When gays think of Mercedes-Benz, most of us envision glamorous, spacious luxury cars with Autobahn-storming performance and bank vault solidity, so many a plucked eyebrow has risen at the idea of Mercedes offering its all-new CLA class for an eye-poppingly cheap starting price (for a Mercedes, anyway) of $29,900.
On paper, the CLA is the stuff hipster dreams are made of—a message put forth in Mercedes’ famous Super Bowl ad wherein a starry-eyed 20-something declines an offer to sell his soul to the devil (played by the inimitable William Dafoe) since he could afford the car himself. First, it’s gorgeous, with a broad, low nose, swoopy “four-door coupe” roofline and banana-shaped body contours much like its sexy big brother, the CLS class. It also has a powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a seven-speed paddle-shifted transmission, sophisticated infotainment screen (which looks like an iPad Mini perched up on the dashboard) and incredible mpg ratings of 26 city/38 highway/30 combined.
That said, our little hipster may need to ask for a raise if he wants to turn his CLA into a true dream ride. In the metal, the $30K CLA feels like ... well, exactly what you’d expect a $30K Mercedes to be like. It’s got solid bones but is conspicuously missing certain niceties any Mercedes would feel incomplete without, including dual-zone climate control, a sunroof, navigation, LED running lights, a rearview camera, auto-dimming mirror and programmable garage door opener. All of that (and much more) is available as options, of course, but to add it all, you’ll be pushing $40K, not $30K. The good news is that, at $40K, the CLA feels convincingly upscale and, indeed, worth the money, especially if you order the panoramic sunroof that pours light into what is otherwise a somewhat claustrophobic interior.
The CLA’s dirty little secret is that, like a Honda Civic or a Toyota Corolla (and unlike nearly every other Mercedes-Benz), it’s a front-wheel-drive car, though fortunately its performance is more akin to a grown-up VW GTI than some bargain econocar. Steering quality, handling and high-speed stability, for example, exhibit typical Teutonic stability. And despite being powered by only four cylinders, this thing’s got puh-lenty of scoot. (Thank you, turbocharger.)
Now, if you really want to splurge, you can add beautiful LED running lights and taillamps as well as a sport package with gorgeous 18-inch wheels and aggressive body kit. Loaded to the gills, the CLA250 can top $43K, which is kinda steep for a small, front-wheel-drive anything. But for that kind of money, you get a sexy and fuel-efficient Benz that really puts the ‘CLA’ in ‘CLASS.’
What a Concept!
Cadillac’s arrestingly beautiful Elmiraj concept coupe stole the show this year at the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance. While there is virtually no possibility it will make its way to production in the exact form you see here, it’s likely that Cadillac’s long-rumored flagship super-sedan—expected to push six figures—would take a lot of its styling cues from this car. In the meantime, feast your eyes and cross your fingers that Cadillac will green-light a flagship model that looks darn close to this. Bravo!