A Look At The Mercedes CLA
The Tesla Model S isn’t the first truly autonomous car on the road and available for sale to the public. We’re not there yet, just as a society.
The 2020 CLA-Class is available with front- or all-wheel drive, and is a mere 2 inches longer than its predecessor. You’ll soon be able to opt for higher-performanceand variants, but this review focuses on the entry-level CLA250, which still offers plenty of punch.
The CLA250’s 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine puts out 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque — 13 more hp than before, but an identical lb-ft spec. The seven-speed automatic transmission is quick to upshift and oftentimes slow to downshift in the car’s default Comfort mode, but switching it over to Sport improves the behavior noticeably. Here, the transmission will preemptively downshift while I brake for a turn, skipping a few gears when necessary. This means I’ve got the tach needle right in the heart of the powerband when it’s time to hit the throttle again, and don’t have to wait for the transmission to catch up.
No, 221 hp and 258 lb-ft aren’t crazy amounts of power, but that makes the CLA easy to wring out at legal speeds. You can sing the praises of high-horsepower cars all day long, but the truth is, most folks don’t have the skill or the pavement to exploit huge power. On my backroad runs in Sport mode, I’m able to drive the car briskly without feeling like I’m overdoing it. Mercedes-Benz gave the CLA250 thicker sway bars for 2020, and the car has a 2-inch wider track than before, which helps it feel a lot more stable and confident while cornering. The new CLA is a much more rewarding steer than its predecessor.
While I certainly enjoy pushing the CLA250 through turns, don’t be fooled, this is not a quick car. Mercedes claims a 0-to-60-mph time of 6.2 seconds for both front- and all-wheel-drive versions, a time that seems a bit ambitious to me based on my highway merging experience. Those looking for a sprightlier sport sedan will want to wait for AMG CLA35 and CLA45 models.
Still, the CLA250 is perfectly fine for its intended daily-driver lifestyle. If slogging through traffic is part of your life, Mercedes’ tech can make it much easier. The adaptive cruise control adds route-based speed modulation for 2020, so the car will automatically slow down for curves and toll plazas, and reduce your speed should the limit change. When you get to your destination, the blind-spot monitoring stays active for 3 minutes after you turn the car off to warn of any oncoming cyclists, pedestrians or cars, which is a nice upgrade for 2020, especially if you’re a frequent parallel parker.
The CLA’s lane-keeping assist, however, can be a bit finicky. It panicked when I came across a wall adjacent to my lane, some 5 or 6 feet to the right of me, activating the brakes and pulling me to the left when I was in no danger whatsoever. Also, while this technology keeps the car dead center on straightaways, it tends to turn in and unwind late, essentially keeping the car to the outside of the lane on sweeping bends. The latter doesn’t quite blend with the natural motion of my hands while turning; this system is best left for straight-ahead drives.
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