Test Drive Mercedes CLA CoupeSeptember 5, 2019
Warm spring in Bavaria comes much earlier than in central Russia, and well-to-do burghers already in March begin to walk their retrocars on local tracks – restored with sincere love and polished to a shine. For any hour on any rural road you can meet the heels of old cars, mainly brands BMW and Mercedes-Benz. But we, oddly enough, didn’t give the brakes at all for their sake, but only seeing the previous generation CLA.
Forgive us the owner of a rare MG, who was nearby, we could not stop. The old CLA stood at the curb of the same bright red color as ours, and it was worth putting both cars side by side to find answers to statements like “Yes, almost nothing has changed here.” It has changed, so much so that the first car of the 2013 model against the backdrop of the new one seems long outdated.
The new CLA, which is now officially called the CLA Coupe, looks squat, assembled and very smooth – as if by the plasticine model of the former CLA they carefully walked around with a giant roller, rolling up all the elaborate details. Under the roller, the edge of the hood went down, the radiator lining became wider, the headlights narrowed, the upper bend of the sidewall disappeared, and there were almost no Asian influx of lanterns at the stern. By the way, the tailgate now breaks the lights into two sections: part remains on the body, part rises with the lid. A trifle that allowed to make the opening a little wider.
The Germans themselves consider the key parameter 5 cm – the new CLA is almost as much longer and wider than its predecessor, the headlights are narrowed by the same amount, and the track width has increased by the same value. The base grew by 30 millimeters. And compared with the current A-Class CLA sedan, it’s 139 mm longer and slightly wider, although the machine is based on the same MFA2 platform – in fact, the modernized chassis of the previous A-Class with heavily redesigned suspensions, a rear multi-link for all versions of the coupe, thicker stabilizers and adaptive shock absorbers, which are offered for a surcharge.
The fact that the new CLA is tuned to drive, you can immediately feel the clear reactions, understandable steering wheel and fairly strict suspension. At first, you don’t seem to feel much of a difference with the standard A-Class, but with speed dial the connection with the car does not disappear, and the chassis continues to please with stability and high-quality feedback. The winding Bavarian tracks do not require track driving skills, and in such conditions the CLA steers very well, and even the front-wheel CLA 200 does not show any tendency to understeer, as if once again justifying the use of the “wrong” for the drive brand.
The advantage of adaptive shock absorbers is the ability to customize the nature of the machine. If it seems that the steering wheel is overly lightweight in the standard chassis mode, then you can switch to a sports one in which the steering wheel is poured with hard effort and requires a slightly different approach to control. The suspension in this mode is also picked up, but you need to understand that in the standard it is quite strict to rare bumps in the Bavarian roads, although swallowing gentle waves swallows without problems.
Test cars were presented in the AMG Line performance with a 15 mm reduced ground clearance, 19-inch Run Flat wheels and optional adaptive shock absorbers. Our default clearance will be just that, but large wheels and custom shock absorbers will be offered for a fee, and it is possible that with a simplified suspension and softer tires, the CLA will be a little more comfortable. Engineers themselves, for example, consider the 18-inch ones to be optimal, and for economical Europeans they even keep the 16-inch range.
What really alerted was unnecessarily nervous reactions to the intersection of marking lines or the approach to other machines. Electronics CLA can suddenly brake and tighten belts, which pretty much scares the driver, who saw no danger. Engineers do not even try to get away – they say, the car trains the driver, making him get used to a more accurate ride.
“After three trials, you will learn to drive carefully,” Johan Ek, senior compact car testing manager, told us. It is perhaps worth offering Johan a ride on our roads, where the assistant systems will be doomed to shutdown.
The French turbo engine of 1.33 liters seems to be a little wrong here, which develops a solid 163 liters. s., but, to be completely honest, you have to admit that when paired with a preselective robot, he is really genuinely good. Firstly, the CLA 200 is great to vomit, and in the claimed 8.2 seconds. to “hundreds” is believed without difficulty. Secondly, it is normally lucky at highway speeds, allowing you to quickly overtake with instant switching and high-quality speed.
Finally, from the passenger compartment, this engine does not seem like a motor from a coffee grinder, and that’s good, because Mercedes-Benz buyers are unlikely to appreciate the shrill powertrain. And he knows how to ride on two cylinders and fit, if not five, then seven liters per “hundred” under highway conditions – pretty nice numbers for a premium segment car.
The CLA 250 version already has a full-fledged two-liter engine, but it does not destroy the charm of the base unit. It is clear that there is more traction, and a two-second handicap when accelerating to “hundreds” is very noticeable, and it’s more convenient to go on an unlimited German highway on this version. But the main customer advantage is still non-alternative four-wheel drive, and in this sense, the CLA 200 has nothing to answer.
So far we can only guess how the four-wheel drive will work on slippery surfaces, but, in theory, the rear axle should be connected faster, because instead of an electro-hydraulic clutch, the A-Class family is now equipped with an electromechanical one. On dry all-wheel drive CLA goes very neutral and under the thrust even seems to show slight hints of the family turning the rear axle. Well, it sounds a bit juicier, although the owners of earlier models cannot be surprised by this.
It is clear that for lovers of real old-school Mercedes-Benz, the combination of a front-wheel drive layout, a French motor of utterly small volume and a little girlish ideology, for which you can fit the word Coupe and the bright red color of the body, looks, to put it mildly, alarming. But Mercedes has long been guided by a new generation of customers, while preserving its basic values - sophistication and comfort, implying not the omnivorous suspension, but the comfort of the cabin and the pleasure of using each of its elements.
In this sense, only too plastic gearshift paddles are strained, and everything else practically rings if not with luxury, then with good quality and the cool efforts of the handles. The CLA interior was borrowed from the A-Class, and even in a moderate configuration with rag seats and a minimal set of electric adjustments, it makes a completely premium impression. Leather and wood are skillfully imitated by malleable plastic, the fabric is sewn and fitted perfectly, and the cool aluminum keys, like the rotary deflector handles, are nice to touch. Even the interior LEDs shine with a warm yellowish tint, and Mercedes clearly thought about this in advance.
Finally, the MBUX media system, which looks more like an ultra-long screen, seems like a masterpiece. Even without a visor, the panels do not glare in the bright sun, the graphics are canceled, and the setting options seem limitless. And augmented reality, when the navigator draws hints and arrows on the image from the front camera? The only thing that has been done here for show is the voice control system, and in this sense, the Germans can well learn from the Russian Yandex. Well, the management of gestures with nervous reactions to the conversational gestures of the driver seems rather pointless.
CLA cabin differs from the A-class by a lower roof, but for people who are no higher than average, this will not be a problem. But a longer base allows you to sit quite comfortably on the back sofa, again adjusted for a more noticeable bevel of the roof. That is, the CLA coupe is suitable for transporting passengers no worse than a sedan, if we take into account the age and life credo of typical A-class users. In CLA, however, unlike a sedan, there is not a single ceiling handle, but this can be forgiven for the wow effect of frameless door windows. And you also have to put up with the lack of familiar USB sockets: instead, USB Type-C connectors are scattered around the cabin, which is not so easy to pick up adapters.
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