The new FWD Mercedes

By now, you have probably seen the TV ads for the first FWD Mercedes, which is touted as selling for $29,990. In the latest issue of Consumer Reports, they have published the results of their road tests of the Mercedes CLA250, and the report…will probably not make the meisters at Mercedes very happy.

While CR did like the styling, the brakes, the fuel economy, and the fit & finish, they were critical of much of the rest of the car, so much that they rated it only 63 pts out of a possible 100, and stated that they could not recommend it. Among their comments were:

…cramped…noisy…stiff ride…impaired visibility…exceptionally difficult access…sluggish off the line in normal driving…

They also stated that the CLA250 “lacks the handling finesse and refinement we expect at this price”.
I think it is possible that the ride & handling problems were the result of the run-flat tires with which this car comes equipped (no jack, spare, or inflator are included as a result), but that is just a guess on my part.

CR also notes that, because much of the traditional Mercedes standard equipment is lacking on this car, by the time that many buyers option it up, “a decently-equipped CLA will probably cost close to $37k”, which, is only ~$4k less than the greatly superior C-class sedan. However, I think that the most interesting comment was that a better choice than the CLA would be a Buick Regal or a well-optioned Ford Fusion, either of which would cost ~$3k less than the new Mercedes.

I’ve always thought that Mercedes was overpriced. Even when they made quality cars. But their quality started declining 20+ years ago, but the price hasn’t.

There is a mid class segment that MB has been missing out on. If they can cash in on the Fusion, Camry and Accord domain with a near priced MB which is probably a copy in many ways of these sedans, they will. Heck, doesn’t Lexus do the same thing with a Camry clone…as well as Acura, Infinity. Merchandizing and faking customers out with name plates instead of substance has been going on for a long time. What will really P people off is that they can now afford a lower priced MB but can’t afford the repairs.
Those second owners will revile in the name the same as the previous gen SAAB owners… Those are the real yuppies that MB is going after. ;=)

I've always thought that Mercedes was overpriced. Even when they made quality cars. But their quality started declining 20+ years ago, but the price hasn't.

Name recognition. Just like Nike can charge more than $100 for a crappy pair of shoes that isn’t any better than the $40 pair of New Balance right next to it. Mercedes and BMW, among others, have been riding on their logo rather than quality. People are buying them because driving around in a BMW means that you can afford to drive around in a BMW, not because BMW is the best car.

Just like Nike can charge more than $100 for a crappy pair of shoes that isn't any better than the $40 pair of New Balance right next to it.

Actually I prefer New Balance over Nike anyways. Especially for my road-work. And New Balance are made right here in New England. Plus around here there are many New Balance outlet stores and you can buy a discounted pair of $120 pair for less then $30.

Part of what Consumer reports didn’t like about the car is that stuff that should be standard comes in a $1,500+ premium package. Lexus makes the ES which is actually now related to the avalon more than the camry. But with a smoother ride and nicer materials. A loaded Fustion/Camry/Accord is a good comparison to this car. Do you want leather and other nice features or is it the badge on the hood that’s more important?

They advertise that the car starts at just under 30k but that’s for one with the imitation leather and no options. Good luck finding one at the dealer that isn’t a service loaner. Priced one online trying to keep the options to a minimum and still ended up at around $35,000 with heated seats and a few other goodies most buyers would want at a minimum.

However, I think that the most interesting comment was that a better choice than the CLA would be a Buick Regal or a well-optioned Ford Fusion, either of which would cost ~$3k less than the new Mercedes.

Be sure they apply cold water to that burn. :stuck_out_tongue:

Probably just trying to get younger, less affluent people to buy their vehicles. Though, I’d sooner spend the money I’d buy that Merc CLA for and lease a higher end one for the same price.
Yes. I said the L word. To me, Euro brand cars are more suited for leasing than buying outright due to how badly they age.

it got good marks on the autoweek show. said it was worth the asking price. as if ANY car is worth its asking price?

Supposedly it’s attracting much younger buyers than the average for the c-class but many of the luxury features can be had on the Mazda 3 or other compacts for $25,000 or so and the CLA can run you about 10k more. Nice car but it would have to be great for the price.

It might be one of those “loss leaders”, too. Get people on the lots and looking around. “Oh you’re looking at the CLA? For a couple bucks more a month we can put you in a lease of a nice C/E-Class.” They lose a bit on each CLA sold, but make it back up with the lease/buy of a higher class vehicle.

It’s the entry level to hopefully get people to move up into a C/E class or any other Mercedes. The sort of car you get to impress people, leasing is probably more common with these.

It’s nicely styled, and even adding a couple of those needed packages doesn’t send it much over 35k, which isn’t especially high these days. The problem is figuring out who will buy it. People who are brand-conscious but unaware ‘real’ Mercedes owners will look down on their entry-level fwd model? Oh, and they have no friends so no need for a decent rear seat. I don’t take CR’s alternatives seriously. The Fusion is still a Ford, if exceptionally handsome and nicely furnished, and the Buick has a semi-premium nameplate that sells mainly to the elderly (and the Chinese) and the Regal is extremely bland, inside and out. It’s rear legroom isn’t very good, either.

No, what Mercedes should be worrying about it the Acura TSX, a fine bargain if an Accord in other markets (and even the ILX, though it’s harder to take seriously, being a tarted up Civic), and the cheapest models from the other Japanese luxury brands. The versions with the smaller engines aren’t too dear. There is always the well established BMW 1-series, which is cheap enough to compete with an optioned CLA Maybe even the Cadillac ATS, which at least handles well, though suffers from a similarly cramped back seat. CR matched the CLA against the VW CC, a good comparison as they both advertise with themselves as four-door couples (bah), and are if similar price and size. The CC isn’t quite as cramped, but the back seat is still only for your shorter friends (or your kids). The interior is blandly modern VW, but doesn’t have the awkward floating iPad display screen showing up on so many luxury cars, including the CLA. It’s a silly look and easily damaged.

I might in a spirit of generosity put the Lincoln MKZ on that list. It shares the basic goodness of the Fusion + options and a premium nameplate the Ford lacks. Some dislike the Lincoln corporate grille, but I think it works much better here than on other models, many of which look pretty dire. And the tail end is very sleek. Equip it with the one-piece panoramic glass roof that is big enough to serve dinner for sixteen on (if it were flat) and you can impress owners of other luxury features with a feature they don’t yet have. It pops up and slides back a d down together to where it’s partly in front of the rear window. Very cool. Of course, you won’t get that for CLA money, but a more pedestrian MKZ is affordable enough. I think they may be selling the hybrid system from the Fusion, related to the Toyota technology.

The only geezerly Buick these days is the LaCrosse. The entry level Regal has a low powered engine, but the GS has some giddy-up. The Regal, Verano, and both SUVS are aimed at younger buyers.

There used to be something special about German cars, i.e. getting a naturally aspirated straight 6 with a manual transmission spinning the rear wheels all in one package. BMW killed off most of what made them unique. Mercedes does away all of that and give us a ubiquitous car. I don’t see any reason in buying a German car anymore.

There’s a portion of the population that cannot afford a Mercedes but will settle for nothing “less” anyway. I use the term “less” only as a description of their perceptions. For those people, I imagine it’ll be welcomed. Hey, we all have our reasons for buying what we do. It’s their money.

I judge cars by different criteria than that segment of the population. But I congratulate MB on making a smart business move. Moves like this are what’s needed in today’s world to remain solvent in the world market.

The Benz is still a special, hand built car. But only at $100,000 and more.

Mercedes is trying to reach buyers who before this couldn’t quite stretch to a C-Class. In the Uk it has been considered cool to buy the lowest spec Mercedes over a Ford/GM product even if the two are close in price. The camry when it was last offered over there was priced roughly the same as entry level BMW’s/Audi’s and only sold a handful in the final years. The expectations for a car with the Mercedes badge are much higher than for more mainstream brands like Toyota and Honda.

European buyers have had many years to get used to the idea of a front-wheel-drive Merc. I don’t think it’s a big deal to most car buyers there or here, except for performance car buyers, and they won’t find the base CLA interesting. It’s whether Mercedes can find buyers for an AMG version that will be interesting. It’s a stylish car and may sell on that alone. It certainly won’t sell to people who use the rear seats much.

The CLA45 AMG has all wheel drive. I doubt that will be a negative factor.

That was a sensible decision, though even awd may not go over well with some potential AMG buyers. Unless they’ve been buying SUVs, where it’s the norm. I suspect most AMG buyers are going to want something a little bigger and less cute than the CLA. The C-Class isn’t that much more. After you’ve piled on all the options it’s hard to even remember what the base price was. It’s shocking how badly Mercedes and BMW gouge people on options that should be standard features on cars in that class (and are on Japanese luxury cars.) I suppose it lets them advertise a low base price that nobody ever pays.