Share This Page

Mercedes offers luxury for the rest of us

| Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, 10:07 p.m.

What if Gucci, Prada or Louis Vuitton suddenly and unexpectedly produced its own designer knockoffs, ones that sold for more than 50 percent less than the majority of their lines?

Well, if you're an automaker, say, Mercedes-Benz, then the product might be called the 2014 CLA-Class, an all-new model and market for the brand in the United States.

The CLA starts at just $29,900, an astonishing $42,200 less than the CLS. And when typically equipped, the CLA should average about $35,000, on par with a top-of-the-line Honda Accord and less than a fully loaded Ford Fusion.

By offering filet mignon at hamburger prices, Mercedes-Benz is taking a big chance with its image.

So, just what do you get in this modest Mercedes?

Well, for starters, you get a car that uses a front-wheel drive platform — a first for the brand in this market — adapted from the redesigned A-Class, a small hatchback that Mercedes-Benz sells in Europe and Asia.

The CLA comes in two flavors: the mild CLA 250 and the wild CLA 45 AMG. Both use a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. You'd expect it to be fun to drive. But it's a mixed bag.

It's not that the car isn't nimble — in fact, it's fairly athletic, with nicely weighted steering.

Overall handling is good, and the CLA remains flat in corners. Acceleration is more than adequate despite the car's turbo lag.

But on the whole, this car is very much a welter-weight Mercedes-Benz. Get the $2,300 Premium Package, which adds a Harman/Kardon sound system, iPod/MP3 interface, SiriusXM satellite radio and dual zone climate control.

Still, once the novelty wears off, you have to wonder if this reasonably priced car will dilute the marque's premium image.

When the servants drive the same brand of car as the lord and lady of the manor, it's hard to convincingly market yourself as a luxury manufacturer.

Larry Printz writesabout automobiles for The Virginian-Pilot.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.