By Aaron Bragman on January 13, 2013
Mercedes-Benz is about to enter a new market segment in the U.S. with the introduction of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. It's the brand's first front-wheel-drive compact sedan, and it takes styling cues from the larger CLS. Mercedes calls both four-door coupes due to the swoopy styling. The look on an entry-level car is a dramatic departure for a brand known more for staid, mainstream offerings.
Frameless windows accentuate the sloping roofline, making the car stand out against competitors like the upcoming Audi A3 sedan, Buick Verano, Acura ILX and BMW's 1 Series. The shape is not only distinctive but functional. Mercedes-Benz claims it's the most aerodynamic production car in the world with a coefficient of drag of .23. A Toyota Prius comes in at .25.
The car will be powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 208 horsepower that's mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which is the only shifter. Power gets to the pavement through the front wheels or Mercedes' optional 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. Mercedes-Benz has not yet published performance or fuel-economy numbers for the CLA, but it has said that it tops out at 149 mph. Seventeen-inch wheels will be standard and upgradable to 18-inch AMG wheels with the optional Sport Package. The Sport Package also includes more aggressive body styling and perforated front brake discs.
Inside, the car is tailored for younger buyers with an emphasis on multimedia systems and smartphone connectivity. Mercedes' mbrace2 system will be standard in the CLA, allowing full integration of cloud-based apps between car and user electronics. A 5.8-inch display is standard, as is Bluetooth connectivity. A multimedia package is available featuring Mercedes-Benz' Comand navigation system and a 7-inch display as well as voice control, an SD card slot, 10-gigabyte music storage, backup camera and satellite radio. Or to up the luxury content (and the sticker price), a Premium Package is also available, adding an iPod interface, Harman Kardon sound system, heated seats, auto-dimming mirrors, dual-zone climate control and more. Mercedes' full raft of electronic safety minders is also optional, with a Driver Assistance Package that adds adaptive cruise control, lane keeping warning systems and blind spot warning system. The company's autonomous parking function, Parktronic, is a standalone option.
The new CLA250 goes on sale in September and is followed by the CLA250 4Matic all-wheel-drive model in spring 2014.
Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman grew up in the Detroit area, comes from an automotive family and is based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Email Aaron