Given the appeal of its three-pointed star, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 is priced to kill at $29,900 base, not including a $925 destination charge. That base version comes standard with Bluetooth, cruise control, a power driver seat, 17-inch wheels with run-flat tires, a sport-tuned suspension, and MB-Tex upholstery--a fair assortment of gear without any major lapses for the class.
Compared to the other premium compacts you can buy today, it's a tough case to make for at least one of them. A Buick Verano Turbo, priced almost identically with the CLA, has standard leather seating and 18-inch wheels, and an option for a manual transmission, but doesn't offer the sporty handling or badge appeal of the Mercedes, or all-wheel drive. The Acura ILX is much less sporty and has fewer safety features on its options list, while a premium version can be priced north of $32,000, before options.
As for the CLA45, it's occupying a much loftier perch. Prices begin at $47,450, not including the $925 destination charge. Unique powertrain, all-wheel drive, and AMG hardware aside, standard features are similar to those on the CLA 250.Options and packages
To keep those prices as reasonable as possible, the CLA will have more stand-alone options than other Mercedes products. For example, while U.S versions of the CLA 250 come standard with a sporty grille, a sport-appearance package adds AMG-style 18-inch wheels with its own lower front-end treatment. The wheels are offered by themselves for just $500.
The most popular features will be bundled into the Premium package, which includes an iPod interface with satellite radio, surround sound, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, and a garage door opener.
Leather is available, but a power passenger front seat is not on the initial options list we've seen. A panoramic sunroof with a thin fabric sunshade is a stand-alone option, as are all-wheel drive, leather seats, summer tires, parking assist, blind-spot monitors, and heated front seats.
Other trim and styling choices go beyond the usual fifty shades of grey paint. Black ash and burl walnut trim can be chosen to replace the grey plastic dash trim.
The CLA45 has its own range of features, themed around performance. Red-painted brake calipers are offered, as are a carbon-fiber package for the exterior and a similar one for the interior. There's a Night package that blacks out big swaths of exterior trim, and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. And on the highly recommended list, are Recaro sport seats that offer up even more support than the stock chairs, and 19-inch performance tires with black-finish wheels. A popularly equipped CLA45 AMG likely will be priced at about $55,000, Mercedes believes.
Lastly, we hear there will be an option for an Illuminated three-pointed star some time in the future. It's not official yet, but we've been told to expect it first "on a car that would merit an illuminated star," then on other model lines to follow.
On the infotainment side, the 2014 CLA comes with standard Bluetooth and the latest smartphone connectivity functions via Mercedes-Benz's mbrace2, all displayed on a 5.8-inch screen that outputs AMG's Racestart performance data on the CLA45.
Three levels of navigation are offered, including a base functionality driven by your smartphone included with that standard setup. The first navigation option is an inexpensive Becker system with better functionality, we're told, and a pricetag of $800 or so, in the range of the systems GM offers with its IntelliLink touchscreen systems.
The more elaborate, and optional, infotainment system offers a 7.0-inch screen and COMAND, which controls the Multimedia package's navigation system, DVD changer, 10GB music drive, or SD card (as well as phone services) with voice commands. The Multimedia package also includes a rearview camera and real-time traffic.
The infotainment system also can be fitted with DriveStyle, which makes some apps like Facebook and Twitter available through the knob controller and voice commands for on-the-go readback and response from a set of stock answers. It's essentially an edited-down mirroring function, with icons upsized for safety, not true screen-to-screen mirroring--and without a touchscreen capability, since as a company, Mercedes has decided touchscreens are too distracting.
COMAND continues to be a frustrating system to use on the go, less so when it's used to set up the car prior to driving. It requires a lot of scrolling and toggling to get to basic menus, or even to switch some modes--something accomplished much more easily by the redundant buttons on the center console. The integration of Facebook access comes via a globe icon on the screen, and can take some time to access Verizon's data network.