Mercedes-Benz CLA Continues Redefining the Term Coupe

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CHATHAM, Mass. – Characterizing a car as a coupe used to evoke a specific image: two doors, a sloping rear roof, limited, if any, room for second-row passengers and a sporting persona. Mercedes-Benz redefined the concept early this century with the introduction of the CLS Coupe, a large, sporty model with coupe-like exterior lines and FOUR doors!

The German auto maker followed 10 years later with the CLA Coupe, another four-door coupe, though this time a compact model built on a front-wheel-drive (FWD) platform. Now, some six years on, a thoroughly redesigned the CLA comes to America in four flavors: CLA 250 Coupe, CLA  250 4MATIC Coupe (with all-wheel drive) or two radical high-performance versions: AMG CLA 35 Coupe and AMG CLA 45 Coupe.

We tooled around Cape Cod this week in a polar white CLA 250 4MATIC Coupe, enjoying a supple, but firm (German firm) ride in a quiet, techno-packed cabin. This is a cabin more intimate than you might imagine due to a combination of smaller side windows (thanks to the sloping, low roofline coupled with a high belt-line) and tall, enveloping sport seats, which virtually wrap driver and front passenger within their grasp.

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Add in a steering wheel with paddle shifters and a race-car like flat bottom, responsive 221-horsepower/258 pounds-feet of torque two-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, quick-shifting, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and the CLA 250 4MATIC Coupe is a pleasure to drive quickly on the most challenging twisty roads we could find.

And when there is a need to stop or slow quickly, four-wheel disc brakes with vented 13-inch rotors up front, solid 12.6-inch ones in the rear start the process. These rotors fill the inside of the five-spoke, 18-inch AMG alloy wheels shod with 225/45 R18 low-profile performance rubber.

Mercedes-Benz CLA, Edition Orange Art, AMG Line, kosmosschwarz // Mercedes-Benz CLA, Edition Orange Art, AMG Line, cosmos black

Regardless of elevation changes, reduced radius turns and the like, the CLA remained sure footed, solid and confidence inspiring. Secure is the phrase which immediately comes to mind when driving this car!

Safety and ADAS systems

Structural integrity has been the hallmark of Mercedes-Benz automobiles for decades, with safety engineering a key component throughout all design aspects. The CLA does not stray from these ideals and the one we drove added a plethora of advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) and safety features to the standard ones which include active brake assist; anti-lock brakes (ABS); electronic-stability program; brake-assist system; advanced air-bag protection system and ATTENTION ASSIST® (which helps the driver avoid fatigue during long drives).

Added to our CLA were several optional packages which upped the ADAS factor:

The Driver Assistance Package brings active brake assist with cross-traffic function; active distance assist and DISTRONIC® (a form of advance radar cruise control); active steering assist; active blind-spot assist; active lane-keeping assist; active lane-change assist; active speed-limit assist; active emergency-stop assist; PRE-SAFE PLUS®; route-based-speed adaptation; extended stop/start in stop-&-go traffic.

In addition, it had the Parking Assistance Package with active park assist and surround-view system (viewed on the 10.25-inch color display – more on the big screen later).

That’s one of the most comprehensive suites of ADAS and safety features offered on a car in this class. It comes at a premium (the first package is $2,250, the second $1,090), but this is a Mercedes-Benz so premium pricing is to be expected. And they work seamlessly; always on guard but offering the driver a vast variety of control over specific settings and functions.

Living in the CLA

Front-seat adjustments are made through the door-mounted controls which resemble the seats. Just move the one matching the portion of the seat you want adjusted and it does just that. And both seats, which are heated, have a three-person memory.

Rain-sensing windshield wipers, a panorama sunroof, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also part of the basic CLA kit.

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Our example added two significant optional packages which brought the interior environment to another level. The Premium Package brings auto dimming rearview and driver-side mirrors and side mirrors with a power fold-in feature.

The primary components of this option package, though, are a pair of 10.25-inch color displays married horizontally in a flat screen which appears to be “floating” on the upper left-half of the dashboard. The screen on the left shows driving information through a digital instrument cluster which can be customized to show  speed, engine speed (tachometer), fuel level, fuel consumption, audio information and navigation details.

Mercedes-Benz CLA, Edition Orange Art, AMG Line, kosmosschwarz // Mercedes-Benz CLA, Edition Orange Art, AMG Line, cosmos black

The display on the right is also the heart of the Multimedia Package which brings touch control for the package’s navigation, MBUX augmented reality activation as well as the car’s audio, climate-control, phone and ADAS systems. The screen controls are augmented by buttons, a voice-activation capability, and a large touch pad for navigating the elements portrayed on the display located on the center console just ahead of a convenient wrist rest.

The MBUX in-car assistant allows the driver and front-seat passenger a further means to operate some of the systems, one without touching the display or touchpad. The car can ascertain the driver/passenger’s location in relation to the control surfaces and if they are close enough, will allow simple gestures to operate the multi-media functions. And it works, but our limited time in the CLA limited our ability to become proficient with this feature.

The key numbers

Fuel economy did not suffer by our spirited driving last week. The Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4MATIC Coupe averaged 28 miles per gallon or 1 mpg better than the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s combined city/highway rating of 27 mpg. The EPA says this car will achieve 23 mpg in city driving and 33 on the highway.

Like we said, this is a premium vehicle and is priced like one. The front-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe has a MSRP of $36,650 while the 4MATIC version like this one bumps that to $38,650 – and with all the great goodies came in at $50,055 including $995 for shipping/handling.

The two versions prepared by AMG, the company’s high-performance group, range from $46,900 for the 302-hp CLA 35 Coupe to $53,100 for the 375-hp CLA 45 Coupe.

A week in a comprehensively equipped Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4MATIC Coupe was fun, dynamically rewarding but not nearly enough time to learn all its capabilities, features and nuances.

Fun and dynamically rewarding – definitely characteristics of a coupe in any generation!

Mercedes-Benz CLA, Edition Orange Art, AMG Line, kosmosschwarz // Mercedes-Benz CLA, Edition Orange Art, AMG Line, cosmos black
Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.