We already got acquainted with the superb Mercedes Compact Range at the Château Neercanne in Maastricht, and collected some good driving impressions there, as you have already read on these columns. But of course nothing replaces a full test, and so we were very pleased when the PR people of Mercedes-Benz Belgium Luxembourg put an elegant black 155 kW/211 HP 250 CLA at our disposal. This was good for a quite delightful driving experience, as you can imagine, just read further…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
When taking the wheel of a test car, we always start off rather slowly. Not only because we want to give ourselves enough time to get a “feel” of the car and its controls, but also because we will never forget what world champion Jackie Stewart once told us when we had a “Formula finesse” driving session with him on the Zandvoort circuit, where we were invited to take a Ford Capri around the track as fast as possible without losing the golf ball which was placed in a cup on the bonnet.
He not only teached us the tricks of fast and smooth driving, but he also said that “any car will behave well when you drive it briskly. Only when driving slowly it will reveal any lack of refinement and smooth running of the engine and drivetrain, and will tell you about the mechanical build quality of the car.” We certainly remembered that.
And indeed, city crawls are a boon for the 211 HP Mercedes. The engine is almost inaudible, smooth and vibrationless at very low revs, the 7 speed DCT automatic transmission mates very well with the unit, and changes are subtle. The Tempomat makes also cruising on city ring roads and boulevards a refined and comfortable experience.
Of course, the engine and gearbox come very well into there own when the car is driven with somewhat more verve, and it is impressive how the gearbox even in “E” mode runs through the gears fast and smoothly, letting the engine rev up to the right spot on the torque curve. At full power, the engine revs of course higher under a beautiful staccato, changes remain smooth and (very) fast, and the car is a true delight to drive under these conditions.
We found that even when in “E”mode, the gearbox changes down easily when called for under cickdown.
Of course there are the two gearchange paddles on the steering column if you want to give your personal driving style that extra touch, but let it be said that the gearbox is very well set up for any driving style.
Before we get into superlatives about the road behaviour of the 250 CLA, let it be said that this Mercedes possesses the same beautiful straight line “Autobahn” stability and refinement of the large Mercedes cars. With very low wind and road noise, the car reaches very high motorway speeds with complete effortlessness, just like its (very) big sisters, and here it really shows it is a true Mercedes indeed. At the legal 120 kmh cruising speed, the engine runs at a mere 2000 rpm in 7th gear and is perfectly inaudible. No vibrations whatsoever are noticeable, and there is an almost total absence of wind and road noise.
Add to this the excellent sound system, and we can assure you hand on our heart that this CLA cruises just as smooth and restful as the top cars of the marque, and this is no small feat...
Also the suspension feels just “right” under these circumstances, with complete absence of unwanted vertical movements.
Of course the driving pleasure rises further when the road is getting more winding. The car steers with great precision through any bend, and gives uncanny confidence to its driver. Indeed, the chassis and suspension setup clearly show that this car is built by a firm which has been collecting racing experience even before many of us were born, and this of course says something.
One can “place” the car with great precision and confidence before, in and out any corner, and it provides delightful sporting driving pleasure. This is of course helped by the very good seats, which provide very good lateral support together with an excellent driving position.
The ventilated disks stop the car very well even under repeated hard braking, just adding to the feeling of complete confidence one has with this sporting car.
Body lean and roll are virtually absent under hard cornering, and the suspension never feels unduly harsh, although it took initially some getting used to when driving the car over the (in)famous Brussels street potholes.
Of course, the overall performance of the 250 CLA is nothing short of brilliant. The car storms smoothly from 0 to 100 in 6.8 sec,(0-60 mph 6.4 sec); The car reaches 200 kph in just under half a minute, i.e. in 29.2 seconds. Top speed is an electronically limited 250 kph or 142 miles.
Standing kilometre is absolved in 26,9 seconds, and the in-gear accelerations are breathtaking: 80-120 in sixth gear takes 8 sec, in fifth gear 5.8 seconds, and in fourth merely 4.2 seconds.
The finish of the car is up to the excellent standards of the marque with the good star, both inside and out. The test car was finished in Cosmos black, which suited the car very well. The dashboard, door linings sported a refined yellow stitching contrast pattern, which was also found back in the seats. The dashboard was adorned with the beautiful round instruments which I like personally so much, and the well finished vents were placed on a brushed aluminium strip running the width of the dashboard, giving a refined sporting look.
We also liked the optional panorama roof of our test car, giving the dark interior an airy lightness, and on the practical side, we very much appreciated the rear view camera, making parking that much easier.
In daily life, we of course love the very ergonomic and logical placement of knobs and controls, courtesy of the house, last but not least the excellent controls of the Tempomat cruise control. We also liked the lane-assistance package, which came with our test car, as was the Active Parking Assist.
The proportions of the CLA are “just right” in our opinion, and the car looks good from any angle. We very much like the finish of the grille around the three pointed star, giving the CLA this unique look, which comes very much to its own also in black.
We make no secret of it, we are very fond of petrol engines, and therefore we are very much charmed by the 1991 cc four cylinder engine which sports state-of-the-art technology which we already explained elsewhere. Suffice to say that the engine is not only brilliantly powerful and flexible, it also is quite frugal. The official figure is 6,2 litres/100 km, with CO2 emissions under the official test cycle of some 144 g/km. We had no effort to reach this consumption figure in the “E” mode, and even under some quite brisk driving conditions, consumption remained around the 7 litre mark.
This sporting CLA is yours in Belgium for a reasonable 32.400 Euros, excluding VAT. Of course the list of options is long, but the A Class Mercedes range remains very good value indeed and commands quite good resale figures.
It therefore has acquired already a good position in the fleet market, and also this delightfully dynamic CLA has its place in this market, for the discerning buyer who wants this something extra…for daily driving pleasure.
Hans Knol ten Bensel