The “Gateway Benz” Targets a New Type of Mercedes Customer
For some, the $30,000 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 may be a car that has cheapened the luxury brand, but Mercedes sees it differently. This fuel-efficient car was designed for a younger crowd, who will, hopefully, grow into diehard Mercedes fans.
Younger purchasers aren’t just attracted to the relatively low price tag; the sleek, coupe-like car is equipped with a powerful, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Autoweek reports that Mercedes sees the CLA becoming its number one conquest vehicle. Not only could its marketable design help compete with other luxury brands, like BMW and Audi, but the reduced price could attract consumers of traditional, midsize sedans, like Ford and Nissan.
How It Drives
The CLA is the only front-wheel-drive Mercedes sold in the United States, so the company had to make sure the driving experience would be as flawless as the car itself. According to Autoweek, that’s exactly what they did.
The chassis offers a lot of grip, allowing drivers to cut through expressway interchange ramps and gradual bends zealously with little body roll. But the stiffer suspension (McPherson struts in front, multilink out back) makes the ride firm compared to the comfortable, luxury experiences found in Benz’s non-AMG-badged sedans.
A 2.0-liter, turbocharged I4 generates 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, which is fitted to a seven-speed, dual-clutch sequential manual. This gives the CLA a sportier driving experience than the Benz’s C-class.
The engine comes alive in sport mode. The peak torque is on tap from 1,250 rpm, and the transmission cracks off quick and downshifts by itself, or when responding to shift commands via the steering-wheel-mounted paddles.
Because of the low price, some cost-cut measures had to be taken. For example, the lower trim panels and center-console plastics don’t look or feel up to par with other Benz vehicles. However, the main touch points are enveloped in soft-touch materials with stylish accent stitching on the door panels.
The front bucket seats are supportive and comfortable, and the cabin is well isolated from road noise and wind while riding on run-flat tires.
There’s no shortage of technology, either; the CLA comes with a standard 5.8-inch center display, mbrace2 smartphone integration, Bluetooth and a host of safety features, such as Attention Assist and radar-based Collision Prevention Assist.
Is the CLA really “cheapening” the Mercedes brand? Price wise—yes, but in the end, this new customer base will grow tremendously, and in a world where numbers count, “cheap” doesn’t even come close to how much they could profit in the long run.