTex was better in so many ways than leather and that no one (including admittedly herself) could tell the difference. It was the principle of the thing.
I suppose principle is enough for people to pay $1,850 extra, or buy a different car entirely.
Here's a feature that I bet most Mercedes owners aren't even aware is included on their car. There isn't even a button to indicate its presence. When you come to a stop, simply push the brake pedal unnecessarily forward in its travel. The word "HOLD" will appear in the trip computer and the car will automatically apply the brakes to keep you in place. This allows you to rest your foot/ankle or prime it above the accelerator.
It's a great feature. Our Kia Cadenza is one of the few non-Mercedes that has an auto hold feature, but you must activate it prior to its use by pressing a button.
These are the distance lines on the rearview camera display in our long-term 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. Initially, I had no idea what they meant. White lines, red dots, yellow hash marks and full width yellow lines create an image that looks more like a football field than a parking grid. But once I decided to stop being lazy and read the manual, they became pretty helpful.
The white guideline shows the CLA250's width, including the rearview mirrors. The yellow hash marks or "lane markings" as Mercedes calls them, show you where the tires are headed. As you turn the steering wheel, the red dots along the white lines curve (along with the yellow lane markings) to represent the direction of the car, while the white guidelines themselves stay put to represent the footprint of the car.
The red horizontal guideline at the bottom of the photo isn't an end zone. Rather, it measures 10 inches from the CLA's rear bumper to help you maintain a safe zone between your entry-level Benz and the vehicle behind it. The two yellow horizontal lines are also included to help you judge distance. One is 3 feet from the rear bumper; the other is 13 feet away.
Once I'd armed myself with this knowledge, it proved pretty useful the next time I parallel-parked the CLA250. The yellow lane markings kept me from curbing the wheels, the red line kept me from tapping the car behind me and the yellow lines gave me a good perspective on how much distance I was giving the car behind me, making sure they had enough space to pull out.
The rearview camera is part of the Multimedia package which costs $2,370 and also includes a bigger central display, the COMAND electronics interface, navigation and a six-disc CD/DVD changer. Since there is such limited rearward visibility in the CLA250, the camera feels necessary. Luckily, it's included in a package that seems like a good value, too.
During the month of March we covered 1,172 miles in our long-term 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. We averaged 25.7 mpg for the month, which upped the Merc's lifetime average fuel economy to 24.9, from the previous 24.7.
But we continue to struggle to meet the EPA's ratings for the car of 30 mpg combined (26 city/38 highway).
Worst Fill MPG: 16.0
Best Fill MPG: 36.7
Average Lifetime MPG: 24.9
EPA MPG Rating: 30 mpg (26 City/38 Highway)
Best Range: 318 miles
Current Odometer: 4,982 miles
Rearview (or backup, if you prefer) cameras are great. Though I still use the mirrors as well, especially when parallel parking, the camera takes away a lot of the stress and allows you to park with uncanny precision. This is especially valuable here in L.A., where many parking spaces seem to be of substandard width. The system in our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is a fine example of the breed, with a sharp image and handy guide lines. Travis recently did a post highlighting all of its handy features.
But I still have one minor complaint. If you don't have the radio on and shift into reverse, you get a blank screen offering no assistance. Hit the infotainment's power button and it springs to life. Most of the time I have the tunes on so it's not a deal breaker. Still, it seems odd that, unlike some other cars with rearview cameras, it has that requirement.
So far the little Mercedes has been running pretty well, aside from two weird, very-early-on issues: a check-engine light and a squeaky Comand screen, both of which occurred when the car had less than 1,000 miles on the odometer.
The first scheduled maintenance isn't until 10,000 miles.
I needed wheels to get to Arizona for a Hyundai press event drive, so Edmunds' Car Czar, Mike Schmidt, assigned me our long-term 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250.
No problem, I had barely driven the new Mercedes and wanted to spend some quality behind-the-wheel time in it anyway.
Here are some thoughts from the 800-mile, almost-all-highway road trip:
One of the first things I noticed as I was leaving our Santa Monica offices, and later on some bumpy highway sections, is that the ride is considerably harsher than I would've guessed or expected from Mercedes, even from their little fella.
But two things: First, while it can be a bit rough-riding, it's far from send-it-back-to-the-factory harsh. That said, some other cars thread the needle between handling and comfort considerably better.
Second, part of what saves the car from seeming even harder-riding than it is are the fantastic front seats. Now, Scott Oldham has gone on record as calling me "crazy" when I said I thought the 2013 Cadillac ATS seats were a bit less cushy than folks might expect from a Cadillac.
While I'm not going to deny there's some truth to his "crazy" statement about me, seats are a highly personal preference, and they're simply not going to fit every body type. For whatever reason these CLA seats work perfectly for me with nice cushioning and even some lateral support, giving hours of numb-free driving. And that was appreciated during the mostly boring desert wasteland of California and Arizona on Interstate 10.
There's been some grumbling around the office about the CLA250's 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. And for sure the tranny can get confused during low-speed driving around town (I feel its pain, as I'm easily perplexed, too). But once up to speed it works well, with nice quick shifts. The 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder has some real punch, plenty of power (208 horsepower, to be exact) for a car this size, making it easy to squirt around traffic.
The CLA250 returned some decent, but still not awesome, fuel mileage during this predominantly highway-filled road trip. It averaged 35.9 mpg over the two fill-ups, and combined with its 13.1 gallon tank this meant it got to my destination in Paradise Valley without stopping for gas, though it was close.
But the EPA estimates 38 mpg is attainable on the highway. Still, this trip will no doubt bring up our overall average, which at last check was 24.9 mpg.
Automatic stop-start technology in cars is a divisive issue. On the one hand, it's a not-unpleasant experience to sit at a long red light with the engine off, enjoying a bit of quiet time. On the other hand, we've strived for years to make sure we DON'T stall out in traffic and having a car do that intentionally is really, really annoying.
Especially on my commute.
I can see this technology working well for people who live in the 'burbs. Somewhere with three stop signs, two traffic lights and 20 miles of driving for every minute of stopped-time. That's not my life. My life looks like the page above. On the left hand column is my drive home including a quick errand at, oh, let's say 7pm. The column on the right, which I went ahead and noted correctly, represents the drive into work at something like 8am. Each trip was about 12 miles and took about 45 minutes. The hash marks are the stops. 41 home. 37 back.
A stop per minute doesn't sound bad, but it's hugely annoying, especially in our CLA which has a very noticeable stop-start system. Part of this blame, I think, is due to the engine's nature: It's not quiet to begin with and has a loud starter. The next part of the blame goes to the powertrain layout. The CLA's four-cylinder is mounted transversely. Torqueing an engine that's mounted sideways seems to produce more lash and shake than doing the same with one mounted longitudinally. Something like the Mercedes-Benz GLK, for example, has a longitudinally mounted motor and has a pretty smooth start-stop. Or maybe the CLA's just got soft mounts.
Either way, I'm glad this feature has an off switch conveniently labeled "ECO". And yes, you have to turn it off again each and every time you start it up.
I've been growing weary of the city. I'm tired of the traffic, the noise and the rude people. At the same time, our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 hasn't exactly been at its best in Los Angeles — ceaseless complaints about its clunky transmission in traffic, its rough ride on the city's horrific roads and sub-EPA fuel economy.
It was time for both of us to get the heck out of Dodge, or rather, escape to the towering trees, fresh air and majestic views of California's North Coast.
The journey thus far has taken the CLA, my wife and I to an overnight stop in Santa Rosa in the Sonoma Valley, with two nights in the Brewery Gulch Inn in Mendocino and four nights in Eureka coming up. Amongst these stops are some of my favorite roads in the world: twisting, meandering, lined in Redwoods and/or within view of pristine coast.
To get there, however, I decided to take the express route up Interstate 5. For those of you who haven't been treated to this thoroughfare, it's more or less arrow straight, lined in seemingly endless farm fields and/or within view of miserable cattle. Also, the pavement can be truly awful at times. Although much has been recently repaved, much of the right lane remains nearly undriveable, as is pulverized daily by an endless train of semi-tractor trailers. It pains me, but I spend a great deal of these stretches parked in the passing lane.
Frankly, I was concerned that I'd be cursing the CLA and its firm ride on I-5. Thankfully, though, it wasn't as bad as I feared. Once again, I found myself comparing the CLA to a hot hatch like the GTI or a more softly tuned Focus ST. It's far from punishing, but you do feel more jiggles or shakes than you would in a more luxuriously sprung luxury car. I didn't really mind it.
I'll have more updates on trunk space, seat comfort, and entertainment options as my journey in the CLA continues. Also, I'm hoping its fuel economy improves, as I only managed 33.7 mpg from Los Angeles to about Oakland. Now, it was a bit windy and I was moving at an appropriately high speed on I-5's 70-mph zone, so perhaps my current tank and subsequent ones in the slower coastal stretches will get me closer to that 37 mpg EPA highway number.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 behaved commendably in Part 1 of my journey up to California's North Coast a.k.a. the boring bit up Interstate 5. Now, it was time to take it on roads more conducive to its nimble nature and admittedly firm ride.
California Highway 128 between the 101 in Cloverdale and CA-1 near Mendocino is easily one of my favorite roads. There are tight, twisting mountain bits that meander down into the Anderson Valley and long sweepers through groves of towering redwoods as you approach the coast. To be honest, I was enjoying myself too much to pause for a photo, as the CLA's responsive steering, compact dimensions and punchy turbo-4 kept me happily engaged and moving along at a brisk pace. The same dual-clutch transmission that causes headaches in traffic is more in its zone on such roads, as its paddle shifters quickly engage and hold lower gears when going up and down hills.
As I sit here in the charming Brewery Gulch Inn in Mendocino (pictured) pondering our drive thus far, I must say that I'm really enjoying the CLA. It's the perfect size for a couple to take on a road trip, it has power, it's getting decent fuel economy, and it isn't flummoxed when I present it roads that aren't straight. The seats are quite simply fantastic and the menu of media options have kept us entertained.
I'm looking forward to the coming days driving further up the coast and through much bigger redwood forests.
My road trip up California's North Coast continued in our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 as I headed north from Mendocino up to Eureka along some of the best and most spectacularly scenic roads in the country. It is here where California 1 (a.k.a. Pacific Coast Highway) comes to its northern end, meandering along the coast before turning inland and becoming a serious mountain road. In other cars, this surprisingly lengthy strip of serpentine road could be a tiresome chore, but the CLA's nimble handling, compact dimensions and punchy engine made it a wonderful way to spend a morning.
After driving through the famous Chandelier Tree where CA-1 ends, we continued onto the 101. Whereas this same highway can be eight or more lanes in Los Angeles, up here in Redwood Country, it occasionally gets down to two as it meanders through groves of ancient trees. Then again, here in Eureka, it becomes a pair of one-way city streets before continuing up through Arcata and onto Oregon.
More on the drive in coming posts, but I figured I'd take a moment to discuss the CLA's trunk. Below you'll see we've managed to fit three medium-sized suitcases, a small briefcase-sized bag, a grocery bag, a 24-pack box of assorted beer collected throughout the journey and a 21-inch computer display (it is a working trip, and I've grown accustomed to a double screen). There's no way I could fit all that in the Audi A3's rinky-dink trunk.
After reaching Eureka, my wife and I spent a day here doing some work before embarking on an evening at the Lost Coast Brewery. Seriously, if you're a beer fan, California's north coast is definitely a place to visit, and stops are far enough apart to allow you to spend a night staying close by to the respective brew pubs and tap rooms.
Anyway, my wife and I set out once again in the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 to explore the Avenue of the Giants. This 31.5-mile stretch of two-lane road runs parallel to CA-101 and the Eel River, but does so through multiple groves of majestic redwood trees. Many are mere centimeters from the pavement, which often twists and turns to go around the 1,000-plus-year-old behemoths. There are multiple stopping opportunities for light hiking and countless photo ops.
It's a wonderful journey to make, especially if you have an enjoyable car like the CLA. And now, I'll let some photos do the talking.
Uh oh. Just as the Avenue of the Giants was coming to an end, the above warning illuminated in our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250's instrument panel. Initially, I wasn't terribly concerned since it wasn't as if I really needed stability control.
However, as I started up and around the cloverleaf on-ramp from the Avenue of the Giants onto CA-101, I knew something more serious was going on.
My first clue came when the transmission did not downshift as expected. A couple pulls of the left paddle corrected that, but then the throttle seemed to be working on its own schedule. The CLA's throttle isn't exactly the most feelsome and responsive to begin with, but this was different. Barely anything would happen initially before eventually kicking in with authority. If felt like I was driving a 1.0-liter engine with the worst case of turbo lag in existence.
At the same time, I was moving and it was easy to safely control while maintaining speed on the 101. When I went to engage cruise control, however, it didn't work either. That's when it seemed obvious to be a problem with the electronic throttle.
Frankly, I figured I could easily fix this electronic issue just as you would your wonky internet router: Turn it off, wait 10 seconds and turn it back on. It works for everything.
However, as I was 40 miles outside civilization, I figured that I'd hold off on that attempt until I reached Fortuna, home to actual services. As long as I was able to move safely with traffic, there was no need to risk the car not starting again on the side of the 101 or at some podunct off-ramp shop in the middle of a redwood forest. If things for some reason got worse, I could still stop and would be no worse for wear.
Thankfully, I reached Fortuna, and after a few harrowing stop signs with Mr. Sleepy Pedal (push down, one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand, away we go!), I pulled into a Shell and turned the car off. Ten seconds later I turned it back on and sure enough, all the lights were gone, the throttle was back to normal and cruise control was functioning.
Phew, crisis averted. No need to find the Mercedes repair shop in Eureka (as if it exists), or drive 10 hours home without cruise control. Well, I hope. We still have another day up here.
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.
As it turned out, the cause of the excitement was a physical problem. A wiring harness is routed between the battery and air filter housing. In our case, tight clearances caused it to rub against the edge of the air filter box until the wiring was compromised. It was repaired per an open TSB and back in our hands the next morning.
Mercedes forums suggest that we aren't alone with this wear issue. The variance between owners seems to lie in which wires, and consequently which systems, are affected.
We added 2,719 miles to our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 odometer in the month of April.
Most of those miles were put on by James Riswick, whose road trip to the Redwoods significantly improved our lifetime fuel economy number, raising it from 24.9 to 27.2. And this is despite the technical difficulties he experienced during his trip.
That's still shy of the 30 mpg EPA estimate for combined driving, but better than we were running.
Worst Fill MPG: 16.0
Best Fill MPG: 36.7
Average Lifetime MPG: 27.2
EPA MPG Rating: 30 mpg (26 City/38 Highway)
Best Range: 318 miles
Current Odometer: 8,116 miles
There's been quite a bit of talk about the navigation screen in our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. Some say it looks tacked on, like something you would get when you order up a rental car with a Garmin setup.
Sure, it's a different way of adding a screen to the dashboard, but I don't mind it much, mainly because it works so well. The graphics are clear, the menus are easy to navigate and the screen itself is right in your line of sight.
Would a more integrated setup look better? Maybe. Would it save any space or make a difference in how it functions? Not really.
I started up our long-term 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 the other day, plugged in my phone to charge it, and when I looked up I saw on the car's central screen: "Anti-theft protection activated. Service required."
This warning apparently applied only to the multimedia screen, as the car ran and drove as normal. However, I had no access to any of the controls for which this screen provides the interface: radio, navigation, etc.
Turning it off and on again turned up the same result. A key cycle did the trick, returning it to its usual self, and the glitch hasn't returned in the meantime.
The day after our long-term 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 insisted its nav screen was being stolen, I discovered another (and certainly more alarming) quirk.
Here's what it did.
I was driving in the ebb and flow of freeway traffic, alternately using the transmission's manual and automatic modes as usual. At one point, I returned to the throttle to find no forward progress at all. I glanced down and saw that the transmission was now in Neutral. It did this of its own accord.
I nudged the selector down to re-select Drive, and resumed driving. At this point I noticed an alert had flashed up in the instrument cluster: "Pre-Safe Functions Limited. See Owner's Manual."
The alert then blinked away, to be replaced by the one you see in the lead shot: "Cruise Control Inoperative." And it was. The cruise was no longer functional.
A key cycle performed later returned it to its normal self.
This car has issues.
When a car costs $35,000 and has the "Premium Package," it isn't unreasonable to expect certain things. For example, I grabbed on the door handle on our long-term 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 and the door didn't open. The car was locked, but I expected it to have keyless entry since it had a smart key. Our CLA didn't have that feature, but I wondered what it would cost to add it.
I figured that keyless entry was available in another package or that it was a standalone option. It isn't. You can't get keyless entry on the 2014 CLA 250. The less expensive Acura ILX has it standard on all trim levels. The Audi A3 is a more closely matched competitor to the CLA, and offers keyless entry as part of the $2,900 Premium Plus package. The A3 has a few other standard features that the CLA doesn't and that is partly why it won our recent comparison test.
If I were to buy a luxury car, there would be certain things I'd expect that would be deal breakers if missing. Keyless entry, sunroof, and Xenon lights are at the top of my list. Our CLA doesn't have any of these. I can rectify the latter two with option packages, but I'd need to look elsewhere for keyless entry.
Is the lack of keyless entry a deal breaker for you?
You would have to be driving a real crap wagon to not enjoy scenery list this. Throw our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 into the mix and it gets pleasant to the extreme.
Its stiffly sprung suspension ate up the twisty parts of Pacific Coast Highway without much effort while the turbocharged four-cylinder has no trouble dusting off the shocking number of Volkswagen Vanagons that converge on the coast this time of the year.
If there's anything to complain about, it's the seat cushions. They forced me into two-hour stretch breaks to ease pain on the ol' backside. Not sure if that's specific to my particular size and shape but it was not pleasant.
The rest of the interior is well suited to long stints behind the wheel. There are reasonably sized cupholders, easy-to-read navigation maps and minimal wind noise.
When our long-term 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 sedan's navigation system suggested that I enter the carpool lane, I was surprised. Granted it did so with a warning about knowing whether or not I met the current local restrictions, but still. It was the first time I've ever heard a nav specifically direct me to the carpool lane.
Tell me, what other navs offer this advice?
On the way home from super sunny San Bernardino this weekend, our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 long-term test car crossed the 10,000-mile mark.
On the road since mid-November 2013, the CLA250 hasn't suffered any major setbacks, but it's not been completely trouble-free, either.
Here's a recap of its issues during the first six months of our year-long test: Maintenance.
The month of May saw our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 cover more than 2,000 miles (2,197 miles, if you're scoring at home) and fractionally raising its average MPG along the way.
Do you want to know the details? Yeah you do. You want to know.
With a fair bit of highway driving, one tank cleared 36 MPG, while another two were well over 30 MPG. For the month, we averaged 29.15 MPG, which is close to the EPA's combined rating for the CLA250. Impressed?
Worst Fill MPG: 16.0
Best Fill MPG: 36.7
Average Lifetime MPG: 27.6
EPA MPG Rating: 30 combined (26 city/38 highway)
Best Range: 415.2
Current Odometer: 10,313 miles
As I put the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 in reverse, I thought I saw a flash of light out of the corner of my left eye. It was so fast, I wasn't sure, so I put the Benz back in Park and turned off the engine.
This time, I stared straight at the IP as I restarted the motor, and sure enough, the CLA250 was not only asking for service, but complaining that it was 400 miles overdue.
After consulting the owner's manual, I confirmed the interval is 10,000 miles.
I haven't been the sole driver of the Mercedes for the past 400 miles, so I hope I would've caught that service announcement earlier, but I'm still surprised it flashes so quickly.
Our long-term 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is the automaker's attempt at entering a new segment in North America.
It's my contention that they have more work to do.
While the CLA250's chassis has respectably quick reflexes when you get frisky with the helm, its attendant ride quality is not simply sporty-firm. Sporty would be fine. But there's a difference between sporty and poorly resolved. Rather than "firm yet compliant," the CLA250 has a clomping, stiff-legged ride that lacks composure. It doesn't have a lot of suspension travel, and it doesn't make good use of the travel it has, becoming crashy on broken pavement. Crummy as the car rides here in southern California, I can only imagine what a mess this chassis must be on truly craptastic roads like those of, say, southeast Michigan.
Its seven-speed DCT transmission, too, could use more refinement. It is inconsistent in its reactions, sometimes choosing the right gear at the right time; many times it gets tripped up, a half-step behind the driving conditions. On paper, a DCT might sound like an upgrade over a traditional automatic, but I'd take BMW's outstanding autobox over this one (and many others) any day of the week.
The CLA is not beyond saving. But it does need work.
I've had an extra dose of seat time in our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 lately and the one thing that keeps jumping out at me is how strong its four-cylinder engine feels. In town, it launches the car away from lights effortlessly while highway passes barely seem to tax it at all. And all this with only 208 horsepower.
Using the "sport" mode definitely helps. Shifts arrive quicker and with less digging into the throttle. It almost feels too twitchy at times, but that's what a sport mode should deliver, so I don't mind it at all.
The sound of the engine at high rpm still isn't anything to crow about. It's not thrashy or overly loud but there's nothing gratifying about it either. Most of the other turbocharged, two-liter engines in this class sound about the same.
Turns out you have to pay up for a six to get power and a pleasing exhaust/valvetrain note. In terms of raw performance, however, the CLA's engine punches above it weight.
Recently, the Service A light lit up in our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. So we dropped it off at our neighborhood dealership, W.I. Simonson Mercedes-Benz. It was a gamble, showing up without an appointment, but we did. Here's how it went.
We arrived just before 8:00 a.m. Our advisor, Kevin, processed us quickly. He offered us the standard small, medium and large service packages. The smallest package reflected all Service A items listed in the owner's manual, so we picked it over the others. We declined the shuttle offer and hoofed it instead, with plans to return when it was ready in the afternoon. At 4:30 p.m., our phone rang. The car was ready.
This was a relatively uneventful service. So what does the Service A cost? New oil and filter, fluid top-offs and an assortment of safety inspections fell just shy of $230.
Total Cost: $229.57
Total Days out of Service: None
To those used to older Benzes with their floor-mounted gear selectors, Mercedes' new age column-mounted shifter as seen on our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 may seem really weird. And indeed, with its push-the-end-button to engage park operation, it can seem even more so at first. But it doesn't take long to get used to it and there is a benefit that most folks will likely appreciate on a daily basis.
The chief benefit of this setup is that it frees up center console space. So instead of having to use cupholders for the wallet, phone, garage opener and pack 'o gum, this setup frees up that space normally reserved for a gear selector. Here in the CLA, that real estate is used for a cubby that accommodates all of those items, leaving the cupholders to do their thing.
For the month of June we drove our long-term 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 942 miles of mixed city and highway driving. Our average fuel economy was 25.3 mpg for the month, which lowered our lifetime average by .1 mpg.
Our Video Producer John Calderwood has the Mercedes CLA on a camping trip right now. Judging from the two tanks he's filled since he left, it looks like our lifetime average should be improving for July.
Here are the current numbers:
Worst Fill MPG: 17.8
Best Fill MPG: 36.7
Average Lifetime MPG: 27.5
EPA MPG Rating: 30 combined (26 city/38 highway)
Best Range: 415.2 miles
Current Odometer: 11,244
Our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is an incredibly small car for people, but amazingly spacious for luggage.
My wife and I (I think two more people in the back would have gotten a bit claustrophobic) went on our annual Fourth of July week-long road trip, which took us from Los Angeles, to Zion Utah, with an obligatory stop in Las Vegas of course, then back up to Kern River California.
We were able to fit three coolers, a medium-sized suitcase, sleeping bags, tent, and all of our cooking supplies in the trunk. The back seats stayed up the whole time, although I imagine it would have been a little less of a Tetris game had I put them down.
The car handled all the weight gracefully and provided us with confident handling through both the winding mountain roads and windy desert highways. Even though I am not a huge fan of the transmission and ergonomics of this car, I would definitely take it on a road trip again for its storage space and fuel economy, which was also excellent. From the Arizona/Utah border to Los Angeles on three-quarter of a tank of gas ain't bad.
Other than perhaps the itty-bitty Lotus Elise, I can't remember I car that has given me the kind of trouble I'm having with our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250.
My feet don't fit.
Make that foot, because it's just the one. My right shoe rubs the side of the brake pedal and snags the edge all the time. There's a tiny gap if you study the image, but it's not big enough, especially as I pivot my foot off the brake and onto the gas.
I tried splaying my feet more and rolling my ankle a bit, but it was uncomfortable and it didn't help much. The pedal spacing is simply too tight. The CLA's central "transmission" tunnel is fairly broad and intrusive, but the right edge of the brake pedal has not been adjusted leftward to compensate.
Sure, I have big feet. These shoes are size 13. But they're also the standard width.
Thing is, I've worn these same black Asics trainers for the last three years (different pairs, of course) because of a chronic heel problem. That's another way of saying I've judged every car I've driven in that time with the same shoes.
And the Mercedes CLA250 stands alone. This would be grounds for an immediate U-turn and a "Thanks, but no thanks" if this had been a real-life test drive.
This misaligned trim piece on the exterior door of our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is the only build quality hiccup we've encountered so far.
I don't remember it looking like this when we bought the car. Perhaps the elements are to blame? The interior panels all seem to fit together as intended. So it appears to be an isolated blemish. We'll ask the dealer to look into it at the next service visit.
Well, it came on during a long stretch of highway between Los Angeles and Gorman California. Range anxiety kicked in and I used the Mercedes Comand system to locate the nearest gas station. The GPS took me to the next exit, and much to my surprise, put me back on the highway heading the opposite direction.
I told myself there must be a gas station off the beaten path that I didn't see from the highway, that is until the Comand system told me I was twenty miles away from my destination. I stuck it out thinking this must be the closest station. We were, after all, in a mostly rural section of the state where places of commerce are few and far between.
After reaching the gas station and refueling, we were back on our way. Fifteen minutes later we passed the exit I had been instructed to get off, and I took note of the odometer. Eight miles further down the road there were the signs for three different gas stations. So, eight miles towards my destination there were multiple gas stations, twenty miles back toward home there was one.
Being able to find a gas station in a pinch is a wonderful feature, however my take-aways are 1) don't push it when it comes to fuel, and 2) don't trust Comand unless you have time to kill.
But just barely. It's just a smallish electric mower, not a bulky gas cutter. It should fit, I thought, in the smallish 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250.
And it did, but not without some creative wiggling, shimmying and a swift kick.
There was no way it was going in the trunk. The box measured 31" (L) x 23" (W) x 17" (H), way too wide to fit through the CLA's trunk aperture. And while the rear opening was wide enough, the bulky door panel, limited open angle and the box's awkward dimensions didn't make it easy.
And now I have to actually cut the grass. By the way, do you think Elon Musk's gardeners use electric lawn equipment? Be kinda crazy if they don't.
Our child safety seat will not fit in the back of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. This is a rare problem. In fact, our Cadillac ATS was the only other long-term vehicle that shared this flaw. Here's why it doesn't work...
One problem is the rake of the seat bottom. It's steep enough that the base of this child seat won't fit flush against the CLA's seatback. There is a considerable gap.
Another problem is the shape of the CLA seatback. Its integrated headrests slant forward and basically, ensure that my kid seat will never fit. This car does not cut it as a family vehicle in my world.
Mercedes, it seems, has an affinity for fast-acting trunk lids. The power-operated trunk on our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG closes fast, like really fast. Less than two seconds after pressing the button and it's shut. The trunk-lid on our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 however, needs to be closed manually. A power-closing trunk lid isn't even available. But when you press the remote to open it, the trunk springs open like a wound-up jack-in-the-box. Take the jump for the video.
Whether you use the button on the key fob, the one on the driver's door, or open the trunk manually, this is how quickly it opens. Less than a second and any light items sitting on your trunk will likely end up half-way across the parking lot. So if you're in a hurry to throw your toilet paper in the trunk and make a bank-heist-style getaway, or if you just like putting your groceries away in a timely manner, then the CLA250 might be the right car for you.
As such, the greater percentage of that driving was on open highways where the CLA could cruise effortlessly and efficiently. The average for the month reflected that at an impressive 30.7 mpg. That in turn pushed the Benz's lifetime average up a bit to 27.9 mpg.
Worst Fill MPG: 17.8
Best Fill MPG: 36.7
Average Lifetime MPG: 27.9
EPA MPG Rating: 30 combined (26 city/38 highway)
Best Range: 418.8 miles
Current Odometer: 13,017
Being a compact sedan, our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is a good fit for L.A.'s cramped shopping center parking spots and older, private home garages. I was curious as to just how compact it is, so I used Edmunds' "Compare New Cars" feature. Turns out that at 182.3 inches in length the Benz is just two inches longer than a Mazda 3 sedan. At 70.0 inches wide, it is 0.7 inch skinnier than the 3. In terms of curb weight, the CLA is about 260 pounds heavier than a 3 Grand Touring automatic.
Although the junior Benz's size may be ideal for the city, its stiff-legged suspension decidedly isn't. The ride over pockmarked streets (looking at you Pico) can send an occasional sharp impact into the cabin. I have to concur with Jay Kav (and other staffers) that more compliance here would be nice.
Not soon after I left our Edmunds editorial offices for the day in our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class the car's tire pressure warning light illuminated. "Oh great," I thought. "I probably drove over a nail or something, so one of the tires has a leak. There goes my afternoon."
Thankfully, the CLA's gauge cluster display also has a readout for individual tire pressures. That's considerably more useful than just having the one "exclamation point in a tire" warning light, which is all you get in a lot of cars. I brought that tire display on the screen to see what was going on. Oddly, the display indicated that both the rear tires were low.
Now I was curious. Forty psi up front and low 30s in back? That seemed weird. Maybe that's what they were supposed to be? I was still driving at the time, though, so I couldn't check the car's door jamb to see what the recommended pressures were. Oh, and I didn't have a tire gauge on me, either. I decided to just keep driving but leave the pressure display on and observe the pressures to see if any of the tires kept dropping.
One hour later, the pressures hadn't changed. It seemed more likely now that the rear tire pressures were low for some reason and one or both of them had finally dropped enough to trigger the car's warning light threshold.
When I finally got home, I adjusted the tires to the recommended spec.
I also asked my coworker who had driven the CLA the day before. He hadn't had a warning light at all, nor did he know how the rear pressures had gotten so off. For now, I'm just going to assume that everything is back to normal.
UPDATE: As noted in the comments, the tire pressures pictured above from the door jamb are actually the maximum load pressures. On the fuel cap door, Mercedes also lists the "Normal Load" tire pressures, which are 36 psi front and 32 psi rear. So the tire pressures were "correct," though the tires were: 1) heated up from driving; and 2) still suffering from low enough pressure in one or two tires (over time) to trigger the tire pressure warning light. Presumably as a real CLA owner, I would have actually paid attention to the big, yellow "See Owner's Manual For Additional Information" warning on the door jamb label to learn about the different tire pressures. That said, it would be nice if the door jamb actually noted what those 39 psi numbers were.
I've had the opportunity to drive our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 a respectable amount recently, and that's given me added perspective on what it would be like to own. Beyond the various observations we've written about so far, I think the CLA lives up to its promise of being a car that's more prestigious than your typical workaday sedans.
Sure, it helps that there's a big three-pointed star gracing the grille. Just by association, the CLA benefits from some extra prestige than it probably wouldn't otherwise. But the car has substance behind it, too. Say what you want about the styling, but at least it's a distinctive look that won't be confused with other cars on the road.
There's a sense of quality, too. The Mercedes key fob feels substantial and weighty in your hand. It's the same for the driver door as you pull it open. Step inside and pull it closed. You're rewarded with a pleasing thunk. The interior design is classy and distinctive, too. The big gauges, attractive dash and tight build quality impart the same classic, premium feel from other Mercedes models.
I happen to like driving our CLA, so that's another bonus. Mostly though, I think the CLA easily hits the target for a car shopper wanting something that moves up from a largely anonymous regular small or midsize sedan but without blowing through budgets. Bring a CLA250 home to show your family and friends, and I think you'll feel deservedly proud of yourself.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is pretty small compared to most other cars on the road. For the interior, that translates into a seating environment that could be described as either cramped or intimate depending on your viewpoint.
This isn't to say that the driving position isn't conducive for tall people. Our own 6-foot-3 James Riswick took our CLA on a California road trip earlier this year and noted how the seats were "absolutely superb." But when you're seated in the CLA's driver seat, the all-around space will seem more like a small coupe's rather than the stretch-out space provided by a traditional luxury sedan.
If you've got passengers, they're going to be close. The center console is narrow, so you're very close to your front passenger. Do you like that person? Great, hold hands if you like. It's easily done. But what if that person is your annoying coworker who you have to take to lunch? He smells like unshowered BO and keeps prattling on about how awesome he is. Yep, it's going to be a one long trip to The Cheesecake Factory in your CLA.
The owner of the dry cleaner shop I frequent owns the VW GTI in the above photo. He was pretty interested in Edmunds' 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 after I had stopped to pick up some clothes. Specifically, his lease for the GTI ends in the fall. That got me wondering: If you own a "hot hatch" like a GTI, is the CLA250 a viable step up?
From a price standpoint, this is a logical jump. A typical hot hatch like a GTI, Mini Cooper S or Subaru WRX (sedan) start in the mid-20s and move up to around 30 grand with most of the options added. Our CLA, with a couple of choice options added, had an MSRP of $35,495.
As we've noted in previous updates, the CLA is fun to drive on the street thanks to its strong turbo 2.0-liter engine and sharp handling. It feels a lot like a hot hatch, actually. But from a performance standpoint, there's little to be gained by upgrading to the more expensive CLA. In Edmunds performance testing, our test car was slightly quicker (6.4 second 0-60 mph) than our old long-term GTI (7.0) and long-term Ford Focus ST (6.6), but the Focus had much higher handling limits, a lot of which would admittedly be attributable to its summer-rated tires. We've yet to test the new 2015 GTI, but I suspect its 0-60 time will be right around the mid-6s, with sharper handling than the old GTI as well.
Obviously, there's also the CLA45 AMG, which ups the performance potential considerably. But at $47,450 base MSRP I see that as an entirely different price category.
From an interior quality and prestige standpoint, though, the CLA250 is certainly a step up. I like the look of our CLA's interior, and the driving position is superb. Of course, there's the three-pointed star on the grille, too. In general, the CLA is just classier and rises above your typical economy-car-based hot hatch.
Is that worth paying thousands more? I asked my dry cleaner. He stroked his goatee a little. "Yeah, maybe," he said. He really did like the CLA's design. He also thought his wife would like the CLA more than his GTI. "But I want to wait to see how the new GTI stacks up," he concluded.
That would seem pretty wise to me.
In general, I like Mercedes' COMAND interface in our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. I find it pretty easy to use, navigate and find what I want. But I've also realized that what's available for audio preset selection isn't so great.
Specifically, there are only 10 presets for each radio source. If you want to program more than 10 stations, you're out of luck. With AM or FM, that's probably not an issue. But certainly for satellite radio there are more than 10 stations that I like to flip through.
Many other cars these days provide superior ways to store and use presets. The upscale systems from BMW and General Motors, for instance, let your store a lot more presets and then mix and match from different sources. I much prefer that style of audio functionality.
The other annoyance for me is that the CLA's left-hand steering wheel buttons are tied to what's currently selected for the multi-function display in the gauge cluster. That is, they'll work for moving up and down in your preset list but only if you've got the audio functions queued up in the cluster display. If you've got the trip computer showing in the display, for instance, the buttons just cycle the trip computer options. The keypad buttons on the center console are still usable for presets, at least.
We bought our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 with the $2,370 Multimedia package, which adds a larger COMAND display, rearview camera, six-CD/DVD changer, 10GB of digital music storage, real-time traffic and weather, and most notably, a Mercedes navigation system.
However, if all you want is the latter item without all the other stuff and the hefty price tag, there is an alternative.
Called the Becker Map Pilot, it is a less sophisticated navigation system with software and graphics more akin to a portable navi, yet still integrated into COMAND. It costs $600 for the software itself and another $200 for the pre-wiring that every CLA we saw in L.A.-area dealer inventory came equipped with.
For the 2015 CLA, the Becker software is going to be replaced by Garmin, and I recently had the chance to try it out in the new C-Class (pictured above). Like the Becker, its graphics are less polished and not in keeping with the overall design of COMAND's other menus. It also lacks voice programming (no big loss), traffic information and in the C-Class, the ability to enter letters and numbers via the updated COMAND system's touchpad (not available on the CLA). However, it still got me to places I wanted to go (Cars and Coffee in Irvine and a golf course I quickly found in the Point of Interest listings) while being neatly integrated into the car's displays and sound system.
If all I was interested in was getting navigation, there's no doubt that I'd opt for the cheaper Becker or Garmin navigation alternative. It's just sad that the rearview camera is also locked away in the Multimedia package. Actually, it's sad it's not standard. If a Honda Civic has one, so should the Mercedes CLA, but that's a post for another time.
After 9 months in our long-term fleet, our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 hit 15,000 miles and with three months to go in our test, we're exactly on target to hit our goal of 20,000 miles.
During our time with the CLA, we've had a few maintenance issues including a known check-engine light, an ESC failure caused by a busted wiring harness (there was an open TSB), some other electrical issues, and a routine service appointment.
Throughout its time in the fleet, our CLA is averaging 27.9 mpg and has a best fill mpg of 36.7.
During the month of August, our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 spun a hefty 2,233 miles under its tires including a few weeks away in central California where it was often able to cruise efficiently on open highways.
It was also recruited by Mike Magrath for a quick road trip to Las Vegas via Death Valley. Mike admitted that trip was by no means a fuel-economy-oriented run, as he enjoyed the drive by using the transmission's Manual and Sport modes. A high temp of around 110 degrees didn't help fuel economy matters either, requiring max A/C use.
Along with plenty of daily grind, this mix of driving conditions produced a pretty good average fuel economy number for the month at 29.07 mpg, just a single mpg less than the official EPA combined estimate. The lifetime average hit a milestone of sorts, as it has crested the 28 mpg mark.
Worst Fill MPG: 17.8
Best Fill MPG: 36.7
Average Lifetime MPG: 28.1
EPA MPG Rating: 30 combined (26 city/38 highway)
Best Range: 418.8 miles
Current Odometer: 15,356
A few staffers have discovered how useful the Mercedes-Benz CLA250's trunk can be when needed. I found out for myself when I was drafted to help a relative transport some things to her new apartment.
Looking at the somewhat stubby trunk of the junior Benz, I was a bit worried we wouldn't get everything in. In addition to bags of spoils from Target, we had a rolled-up 5-foot x 8-foot area rug, a 32-inch tall tower fan and two very yellow bed rest pillows for lounging around.
On paper, the Benz's 13.1 cubic-feet of cargo capacity is good for a compact car. But inside the trunk, it's the mostly smooth floor and sides that help make it so useable.
Fold down the rear seat backs and you've got a surprisingly capable cargo hauler.
A trunk lid that swings up out of the way when released and gooseneck hinges that swing down into their own enclosures (thus not crushing cargo) are a few other nice features here. As we only had to fold down one side of the rear seat, we still had space for a third passenger.
We've had our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 for nearly 10 months, but for a variety of reasons — including some lackluster reviews from colleagues and commenters — I haven't driven it for myself.
Last night I decided I'd be sorry if I didn't take it out for a night before it's too late.
My Tuesday evening drive is always the same: from Santa Monica, I head east just a few miles for a Spanish class. To avoid traffic on the boulevards, I take the locals' "states" route (Arizona and Texas and Ohio streets) through West Los Angeles. There are lots of lights, stop signs, hills and dips.
The CLA250 hummed along nicely and held up its head amid the other tony cars in the neighborhood. The ride felt less harsh than highly communicative: Yes, that's the road, and yes, it's bumpy. Drive accordingly.
A couple hours later, I headed home. When it came time for a short on-ramp and a fast and decisive merge, the CLA250 was all business. I was planted in the fast lane in no time. "Whoa," I said, less as a command than as a compliment.
I didn't have a lot of time with the car — just enough to decide I'd like more.
Our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 has a first aid kit that resides in its trunk. Though you'll not be setting up a roadside triage center with this kit, it's reasonably comprehensive and includes 10 normal-sized band aids, four extra-large band aids, 8 gauze pads and a whole lot more, including scissors.
No princess or fairy band aids, though. Count my daughters out. They'll have to suffer.
I can't decide whether or not I like our long-term 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. Sometimes I get in and I feel like a proud 20/30-something working my way up the corporate ladder. If this were my first luxury purchase, I'd be happy to tell my friends all about it. I'd get it washed and waxed on the weekends, and take it on road trips for no reason. Other times, I look closer and notice compromises in materials quality, seemingly made to keep the starting price of this Merc under $30,000.
Here's a few things I notice almost every time I drive the CLA250 that make it feel common, as well as a list of things that make it feel pretty snazzy.
Things that make it feel cheap:
1. The transmission selector switch feels like a flimsy windshield wiper stalk. It saves center-console space, and some people think it's the wave of the future, but to me, it's just annoying.
2. The Auto stop-start system is intrusive, every time it kicks the engine to life. None of these systems are perfect (the system in our long-term 2014 BMW 328i is better), but connected to the four-cylinder in the CLA250, it's particularly noticeable.
3. The touchy throttle and poorly tuned transmission. They either launch you away from stoplights with whiplash-inducing speed, or it doesn't respond to inputs at all.
4. Cramped rear headroom. You may be able to live with this, but there are several sedans in this price range that have more space in back and when your tall friends have to bend down to get in, it's awkward.
5. The stripy silver panel (also known as Anthracite Trim) across the center of the dashboard is awful. Two different kinds of wood can be equipped here, but they're a $325 option.
Things that make it feel like luxurious:
1. The Mercedes badge on the steering wheel. The three-pointed start just makes me feel important, I can't help it.
2. It has excellent front seats. They fit editors of all sizes and they're remarkably comfortable.
3. Mercedes MMI system is lightning quick, easy to navigate and has great graphics. Even in the CLA, it's one of the best systems on the market, for the confused novice and the tech-savvy expert alike.
4. It looks good. The CLS-Inspired styling makes it stand out in a parking lot.
5. The optional Harman Kardon sound system has impressive sound quality, especially for an entry-level luxury car.
So is the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 a luxury bargain or a compromise for those who can't afford more? We got the $2,300 Premium package (heated seats, satellite radio, the aforementioned Harman Kardon sound system) and the $2,370 Multimedia package (a bigger 7-inch COMAND display, rear-view camera, Mercedes navigation) on our long-term Merc, so it's hard to recommend it for shoppers with a $30,000 budget. But there are still a lot of upsides.
The CLA will probably impress your coworkers and neighbors when they see it in your parking spot, but it may not be the luxury experience you're looking for if you leave the options list unchecked. The CLA can provide a luxury experience, but not for $29,900.
Possibly you remember that I like to push my luck when it comes to refueling. Our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 doesn't, however. Its distance-to-empty readout told me I had about 30 miles remaining before it switched to the less-precise "Low Fuel Level" warning.
At the same time the navigation system asked me if I wanted to see nearby fuel stations. When I agreed, it pulled up a list of stations right off the freeway. Now, this wasn't as much for my range-pushing tendencies, but it did get me to a fuel station in no time.
Handy feature. Good move, Benz.
I drove our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 almost 900 miles round trip this week from Southern California to Palo Alto and back. Took the long way up the 101 instead of tolerating the inane behavior on the 5 freeway.
The CLA is a solid road trip companion. Mostly.
Out on the open road you're able to largely avoid both of the Benz's two biggest downsides: a busy ride and confused transmission. Most of California highways — once you escape major metro areas, that is — are smooth and well maintained. And the 7-speed's tendency to have absolutely no idea what its driver is trying to achieve is less important when throttle position remains constant for hours on end.
Also, the little sedan earned 37.2 mpg on one tank. The EPA rates it at 38 mpg on the highway.
Last weekend I installed two Britax child seats in our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. The car's lower (LATCH, ISOFIX) anchors are exposed so that part was easy and secure. However, the top tether, which is located behind the rear headrests, was more difficult.
As you can see in the first photo, the shape of the hole in which the seat's top tether must fasten isn't conducive to use with the Britax hook. In fact, the hole is so small that the only way to latch the hook to the tether is to invert it, which twists the strap and makes it less secure, less safe and more difficult to tighten. In the end, that was my only choice. I was able to tighten the seats, but not as easily as I'd like.
Here's a shot of the lower anchors, which are exposed and easy to use. Make the top tether the same, Mercedes.
The illuminated star. It's one of many options available to the potential buyer of a 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250, and is thankfully one that our own long-termer lacks. I don't have the vocabulary to sufficiently describe what I think about this $480 option without getting unprofessional, so I'll just say I don't like it and leave it at that.
But don't take my word for it, here's what Mercedes-Benz has to say.
"The Illuminated Star is the ideal personal touch. This unique option uses LED and light-conductor technology to illuminate the central star in the front grille. It's subtle, but eye-catching. Bright, but sophisticated. And it's your opportunity to announce to the world: "This is my Mercedes-Benz.""
Our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 continues to be a staff favorite. We've got about five weeks left on our long-term test and we're closing in on 20,000 miles. Will we make it?
We put nearly 2,100 miles on the odometer in September. About half of those came during Josh Jacquot's round-trip to northern California, when he coaxed the CLA250 to its best fill of the test so far: 37.2 mpg over 405 miles. I asked Josh about it. He said he drove the speed limit. Then he added that he's old.
It may be time for an intervention. Nothing but turbo V8s for Jacquot for at least a month, then a reassessment. In the meantime, others can wheel the CLA250 in our quest for 20K miles. We've thus far managed to raise its lifetime MPG average to 28.4 combined, still short of Benz's 30 mpg EPA estimate.
Worst Fill MPG: 17.8
Best Fill MPG: 37.2
Average Lifetime MPG: 28.4
EPA MPG Rating: 30 combined (26 city/38 hwy)
Best Range: 418.8 miles
Current Odometer: 17,492
Last week I walked down to our office parking garage and jumped in our long-term 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 only to be greeted by a low tire pressure warning light.
That little illuminated yellow "U" with the exclamation point in its center is not exactly what you want to see after a long hard day. After a few curse words, questions started running through my mind.
"Does this car really have a flat tire?"
"Which tire is it?"
"Do I have a tire gauge?"
"Who invented liquid soap and why?"
I was about to jump out of the car and look. Do an old fashioned walk around. But then I realized that this is 2014 and the CLA is, after all, a Mercedes-Benz. I pushed a few buttons on the sedan's steering wheel and I had the answers to three of my questions.
According to the CLA's onboard computer, the car did not have a "flat" tire, but all four tires were low and the left rear was by far the lowest. The spec pressure for the CLA's four tires is 39 psi. At 34 psi, the left rear was low enough to trigger the warning light.
This was good news. Although driving the car on lower than spec tire pressures is not ideal, I now knew I could drive the car safely the short nine low-speed city miles home, where I could pump up the tires to the proper pressures.
I could even monitor the pressures during the drive to make sure the tires weren't losing more air and causing a potentially dangerous situation.
Which is exactly what I did.
Although every new car now sold in the United States has a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), some only show the warning light, while others, like the CLA's, can display the actual tire pressures in real time. It's nice to see that Mercedes has equipped its most affordable model with this highly beneficial technology.
It has been said before, but I don't think it has been said enough: Our long-term 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is a blast to drive. This little sedan is quick, light on its feet, and it loves to be tossed around.
Some might say, "Well duh, it's a Mercedes." And most would agree that the machines from the storied German manufacturer have a well-earned reputation for strong performance.
Still, the sporty disposition of little CLA catches some by surprise. Like me for instance.
I look at the CLA's spec sheet and I don't expect much. Front-wheel drive. Only 208 hp. And all-season, not very big Pirelli Cinturato rubber. Plus, it's clear from CLA's marketing that car enthusiasts aren't exactly the sedan's intended buyer.
But drive the CLA250 hard and this little sedan will put a smile on your face. It not only rewards the performance driver with surprising levels of speed and grip, the CLA feels like it wants to be driven hard. It feels like it wants you to redline every gear and trail brake into every corner. And it feels better and better the more you pick up the pace.
I love that this small, affordable and efficient front-wheel-drive sedan has another side to it. A fun side. A side that's not only there for the few that will look for it, but the few that will truly appreciate it.
Some say the CLA isn't a real Mercedes. Give me a break.
I hadn't driven our long-term 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 since my Redwoods Road Trip back in April, so I was interested to see if my impressions of the car had changed. Frankly, I haven't driven the CLA that much since then, as its well-documented transmission, throttle and ride issues make driving around Los Angeles a rather tiresome experience.
On the open road, however, they don't manifest themselves to the same degree. Though the drive to Palm Springs is about a sixth of what I did back in April, the CLA once again proved to be an agreeable road trip companion.
The seats offer a great mix of comfort and support, there are three cupholders, and the COMAND system serves up all the entertainment options one can expect these days. Dynamically, the steering is well-suited for straight-ahead highway going, the suspension proves to be well-damped when its rock-hard run-flat tires aren't faced with potholes, and the engine delivers abundant passing power and commendable fuel economy. I managed 33.2 mpg on the trip, which wasn't entirely highway.
If anything, this trip just cemented my disappointment with the CLA-Class. In many ways, it delivers exactly what I hoped for when we took delivery back in December: a well-equipped mini-Mercedes with more style than the typical $30,000-$35,000 sedan. It can be fun to drive, it's good on road trips, it has a useful trunk and to my eyes, its style makes its compromised back seat an acceptable trade-off. Yet, its herky-jerky transmission, spongy throttle and Flintstone ride around town make it a non-starter. Other Benzes don't suffer these fundamental problems and if Mercedes can fix them, I'd be back on board again.
I went to dinner with a friend of mine who is in her 70s. She's a very fashionable French lady and is interested in getting a new car. She currently drives a Nissan Murano that she used for her business, but she doesn't need something that large anymore. She would like something smaller and easier to park.
I thought she would like the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 so I picked her up in our long-termer. I find getting in and out of our Mercedes very easy for me as a short person. She is about my height but found it too low and a little difficult, especially compared to her Murano.
She also wasn't happy with the stiff ride and commented on feeling every bump in the road. I have to agree there. The CLA's ride is not especially smooth. She also likes having a rearview camera but thought the display in the CLA250 was very small. I know a lot of you agree on that point.
I mention these details because a lot of manufacturers expect these lower priced models to introduce younger people to the brand. But then they find seniors and empty-nesters are the actual buyers.
My friend and I will keep looking. I was going to suggest she check out the BMW X1 and Buick Verano and perhaps some of the cars on this list that Warren prepared earlier this year.
What would you suggest for an active senior who wants a fashionable ride?
Mood lighting is becoming increasingly ubiquitous throughout the car world. From little blue lights that shine down in Acuras to the infinite palette sampled by the 2015 Ford Mustang's gauges, lighting has become an easy way to add some distinction and/or a classy touch to a car's cabin.
Like many Mercedes, our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 has touches of amber lighting here and there, but it's the little lights embedded in the head restraints that I'm particularly fond of. Like all ambient lighting, it isn't a big thing, but it's subtle details like these that differentiate cars from appliances.
I like the seats in our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. They're snug, supportive, very comfortable, and the leather is holding up well (as you'd hope with just less than 18,000 miles). They've performed well on road trips. They boost the luxury quotient in this bargain Benz.
But I don't like the integrated headrests. I can't say why exactly. Maybe because I'm accustomed to the power adjustable headrests in higher-ranking Benzes. Maybe it's the aesthetics. Maybe I'm convinced adjustable headrests are safer since you can tailor for height.
The CLA headrest padding itself is soft and giving, so no complaints about comfort. I think I just prefer adjustable headrests in any car. I think I'd even prefer them in a Porsche 911. And the seats in a 911 are pretty much flawless.
Our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 wasn't quite as busy during October as it had been in previous months, but we still managed to roll another 1,215 miles under its wheels.
James took a small road trip to Palm Springs and averaged a respectable 33.2 mpg over about 250 miles, and it wasn't all highway. There were no milestone tanks this month, and the CLA's average for nearly 19,000 miles traveled thus far has stood pat at 28.4 mpg.
Worst Fill MPG: 17.8
Best Fill MPG: 37.2
Average Lifetime MPG: 28.4
EPA MPG Rating: 30 combined (26 city/38 highway)
Best Range: 418.8 miles
Current Odometer: 18,707
I imagine this is the view that Mercedes marketers want many of its new customers to see: a downtown cityscape from behind the wheel of a 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250.
Young urban dwellers are a target audience for the new Baby Benz and with its tight city-size length (182 inches) and badge cachet, the CLA is a good fit for driving to every new restaurant and speakeasy on the young urbanite's calendar.
Problem is the CLA just rides too rough to back up the badge. On a recent trip into downtown Los Angeles, I was surprised just how poorly this small sedan mitigates this city's neglect of infrastructure. It's constant bump, shake and jostle, something you might expect in a 10-year-old Tacoma but not something wearing the Star. Even my passenger eventually asked, "Is this really a Mercedes?"
Are run-flats the problem? At least one commenter here says changing out the run-flats made a significant difference on his car. Our guys believe it may go deeper than that, to the root of flawed suspension design or tuning. I missed my chance to visit Oktoberfest this year and possibly pour some truth serum into Mercedes planners. I'm curious to learn why the CLA left the factory this way.
My first time behind the wheel of the controversial 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 found me driving up to Willow Springs International Raceway, a distance of about 100 miles. It's mainly freeway driving and I was lucky to be going against traffic. Not only did I get to pass miles of stopped traffic going the other way, but I was free to pick my speed — carefully. This car likes to go fast. And in such a well-insulated car, you don't want the first indication of your speed to be flashing lights in your rearview mirror.
As I drove, I thought of the mixed bag of comments this Mercedes has received. I agree with those who love this engine. It's hard to believe it's just a four-cylinder. And being front-wheel drive, while it flies in the face of Mercedes tradition, doesn't detract from the fun factor. But then I began to consider what I had read about the ride quality.
Some of the editors feel the ride is too firm. Others think it handles just fine. Rather than reinventing the wheel (so to speak) I want to quote the words of Jason Kavanagh, our engineering editor, who summed up my feelings, "Its attendant ride quality is not simply sporty-firm. Sporty would be fine. But there's a difference between sporty and poorly resolved...the CLA250 has a clomping, stiff-legged ride that lacks composure." This means that the suspension would be fine for a canyon run but the rest of the time you would want something more relaxed.
If you are seriously considering this car, the test-drive will be crucial. Make sure your route includes some rough pavement, maybe some railroad tracks, and imagine feeling every bump in the road all day, every day and trying to tell yourself that's just the cost of good handling.
You might love start-stop, you might hate it, but it's here to stay as long as the EPA incentivizes it. At least you can turn it off. But the bigger annoyance is that our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 defaults to Eco mode every time you start up. First you tap the Eco button to disable start-stop, then the E/S/M button to get Sport mode. Weak.
Does it cost more to program memory that recalls your last driving mode? Is it an oversight? Is it a way to please regulators, forcing the unwashed to make a deliberate, sporty choice every time they fire up the car? To remind them that restricted driving saves gas, carbon, unicorns and kittens?
I've had it with this car. I've tried to like it, but I won't miss it. It feels far removed from even the base C-Class experience. I drove from Seattle to L.A. via Reno in a new C400 (sport suspension, hard rubber with thin sidewalls) and I didn't want to hand over the keys when I was done. But for the CLA, I think this budget Benz is more compromise than bargain.
Now there are two Benzes in the fleet that I try to avoid. I avoid the CLA for several reasons and I avoid the CL65 because I can't trust it to get me home on a Tuesday night when the kid's waiting for help with math homework (Common Core - more nonsense!). I know the CL has held up to some miles recently, but to me it feels like one good expansion joint away from vomiting hydraulic fluid and turbine wheels on the shoulder of the San Diego Freeway.
I'm not alone, but I'm in the minority. Year-to-date, Mercedes has sold nearly 21,000 CLAs. It seems to be moving just fine, outselling both the S-Class and the GL-Class SUV. Sightings are common here in the Southland. It's probably doing exactly what Benz managers hoped it would.
I did not put the key to our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 back on the car board this morning. Rather, it went into the hand of Ron Montoya, consumer advice editor and car buying/selling extraordinaire, signifying the end of the CLA's year in our fleet. To put it simply, it's been a disappointing year.
One year ago, I was eagerly anticipating the CLA. The idea of a small, German-made car with a torque-rich engine is always appealing to me (seven formative years in a Jetta VR6 will do that to a guy), while its styling evoked a car I have great appreciation for, the Mercedes CLS. Its reasonable price, strong EPA fuel economy and interior/tech controls that were the same as those found in pricier Benzes were other points in its favor. I was even OK that the back seat would most likely be compromised by its styling.
In many ways, all of those promised attributes were delivered upon, and as such I'm quite certain that I liked the CLA250 more than most editors here. It certainly proved to be a suitable companion during road trips to Northern California and Palm Springs. Perhaps this is why I find the CLA250 to be so disappointing since I still think it has a lot of potential. Yet, its well-documented trouble spots need to be ironed out thoroughly before it can realize that potential.
There's the rock-hard ride over bumps, especially in the city, even though we got the smallest wheels available. There's the mushy, unresponsive throttle that conspires with the dual-clutch automated manual transmission to stutter and delay when you want to use the otherwise commendable turbocharged engine. There's the interior materials quality that is a clear step down from other Mercedes and that pales in comparison to the new Audi A3 that seems like a shrunken A6.
And indeed, the A3 in general makes the CLA that much more disappointing. Apart from obviously missing the CLS-like styling, our little Audi long-termer made many of the same promises as the CLA did while showing few if any unexpected vices to this point. Perhaps that will change after it spends a year in our garage itself, but at this point, I know which one I would buy.
It was a light duty month for our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. We only drove it for about 963 miles and filled it up with 91-octane gas four times. Those miles were fairly consistent with our driving style, since the needle didn't move in terms of our fuel economy data. Our lifetime fuel economy still stands at 28.4 mpg, which is about 5 percent under the EPA combined 30 mpg estimate.
We'll be selling this car soon, so I don't anticipate these numbers will change much in December.
Worst Fill MPG: 17.8
Best Fill MPG: 37.2
Average Lifetime MPG: 28.4
EPA MPG Rating: 30 combined (26 city/38 highway)
Best Range: 418.8 miles
Current Odometer: 19,688
There's a car-buying strategy that says if you go to the dealership on a rainy day, you'll have the place to yourself and can drive a sweet deal. Everyone else will be at home, so the theory goes, trying to stay dry.
I asked a salesman about this once and he said it wasn't true at his store: Rainy days were some of the busiest days in the showroom, since everyone believes they're they only ones willing to brave the elements. But that was at a new car dealership. Would the lonely-rainy-day phenomenon prove true at CarMax? I took the long-term 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 there to find out.
But before I myth-bust the rainy day theory, let's talk about the offer we got from CarMax (on a sunny day). The CLA was year old and a couple hundred miles shy of 20,000. The Edmunds trade-in value was estimated at $26,060. I had a feeling the CLA would get a strong offer from CarMax. In general, luxury vehicles tend to have high resale value. We didn't go crazy with the options when we bought the car and white is a fairly popular color (for better or worse).
Plus, CarMax always parks its luxury cars in the front row and they are the first things you see when you step out onto the car lot. Our CLA would make an excellent, reasonably priced addition to the front line.
Take a guess on the CarMax offer before moving onto the next paragraph.
CarMax offered us $29,500. For reference, we paid $35,000 (before tax and title) when we bought the car new. This is a 15.7-percent decrease in depreciation and is the lowest long-term car depreciation number in recent memory. This price was so good it nearly matched the Edmunds estimate for dealer retail price. It was a no-brainer to take the offer.
I brought the CLA back on the aforementioned rainy day. There were three people ahead of me in the business office and the showroom was fairly busy, so much for having the place to myself. Despite the added wait, I was in and out in just over an hour. This wasn't my first rodeo, so I had all the paperwork in order.
And so the Mercedes CLA250 leaves our fleet. I didn't care much for this car. It rode too stiff, had uncomfortable seats and always defaulted to a terrible eco mode. I can't speak for everyone else, but I won't be missing it.
P.S. I parked the CLA in the handicap spot for a moment to snap the photo. No need to rage on the horrible parking job in the comments.
What We Got
A 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 went on our buy-list well before the new sedan hit dealers. It was an interesting addition to the Mercedes-Benz lineup. It had unique styling, front-wheel drive and a base price of around $30K. It was new territory for the German automaker, one that had huge potential but was also a huge risk.
We optioned our CLA250 with what we anticipated to be the most popular equipment. Standard equipment included the 208-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, front-wheel drive, 17-inch wheels, eight-way seats, MBTex upholstery and mbrace2 emergency system integration.
Optional items included the Premium package ($2,300), with its dual-zone climate control, heated front seat and auto-dimming mirrors. The Multimedia package ($2,370) increased the display screen size to 7 inches and added a rearview camera, CD changer, Harman Kardon sound system, 10GB hard drive, navigation and voice commands.
All together, our Cirrus White 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 cost $35,000 even.
"It's surprisingly nimble. While driving the mountain roads selected for its photo shoot, the CLA250 demonstrated the sort of darty, light-on-its-toes feel I expect from the best compact front drivers. That turbo-4 has plenty of right-now, low-end power and its gearbox is quick-acting." — James Riswick
"Don't get me wrong, our CLA is not uncomfortable on the road, but it does have the distinct feel of a sport sedan. Its responses are sharp and there's a good feel for the pavement. I would have guessed it had a sport package of some kind but it doesn't." — Ed Hellwig
"Its distance-to-empty readout told me I had about 30 miles remaining before it switched to the less-precise 'Low Fuel Level' warning. At the same time the navigation system asked me if I wanted to see nearby fuel stations. When I agreed, it pulled up a list of stations right off the freeway." — Josh Jacquot
"...eight miles toward my destination there were multiple gas stations, 20 miles back toward home there was one. Being able to find a gas station in a pinch is a wonderful feature, however my take-aways are: 1) don't push it when it comes to fuel; and, 2) don't trust Comand unless you have time to kill." — John Calderwood
"The ride quality is tough to take. I feel every imperfection in the road when I drive the CLA250, and given all the grooves and seams on our Southern California roads, it eventually starts to give me a headache...to me, this is too big a tradeoff on a semi-sporty sedan with all-season tires." — Erin Riches
"For me (I'm 5-feet-10-inches tall), the driver seat is comfortable and I don't have any issue being in the seat for four to six hours. I also like the driving position. I'm able to adjust the seat to my liking, and the view out the windshield is pretty wide." — Brent Romans
"You'll see we managed to fit three medium-size suitcases, a small briefcase-size bag, a grocery bag, a 24-pack box of assorted beer collected throughout the journey and a 21-inch computer display.... There's no way I could fit all that in the Audi A3's rinky-dink trunk." — James Riswick
"On paper, the Benz's 13.1 cubic-feet of cargo capacity is good for a compact car. But inside the trunk, it's the mostly smooth floor and sides that help make it so usable. Fold down the rear seat backs and you've got a surprisingly capable cargo hauler." — John DiPietro
"For the interior, that translates into a seating environment that could be described as either cramped or intimate depending on your viewpoint. This isn't to say that the driving position isn't conducive for tall people...the all-around space will seem more like a small coupe's rather than the stretch-out space provided by a traditional luxury sedan." — Brent Romans
"Last weekend I installed two Britax child seats in our CLA250. The car's lower anchors are exposed so that part was easy and secure. However, the top tether, which is located behind the rear headrests, was more difficult...the only way to latch the hook to the tether is to invert it, which twists the strap and makes it less secure, less safe and more difficult to tighten." — Josh Jacquot
Audio and Technology
"There's been quite a bit of talk about the navigation screen in our CLA250. Some say it looks tacked on, like something you would get when you order up a rental car with a Garmin setup. Sure, it's a different way of adding a screen to the dashboard, but I don't mind it much, mainly because it works so well." — Ed Hellwig
"Although every new car now sold in the United States has a tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS), some only show the warning light, while others, like the CLA's, can display the actual tire pressures in real time. It's nice to see that Mercedes has equipped its most affordable model with this highly beneficial technology." — Scott Oldham
"The Comand screen started a persistent squeak within only four days and less than 400 miles into our time with the CLA250. Even the tiniest bump or road imperfection causes it, which makes it hugely annoying." — James Riswick
"I knew something more serious was going on. My first clue came when the transmission did not downshift as expected. A couple pulls of the left paddle corrected that, but then the throttle seemed to be working on its own schedule.... When I went to engage cruise control, however, it didn't work either." — James Riswick
"As it turned out, the cause of the excitement was a physical problem. A wiring harness is routed between the battery and air filter housing. Tight clearances caused it to rub against the edge of the air filter box until the wiring was compromised. Mercedes forums suggest that we aren't alone with this wear issue." — Mike Schmidt
"This is a 15.7-percent decrease in depreciation and is the lowest long-term car depreciation number in recent memory. This price was so good it nearly matched the Edmunds estimate for dealer retail price. It was a no-brainer to take the offer." — Ron Montoya
Maintenance & Repairs
Routine service is due on the CLA in 10,000-mile intervals. As such, we paid $230 for the 10K visit but sold the car prior to reaching 20K.
In addition to one scheduled dealer stop, there were two others we had not anticipated. One of those was triggered by an engine light, error code P24D6, and remedied with an ECU reflash. The second was for a stability control fault that was ultimately the result of a wiring harness rubbing against neighboring parts under the hood. Gremlins surfaced in the form of antitheft and cruise control warning lights, though each was resolved with a simple on/off key cycle. Neither returned.
Fuel Economy and Resale Value
Observed Fuel Economy:
The EPA estimates 30 mpg combined (26 city/38 highway) for the CLA250 with front-wheel drive. After nearly 20,000 miles we averaged 28 mpg. Our best single tank returned 37 mpg with a maximum range of 418 miles.
Resale and Depreciation:
We purchased our CLA250 for $35,000. After one year and 19,751 miles of service, Edmunds TMV Calculator valued the Mercedes at $28,467. We drove the car to CarMax for an estimate. It was $29,500. We couldn't hand over the key fast enough. This sale reflected just 16-percent depreciation and memorialized our CLA with the distinction of least-depreciated long-term car ever.
Pros: Sharp handling for a front-wheel-drive car, surprisingly gutsy engine, quick shifting transmission, easy-to-use navigation system, useful trunk space, great mileage if you're easy on throttle, exceptional resale value.
Cons: Stiff ride gets tiresome on bumpy roads, rear seats feel cramped, engine doesn't always sound very refined, we experienced several unexpected electronic issues.
Bottom Line: If the firm ride quality and tight rear seats don't bother you, then the rest of the Mercedes-Benz CLA won't disappoint. Its mix of luxury features, unique styling and strong resale value make it a strong contender among sport sedans in its price range.
|Total Body Repair Costs:||None|
|Total Routine Maintenance Costs:||$229.57 (over 12 months)|
|Additional Maintenance Costs:||None|
|Warranty Repairs:||Repair squeaky Comand screen, ECU reflash, repair wiring harness|
|Scheduled Dealer Visits:||1|
|Unscheduled Dealer Visits:||2|
|Days Out of Service:||1|
|Breakdowns Stranding Driver:||None|
|Best Fuel Economy:||37.2 mpg|
|Worst Fuel Economy:||16.0 mpg|
|Average Fuel Economy:||28.4 mpg|
|True Market Value at service end:||$28,467 (private party sale)|
|What It Sold for:||$29,500|
|Depreciation:||$5,500 (16% of paid price)|
|Final Odometer Reading:||19,751 miles|
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.