Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class

The first thing people notice about the CLA is its unique styling. Mercedes-Benz classifies the car as a 4-door coupe, much like its older sibling, the CLS. The comparison is apt, as the CLA borrows much of its design language from its bigger brother. However the base price of a CLA is less than half that of a CLS, making the CLA quite a bargain from a styling standpoint.

The CLA utilizes a turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder engine in the base trim, which makes 208 horsepower and a very healthy 258 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard, with Mercedes-Benz's 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system as an option. The only transmission choice is a 7-speed dual-clutch unit, providing the efficiency of a manual with the functionality of an automatic. Performance is sprightly with good acceleration, while fuel economy is also respectable thanks to one of the most aerodynamic bodies ever sold in the U.S.

In the entry-level CLA250, standard equipment includes 14-way power adjustable front seats, an 8-speaker CD/MP3/Radio sound system, rear seat armrest with cup holders, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain sensing wipers, heated mirrors, a 5.8-inch color screen, Bluetooth and an integrated garage door opener.

Options are plentiful on the CLA250 and include items like a panoramic sunroof, HID headlights, a navigation system, heated front seats, PARKTRONIC parking assist, a rearview camera, and a blind spot assist system. Equipment packages include a sports package with unique exterior details and upgraded brakes, an interior package with leather seating surfaces, a premium package with keyless entry and an uprated stereo, and a multimedia package featuring a larger screen and a 6-disc CD changer.

The high-performance AMG CLA45 features a hand-built turbocharged 2.0L inline-4 that produces a stout 355 horsepower -- enough to propel the car from 0-60 mph in just 4.4 seconds. The CLA45 is clad in unique exterior body styling, and inside there's Recaro performance front seats among other AMG-specific amenities.

With the CLA-Class being a bit smaller than typical Mercedes-Benz models, safety was a point of emphasis for the company. Optional safety equipment includes Distronic Plus, a radar-based cruise control system that can automatically apply the brakes if it senses a collision, as well as lane-keeping assist and blind spot assist. Standard safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes and traction control as well as stability control and several airbags for both the front and the sides of the car.

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Editors' First Take

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With the A-Class sedan now serving as the most affordable Mercedes-Benz car in the US, the second-gen CLA-Class has a chance to go upmarket. The 2020 CLA250 is a little more focused on design and sportiness than its predecessor, and as such it'll wear a slightly higher price tag. But the biggest revelation, after driving the new CLA on the roads in and around Munich, Germany, is that it now feels like a premium car from behind the wheel.

An entertaining drive

The Mercedes CLA250 features a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four engine coupled to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The engine is rated for 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, and can be had with front-wheel drive as standard or 4Matic all-wheel drive as an option. It's a nice step up from the engine in the A220 sedan, which offers a comparatively lackluster 188 hp and 221 lb-ft. Later on, there will also be an AMG model rated for 302 hp.

The 2.0T is a potent powertrain, with lots of torque and supremely smooth power delivery all the way to redline. The Dynamic Select switch livens up throttle and transmission response quite a bit when turned to Sport mode, though the paddle shifters never deliver especially crisp gearchanges. But the CLA250 is powerful enough to do triple-digit speeds in the left lane of derestricted autobahn sections without breaking a sweat. And it's responsive enough to quickly dispatch slow farm equipment on two-lane roads.

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