The term "affordable luxury car" never made sense. Either the car is not really affordable or it's not really luxurious. It's a chimera, an oxymoron. Well, it was. The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class breathes life into the fantasy with a unique combination of breathtaking design, high-tech amenities, a truly bespoke interior, front-wheel-drive performance and the convenience of four doors in a coupe-like body. This car has carved a price-conscious yet handsome niche out for itself within an illustrious lineup -- and established a bigger place in automobilia as the finest entry-level sport luxury car on the planet. All this for under $30,000.
It’s not often you see what’s viewed as the low man on the luxury car totem pole making a serious name for itself, and rarely do luxury car makers infuse their least expensive car with the kind of exotic design and cutting-edge technology reserved for flagships. Yet the CLA has everything you'd want from a car with a much more demanding Monroney sticker.
Arguably better looking than the sexy CLS and even the powerful SLS supercar, the CLA pulls no punches in the style department. The CLA's sheet metal does artfully mimic the shape of the larger CLS but in a way that is wholly its own. Hood creases and character lines with proper positioning and length give the CLA a sporty and aggressive look that is consistent with the car’s intentions. The unique, wide diamond block grille with a prominent three-pointed star emblem acts as the car's centerpoint, flanked by two piercing HID and LED headlamp clusters that wouldn’t be out of place on Michael Bay’s Megatron. Triple air intakes that frame the bottom of the fascia are big, bold and beautiful. The sexy roofline tapers to a precisely sculpted tail section where gentle red LED brake lights sit atop a thick bumper and diffuser while flanking a powerful but elegant trunkline.
And if you think think Mercedes might have scrimped on the interior, just take one look at the lush cabin, which is clearly a sibling to the new and regal S-Class flagship. Round A/C vents and big analog gauges are tastefully placed on the handsome dashboard; the 5.8-inch central display and COMAND interface, along with Bluetooth connectivity and mbrace2 telematics/smartphone integration, combine fingertip controls with wireless synchronization. Add in a thick-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel and standard eight-way power front seats, and the overall feel of the CLA’s interior entirely belies its price tag. Its level of comfort, amenities and build quality are direct descendants of the elite cabins from the rest of the Mercedes family.
Impressive safety technology comes standard with the CLA250 in the form of Collision Prevention Assist, which uses radar to identify potential impacts with other vehicles and actuates the brakes when necessary, and Attention Assist, which checks on the driver to detect signs of drowsiness or distraction. You can also opt for high-tech safety measures such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist and blind spot warning in the Driver Assistance Package as well as rear view cameras and an automated parking system. You’d be hard pressed to find these levels of safety technology at this price point elsewhere.
The power under the hood takes the form of a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, producing 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels via a slick seven-speed automated manual transmission. Flick the steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles and the CLA250 moves quickly to 60 in 6.7 seconds; its ferociously upgraded older brother, the CLA45 AMG, gets there in an astounding 4.5 seconds via an enhanced CLA engine and a twin-scroll turbocharger for a combined output of 335 hp and 332 lb-ft, which is brought to all four wheels via the standard 4Matic AWD system. That performance? Not entry level.
In the CLA Class, Mercedes has combined the best of German styling, quality, engineering and performance in a package that’s hard to ignore. There’s nothing quite like it out there, and at this price, there likely won’t be anytime soon.
Excellence, innovation, craftsmanship, and an unwavering desire to challenge expectations -- these are the constants that have captivated our attention since Gear Patrol's inception in 2007. This year we're proud to announce the next step in our role as a champion of quality in product design and execution: welcome to the GP100. Our inaugural product awards are dedicated to honoring the 100 best consumer products released during the calendar year by companies of all sizes and scope.
The GP100 is not a ranking or a contest. These selections represent the collective expertise of our entire editorial staff, who have scoured every corner of the vast product universe -- from automotive and electronics, to men's style essentials, home goods, spirits and outdoors -- to find the inspiring and the practical, the ground-breaking and the traditional, the priceless and the accessible. In short: products that define or defy their respective categories to better the life of the modern man.
The GP100 is not a contest influenced by marketers or brands, nor is it a ranking by specifications as determined by uniform tests. Instead, it starts with a comprehensive list of nominees released in the calendar year, researched and compiled by our editorial team of obsessed experts across all of Gear Patrol's major areas of interest including Motoring, Technology, Style, Home, Spirits, Outdoor and Watches. Brands are not part of the selection process. Nominees are then debated in context of the past, present and future of their respective fields. Which selections stand as significant innovations, category busters or faithful monuments to the icons of history? Do they adhere to Gear Patrol's core tenets of excellence, design, utility and the spirit of adventure? Distilled to the following 100 items, the GP100 represents the best products on earth released in 2013 -- easily inspiring consumers and creators alike during their search for guideposts of excellence in a vast world of products.
Motoring Watches Style Technology Sports Outdoors Home Spirits
Jeremy BergerBen Bowers