You may remember I drove the Mercedes-Benz CLA last year and didn’t really like it. Surprise of the day, in a bad way, you could say.
But Mercedes is selling a lot of them. Americans can’t get enough of them. Was my distaste thus more for the grade of car rather than the car itself? I decided to find out.
So the CLA that was delivered recently was not in full-fat AMG Sport trim, but standard Sport. Differences? Merc alloys instead of AMG ones (but still 18” diameter), no 20mm lower AMG sports suspension, no AMG bodystyling and no hip-hugging sports seats. The AMG stuff is desirable, yes, but the Sport is hardly lacking in, um, sporty appeal.
And who’d have thunk it, I liked it right away.
Why? The interesting shapes of the sporty black ‘n alloy interior, the trad Merc-grade hard seats, the tightly-geared DCT gearbox and, most prominently all in the first 5 minutes, the ride. In compete contrast to the other car, it felt like it had damping, and well judged damping at that. Tightly controlled, yes, to complement the stiff springing. But both were just enough, rather than way, way too much.
This feeling of inbuilt engineering stretched to other areas too, such as the S-Class-like feel to the responsive infotainment, the stability it exhibited at speed, the way it seemed to roll along seemingly without resistance at high speed with remarkably low levels of wind roar to boot. The benefits of being among the most aerodynamic road cars ever built – and further evidenced by the fact lifting off at speed elicited meek and mild retardation rather than an immediate wind-down.
Despite the colour (I don’t like white), the shape grew on me more and more, and both the pillarless doors and the coupe-like shape of the windows each time I looked over my shoulder never failed to please. It got glances from others too, which road testers always like to see.
The full road test is to come. But, early tip, it will be more positive than I expected, because the CLA is a car that I grew to really like. I didn’t expect to, which is where the warning is, car buyers: don’t be seduced by the AMG Sport accouterments because the CLA that you really want is the standard one. Save that £2,200 price difference.
Or, better still, put it towards the £2,900 engine upgrade from 200 CDI to 220 CDI instead…