Well, it’s been about six months and 10,221 miles since we took delivery of our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 long-term test car. We took a vow when we leased the car to keep it for better and for worse, and let this six-month long-term review serve as an account of both the better and the worse.
Our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250
But, first a reminder on what it is we’re testing, exactly. In October 2013, we leased a 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 ($29,900 base) that isn’t stripped, and it isn’t loaded. It sits nicely in the butter zone between the two. All said, our CLA250 cost $34,345 plus tax and title.
Our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is Northern Lights Violet Metallic ($720) with 18-inch twin five-spoke wheels ($500). The car is front-wheel-drive and powered by the standard 2.0-liter, 208 horse and 258 pound-feet, turbocharged inline four-cylinder with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, paddle-shifters and three driving modes: Eco, Sport and Manual. The top speed is 149 mph and the time from 0 to 60 mph is a deceptively quick-feeling 6.8 seconds. The CLA250 is also equipped with a standard Eco automatic start/stop function with helps with the EPA estimated 26 mpg city and 38 mpg highway.
The interior of our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is Ash MB-Tex with Anthracite trim. The CLA-class comes standard with HD radio, hands-free Bluetooth and 14-way electronically adjustable front sport seats with memory. We sprang for the $2,300 Premium Package which gave us dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, harman/kardon LOGIC7 sound system, SiriusXM Radio with 6-month trial, Media Interface (that doesn’t work with an iPhone 5, 5C or 5S without an adapter), auto-dimming driver-side and inside rear view mirrors, integrated compass and garage door opener. We also ponied up for the $200 Becker MAP PILOT pre-wiring (even though we have yet to buy the actual nav system component).
That’s our CLA250 in a nutshell. So, after six months, two roadtrips and countless commutes, is the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 any good? Well, yes and no. There is a lot we really, really like about the car. There is also a fair amount we don’t like. But, let’s start with the good. NEXT PAGE>>
Before you even get into the car, the most striking feature of our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is the color. That Northern Lights Violet Metallic paint is stunning. In the right light, the dark, deep purple with metallic specks really sparkles. A lot of people have commented on the color. I’ve seen a lot of CLAs in other colors, and none can really hold a candle to the violet. The Juniper Red is nice, but the rest of the paints are sorta meh. However, the violet metallic really (and I mean REALLY) shows dirt. You need to wash it at least once a week otherwise it just looks like a moderately shiny black.
Let’s see… more good. I’ve read a lot of differing opinions on this fact, but in our test car at least, the gas mileage has been phenomenal. Like, great. The EPA said the average should be somewhere around 30. Neither my wife nor I drive like angels, but our six-month average has been 31.3 mpg. That includes about a 50/50 mix of highway, city streets and terrible South Florida traffic. The worst we’ve seen has been 24.2 on a tank, but that was when we were pushing the car rather hard with the start/stop function disbabled. Our best fuel economy was on a 211 mile trip from Fort Lauderdale to Disney World. We got an astonishing 43.1 miles-per-gallon. So, yeah the fuel efficiency is a big plus.
Driving-wise, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is pretty pleasant. Many critics of the CLA has decried the ride as harsh, stiff and not befitting of a Mercedes. To that I reply, BULL HOCKEY! The ride is firm and responsive. Sure, it’s stiffer than the average Benz of the past, but that’s why we like it. There is zero of the wallowy, boat-like, carsick-inducing nature of most pre-2013 Mercedes. The body roll is minimal, there is little kneeling on hard braking and you feel just enough of the road to know what you’re driving over.
Speaking of steering… that’s another big plus of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. The variable electronic power steering does a laudable job of being super easy when you’re puttering around a parking lot while becoming sportscar stiff at high speeds when you absolutely need to know what you’re doing. To top it all off, there is virtually no play in the steering at all.
I said above that the 6.8 second 0 to 60 time is deceptively quick. And, it is. When we first got our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250, I was a bit timid about the slower acceleration after coming off of a modified 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. But, it is actually pretty good. Hitting the gas from a dead stop is an iffy proposition. The transmission takes a seconds to shift into first. But, once you’re moving, acceleration is quick, particularly at freeway speeds. There are times when I go to pass a slow-moving-highway-pain-in-the-butt and find myself at 100+ mph. At speed, the car is very comfortable, stable and happy. As a matter of fact, the CLA is a little too comfortable at (ahem) 120 mph.
The last couple of goods are of a comfort and enjoyment nature. First, the fourteen-way electronically adjustable front sport seats are super comfy. They have just enough bolstering balanced with a good amount of cushioned give. Secondly, the harmon/kardon LOGIC7 sound system is great if you’re sitting in front. The sound is crazy clear, the low-end bass has no distortion (even at high volumes) and the surround sound is superb (especially if you listen to Hocus Pocus by Focus or Frankenstein by Edgar Winters). Lastly, the seat heaters (or as my wife refers to them: butt warmers or just plain butts) heat quickly and taper off nicely. On long drives, the seat-back heating elements stave off back pain.
Oh yeah, the trunk. The trunk (and folding rear seats) is great… huge and great. Those are the goods for our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 long-term tester. Like I said, there’s quite a lot to like about our test car. So, now the bads. NEXT PAGE>>
Apart from a nasty service issue at 9,159 miles (more on that later) we don’t have too many complaints about our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. But, the ones we do have are kinda annoying. Let’s start with the automatic eco start/stop function.
I’ve driven several cars that shut off automatically when the car is at idle. Most are fairly quiet, smooth and subtle about it. Not the case at all with the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. Pull up to a stoplight and the CLA shutters and turns off. Let off the gas, even for a second, and the car rumbles back to life like a 1970s diesel. There is nothing smooth or quiet about it. The entire damn car shakes. Don’t even try to even slightly move your foot off of the brake unless you plan on actually accelerating. If you release the brake pedal for an instant just to depress it again, the start/stop system becomes very, very, very confused. The result is similar to killing a stick-shift car by suddenly letting out the clutch. We would pretty much always turn that function off if it didn’t return 12 mpg better gas mileage.
Our second gripe is with the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. We have no problem with up-shifts. The up-shifts are great. It’s the down-shifts that are a pain in the ass. Down-shifts from 7th through to 3rd gear are fine. But, the shift from 3rd to 2nd (if the start/stop mode is engaged) is incredibly jarring. So much so, that when we first got the car, we thought there was a problem with the trans. Turn off start/stop and the shifts are buttery smooth. And, sometimes, when shifting into or from reverse, it takes a while for the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 to realize what it’s supposed to do.
Third of this the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250’s list of foibles is back seat. It sucks, plain and simple. We knew that when we leased the car, but it’s worth mentioning again. You can’t really see anything and no one above 5’10” has enough headroom thanks to the four-door coupe layout. And, the lack of rear armrest is positively the dumbest thing I’ve seen for a long time. Actually… Make that the second dumbest thing. The dumbest thing (and this really takes the cake) is the fact that there is only a door-lock button on the driver’s door. None in back (which is fairly common) and none on the passenger door (which is soooooo stupid, I can hardly believe it). Seriously, what does Mercedes have against people being able to lock and unlock their cars? So dumb.
Next up is the an intermittent, yet frequent, vibration and rattle coming from alternating pieces of the dash and center console. Oh, this gets sooooo annoying. At any given time, the instrument cluster cowling, infotainment screen, ashtray cover or the cover for the storage bay/giant cup holder is squeaking or rattling. I’ve taken to smacking the source of the agonizing noise to get it to stop.
The last item on our list of 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 bads isn’t really a complaint, but a previously mentioned service issue at 9,159 miles. Actually, the problem was rectified by Mercedes-Benz of Fort Lauderdale with wonderful customer service and no charge. Here’s what happened…
While driving up highway 95, my wife noticed the a “PreSafe Inoperative” warning light on the dash. As with most computer issues, she turned pulled off the road, turned the car off and turned it back on again. Problem solved. Until a few miles later the PreSafe warning light came back on accompanied by the check engine light. Then, for a few moments, the car wouldn’t accelerate. The CLA acted as if it was in neutral. The engine would rev, but there was no go. Power returned to the car a few seconds later, but the engine was over-heating. As the temp gauge climbed, you could smell burning something.
Fortunately, as all of this was happening, my wife was about a quarter-mile from our local Mercedes dealer, Mercedes-Benz of Fort Lauderdale. As it was later in the evening, we dropped the car of at the night drop. At 9:00 the next morning, our service advisor Michael called. We explained the problem and that we really needed a loaner. Amazingly enough, he said he’d get right on the fix and to stop by and pick up a loaner C-Class.
Four days and 27 testing miles later, our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 was ready to pick up. In addition to doing the 10,000-mile maintenance, MB service found that a “engine wire harness chafed at air filter housing metal clip”. Two wires that go to the throttle actuator and one that goes to the temperature sensor rubbed against each other, shorted out and caused the problems and burning smell. The harness was repaired and re-secured, and the harness holder was replaced. All of the repairs were covered under warranty. The car runs great now, although, I can’t help but suspect this may become an issue on other CLA-Class.
That pretty much wraps up our list of bads for the six-month review of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. So, what’s the bottom line? NEXT PAGE>>
It’s pretty simple. Apart from a few nuisances, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is a pretty good car. It’s fun to drive. It’s absolutely beautiful. And, it gets obscenely good gas mileage. The wiring harness issue may crop up on other CLA-Class, but the fix is quick. The sudden loss of power could be a bit dangerous is the wrong conditions. Apart from that, would we recommend a 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250? Yeah, definitely. Starting at $29,900 it’s a good alternative to a Volkswagen CC or Audi A3 or even a Toyota Camry.