2018 Mercedes-Benz CLA Driving Impressions

Even the moderately powered CLA250 produces responsive performance, though power reaches the wheels somewhat fitfully, rather than in a smooth flow. These agitated reactions can be disconcerting in daily drives.

Takeoffs are sufficiently smooth. Although the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission strives to restrain the nervous engine, shifts into upper gears occur too quickly. At least, paddle shifters let the driver shift manually, if desired, using steering-wheel actuators.

Helped by sharp, agreeably responsive steering, the CLA250 handles with respectable prowess. Steering demands some effort, but the result is a surefooted road experience, with tires effectively planted on the pavement. Lifting one’s foot off the gas pedal primes the brake system, helping to bring the CLA250 to a quick, positive halt. All-wheel drive, dubbed 4Matic and optional on the CLA250, can transfer up to half of power output to the back wheels when needed.

Unless it’s equipped with the optional adjustable suspension, the ride is less than comfortable. In fact, it can be stiff, even punitive. The adjustable suspension is standard on the AMG CLA45 version.

As expected, the AMG CLA45 edition raises the performance quotient sharply. Because power output from a relatively small engine is so strong, acceleration approaches fierce levels. Larger-diameter anti-roll bars help boost the top model’s handling talents. As a result, the CLA45 is fully track-ready, for drivers who lean in the motorsports direction.

Fuel economy ranks close to smaller luxury-car competitors. With front-drive, the CLA250 is EPA-rated at 24/37 mpg City/Highway, or 29 mpg Combined. All-wheel drive lowers the estimate to 24/32 mpg City/Highway, or 27 mpg Combined. The CLA45 earns a rating of 23/30/26 mpg. A stop-start system is standard, but shutting off the engine is accompanied by a modest shudder, and it sometimes restarts at stoplights with a longer red light.

Base MSRP excludes transportation and handling charges, destination charges, taxes, title, registration, preparation and documentary fees, tags, labor and installation charges, insurance, and optional equipment, products, packages and accessories. Options, model availability and actual dealer price may vary. See dealer for details, costs and terms.

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