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30 Days Of The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250

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We regularly cruise the Interstates and autobahns behind the wheel of high-performance machinery--plenty of it wearing the three-pointed star.

This month, we'll be turning our sights on the opposite end of the luxury and performance spectrum, toward something a little more mainstream--to the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250.

For the next 30 days, we'll be driving and covering the CLA 250 you see here, from every angle possible. We'll dive into the CLA's long-distance talents, its seating capacity, its drivetrain and infotainment system. We'll also give you some perspective: how the CLA 250 stacks up against the competition, and where the future of compact Mercedes-Benz cars lies.

But first, let's give you the pitch. We chose the Mercedes CLA because it's been one of the most popular vehicles for car research here at The Car Connection, ever since we took you for a first drive in February. There's probably a few good reasons for that: the low $29,900 base price, the Super Bowl ads with Kate Upton, maybe even the CLS-alike looks and the dual-clutch/turbo-four drivetrain.

There could be something in the CLA45 AMG, too, now that we think about it.

So here's what's parked in our garage right now: a Cirrus White CLA 250, with Sahara Beige MB-Tex upholstery (it's not leather--more on that in future posts). The standard equipment list includes a 208-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine coupled to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with shift paddles. It's front-wheel drive, the first front-driver from Mercedes to ever land in the U.S.

It's outfitted with nifty safety features like Attention Assist, the coffee-cup alert that never need be triggered around High Gear Media. It also comes with mbrace2 connectivity and Verizon data service; ambient lighting; power front seats; and collision-prevention assistance.

Boosting its price over the base configuration are a few packages. For $500, our CLA 250 has 18-inch wheels with high-performance tires--just as almost every CLA sold in the U.S. will have. (It's not mandatory, but Mercedes expects a very high take rate.) It has $325 in black-ash wood trim. The $2,300 Premium Package adds satellite radio; heated front seats; Harman Kardon surround sound; a garage door opener; and dual-zone automatic climate control. We've also got the Multimedia Package: for $2,370, it includes COMAND infotainment control with navigation; a rearview camera; voice controls; a 10GB music hard drive; a six-disc DVD changer; and real-time traffic and weather information. Tally it all up and include $925 in destination charges, and our CLA 250 is priced at $36,320--right in the sweet spot of compact luxury.

We have lots of hours of quality time lined up for this CLA over the coming month, including road trips from Washington, D.C., and back. We'll try out all of its features and report on them while we cruise through the next month, bringing you updates on its gas mileage (36.7 mpg on Tank One), with some shopping and configuration information thrown in--and some special coverage of the CLA45 AMG, too.

Stay tuned for more--follow along with our Mercedes CLA coverage, and let us know what you'd like to see by posting to The Car Connection's Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages.

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