When we gays think of Mercedes-Benz, most of us envision glamorous, spacious luxury cars with autobahn-storming performance and bank-vault solidity. So many a plucked eyebrow has arisen at the idea of Mercedes offering its all-new CLA-class for an eye-poppingly cheap starting price (for a Mercedes, anyway) of $29,900.
On paper, the CLA is the stuff hipster dreams are made of, a message put forth in Mercedes’ famous Super Bowl ad wherein a starry-eyed 20-something declines an offer to sell his soul to the devil (played by the inimitable William Defoe) since he could afford the car himself. First, it’s gorgeous, with a broad, low nose, a swoopy, “four-door coupe” roofline, and banana-shaped body contours much like its sexy big brother, the CLS-Class. It also has a powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a seven-speed paddle-shifted transmission, sophisticated infotainment screen (which looks like an iPad Mini perched up on the dashboard) and incredible mpg ratings of 26 city/38 highway/30 combined.
That said, our little hipster may need to ask for a raise if he wants to turn his CLA into a true dream ride. In the metal, the $30K CLA feels like, well, exactly what you’d expect a $30K Mercedes to be like. It’s got solid bones, but conspicuously missing certain niceties that any Mercedes would feel incomplete without, including dual-zone climate control, a sunroof, navigation, LED running lights, a rearview camera, auto-dimming mirror, or a programmable garage door opener. All of that (and much more) is available as options, of course, but to add it all, you’ll be pushing $40K, not $30K. The good news is that, at $40K, the CLA feels convincingly upscale and, indeed, worth the money, especially if you order the panoramic sunroof that pours light into what is otherwise a somewhat claustrophobic interior.
The CLA’s dirty little secret is that, like a Honda Civic or a Toyota Corolla (and unlike nearly every other Mercedes-Benz), it’s a front-wheel-drive car, though fortunately, its performance if more akin to a grown-up VW GTI than some bargain-basin econocar. Steering quality, handling, and high-speed stability, for example, exhibit typical Teutonic stability. And in spite being powered by only four cylinders, this thing’s got puh-lenty of scoot (thank you, turbocharger).
Now, if you really want to splurge, you can add beautiful LED running lights and taillamps as well as a Sport package with gorgeous 18-inch wheels and aggressive body kit. Loaded to the gills, the CLA250 can top $43K, which is kinda steep for a small, front-wheel drive anything. But for that kind of money, you get a sexy and fuel-efficient Benz that really puts the “CLA” in “Class.”
By The Numbers
Renowned automotive journalist and gay car geek Steve Siler has turned his life-long love of cars into a fruitful and enthusiastic career traveling the world to test thousands of new vehicles as they are introduced. Siler is s regular contributor to Car and Driver Magazine, Edmunds.com,AutoTrader.com, AOL Autos and Yahoo! Autos, and also pioneered automotive writing for the GLBT community more than a decade ago.Steve Siler