Mercedes-Benz CLA

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 acceleration to 60 mph in just 6.9 seconds, 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, rearview camera, heated mirrors, an 8-inch color screen, Bluetooth and an integrated garage door opener.

Options are plentiful on the CLA250 and include items like LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof, a navigation system, heated front seats, PARKTRONIC parking assist, 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. A convenience package features the all-new hands-free access trunklid, which requires only the motion of a foot beneath the rear bumper to open.

The high-performance AMG CLA45 features a hand-built turbocharged 2.0L inline-four that produces a stout 350 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque -- enough to propel the car from 0-60 mph in just 4.1 seconds. The AMG CLA45 is clad in unique exterior body styling, and inside there's Recaro performance front seats with contrasting stitching, among other AMG-specific amenities. A new Dinamica faus suede interior package adds unique the material to seating and steering wheel surfaces.

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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I'm skeptical as I slide into the driver's seat of the updated 2017 Mercedes-AMG CLA45. I'm in the heart of traffic-clogged Budapest, Hungary, which doesn't bode well if this CLA45 is anything like the previous ones I've been in. I imagine a clunky-performing seven-speed dual-clutch transmission making stop-and-go traffic a nightmare, and then once on the open road, being annoyed by a choppy ride en route to the Hungaroring racetrack a half-hour away.

Turns out, my worrying is unwarranted. My Benz's gearbox smoothly takes off from stops and fluidly carries out low-speed shifts. Once out of the congested city center on clearer roads, ride quality isn't half bad, with the AMG Ride Control Sport Suspension in its Comfort setting. That's an even bigger accomplishment when considering my test car's optional 19-inch wheels (18s are standard) and high-performance Dunlop Sport Maxx tires.

Make no mistake, the CLA45 doesn't provide S-Class levels of ride comfort, but it's more forgiving compared to when this model first arrived on the scene for 2014. On rougher roads in the Hungarian countryside, impacts are still felt from ruts, but it's tolerable, and much better than the harsh ride offered by last year's model. Is there enough damping to handle the crater-filled roads back home in Michigan? The CLA45's ride is a lot more compliant, but I'm still not sure.

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