The 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA is an ideal, entry-level luxury vehicle.
Technology options are numerous, including the new MBUX interface.
A more powerful turbo engine joins the model range for the new year.
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA is one of those four-door “coupe” deals that, apart from driving me nuts by Mercedes trying to call a four door a coupe, actually seems to work. Like all Mercedes-Benz products, it’s dripping with in-car technology, like the MBUX control system. MBUX for the 2020 CLA comes with a new interface and natural speech recognition tech. Similar to all Mercedes-Benz cars, it’s as safe as a bank vault and performs well; only the new CLA (and this is different) won’t break the bank.
The bottom line here is that the 2020 CLA 250 will start at $36,650. The CLA 250 4MATIC, that’s the all-wheel drive version, starts at $38,650. See? Not all that bad for something with a three-pointed star. The CLA Coupe was the first compact Mercedes-Benz on the market when it arrived in the United States in 2013. According to Mercedes-Benz, at peak times, more than two thirds of CLA buyers in the U.S. came from competitors. On average, CLA customers are around 10 years younger than the typical Mercedes-Benz buyer.
Given the price point and the available technology, it makes sense.
The Mercedes-Benz CLA also comes with additional standard equipment for 2020. LED headlamps and taillamps; a big panoramic roof and 18-inch wheels; smartphone Integration, and a seven-inch digital Instrument cluster/media display are all on the list.
Besides being graced with a modern design, the CLA fits lots of tech into a small and reasonably-priced package. There’s the natural voice command interface, improved aerodynamics, and a slew of new driver assistance systems. The dashboard has a trick free-standing widescreen display along with the now commonplace touchscreen.
Now, about that standard MBUX interface. It’s actually pretty well thought out and usable; the only bad thing is that tragic name. MBUX, if you really want to know, stands for Mercedes-Benz User Experience. Essentially it’s how you interact with the various in-car operations and communications. Merc says that’s all thanks to the system’s powerful computer; brilliant screens and graphics; customizable display; and software that can learn. Voice Control with natural language understanding, an available full-color heads-up display, and Augmented Video for Navigation are also part of MBUX.
Mercedes-Benz says the system “surpasses conventional automotive standards” by making various in-vehicle functions more intuitive. I’ll leave the final judgment on that up to you.
Power & Performance
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA comes with a 2.0 liter, inline-four turbo engine that puts out 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque. That’s a bump of 13 horsepower compared to its predecessor. Furthermore, the new CLA’s track is wider for a lower center of gravity. Exact measurements come in at an extra 63 mm at the front and 55 mm more at the rear versus the prior model. Mercedes keeps talking about how the wider track and lower center of gravity give the car its sportiest driving characteristics yet.
Again, I will let you be the final judge on that.
To assist with the driving dynamics, the new CLA uses a decoupled multi-link rear axle, a larger stabilizer bar, and an optional active adaptive damping system. In terms of aerodynamics, the 2020 CLA underwent more testing and simulation, and ultimately spent more time in the wind tunnel versus the outgoing model.
S-Class Treatments For Less
Safety and performance nannies abound in the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA. The car is able to drive semi-autonomously, for a start, thanks to camera and radar system improvements that allow it to see up to 500 meters ahead (that’s around 1600 feet). The CLA also uses map and navigation data to support various driver assistance functions. For example, Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC, as part of the optional Driver Assistance Package, provides route-based support and will proactively adjust the speed when approaching bends, junctions, or roundabouts. Much of this new technology is lifted directly from the S-Class, which seems to make the CLA even more of a bargain.
The new Mercedes-Benz CLA will go on sale in the U.S. later this year. With that starting price in the mid-30k range, I’d expect to see more than a few of them around.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.