2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class Review


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2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class Overview

Introduced for the 2014 model year, the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class has become the third-best-selling sedan in the German automaker’s lineup, behind the C-Class and E-Class. Mercedes, of course, refers to the CLA-Class as a “4-door coupe,” emphasizing the model’s compact sportiness in much the same way BMW advertises the 6 Series Gran Coupe, which is essentially a high-powered sports car dressed up with an extra two doors. The 6 Series, however, sits closer to the top of BMW’s lineup, while the CLA-Class happens to be the entry-level standard-bearer for Mercedes-Benz; those looking for something closer to the 6 Series will want to check out Mercedes’ more powerful CLS-Class. Both vehicles incorporate the sloping rear roofline that pretty much defines the 4-door coupe segment.

The CLA-Class was actually the first compact car Mercedes-Benz marketed in the U.S. A mid-cycle facelift debuted at the New York International Auto Show back in March 2016 and will go on sale in the third quarter of 2016 as a 2017 model. The refresh brings updates to the interior and the available technology and equipment. There are a few small changes on the exterior, however, including a new front bumper with a silver, black, or chrome trim strip, and an optional rear bumper panel that adds an additional trim strip between the rear tailpipes, which now have trim panels set flush with the bumper. Buyers can also choose from six new light-alloy wheel designs on the CLA250 (as opposed to the flagship CLA45 AMG), and a new metallic paint called Lunar Blue is available as well.

The entry CLA250 trim comes with standard front-wheel drive (FWD); Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive (AWD) system is optional on the CLA250 and standard on the CLA45 AMG. All CLA-Class vehicles use a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder (I4) engine. The CLA250 version of the I4 produces 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, and the CLA45 AMG’s I4 has been tuned for a big jump of 375 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. The CLA250 will hit 60 mph from 0 in 6.9 seconds (6.8 with AWD), the CLA45 AMG in a mere 4.1. A 7-speed automatic transmission comes standard on all CLA-Class vehicles. EPA fuel-economy estimates for the 2016 CLA 250 came in at 26 mpg city/38 highway/30 combined with FWD and 24/33/27 with AWD; the 2016 CLA45 AMG managed 23/31/26; as there have been no major changes to the model’s engines, transmission, or curb weight, expect 2017 fuel-economy numbers to remain the same.

As with many performance (or performance-ish) vehicles, the CLA-Class includes a selectable driving-mode function—here dubbed Dynamic Select—that lets the driver tweak engine performance, transmission response, and steering feel through four preset and one customizable driving modes. Another optional driving feature worth having is the LED high-performance headlight setup, which employs a color temperature more akin to daylight than that of normal headlights, meaning a more restful experience for tired eyes. The low-beam bulbs also consume significantly less energy than xenon or halogen lights.

Sitting inside the CLA-Class—particularly in the front row—is an experience likely to be dominated by the large round air vents with their x-shaped slat design and the 8-inch infotainment screen perched atop the dashboard like a miniature flat-screen TV. In all fairness, however, the display on the 2017 CLA is slimmer than the one in previous models and fitted with a new glass cover. It also comes standard aboard all trims. Restyled dials and red needles in the instrument cluster are easier to read, and there are new interior trim options from which to choose, including matte black ash wood and aluminum with honeycomb grain. An optional smartphone-integration package provides Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone capability, which is fast becoming a necessary technology in any competitive model across the auto industry as a whole.

A Hands-Free Access option, included in the Premium Package, will pop the trunk with the motion of a foot, a feature that should already be familiar to those driving later-model minivans, crossovers, and SUVs—or probably almost any consumer vehicle other than a pickup truck. And the 2017 CLA-Class will now include a standard rear-view camera.

The CLA-Class has not been crash tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It does, however, offer safety technologies like a forward-collision prevention system that the IIHS rates as Superior and an Attention Assist feature that will sound an alert if it detects driver drowsiness (incorporating factors from both the driver and the road on which it’s being driven).

Mercedes-Benz has not announced pricing for the 2017 CLA-Class as of this writing. The 2016 model started at just over $32,000 for the CLA250 and ran to almost $50,000 for the CLA45 AMG, so expect something roughly similar—and remember that this is still a premium German vehicle, with the style and performance to match.

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