I just brought home my Edition 1 CLA. The closest dealer is about 150 miles from where I live so getting it home was a nice "get to know ya" kind of drive. Here's a few thoughts about the car:
Its beautiful. Seriously. I can't believe the looks I get driving it around. I have been stopped outside of restaurants, etc. by at least 5 people in one day asking about the car.
It is faster than I thought. I test drove a black CLA 250 a week ago -before mine was delivered. It was already sold and the dealer was doing me a favor so I didn't really open it up or push it around. After spending an enthusiastic day with mine I have to say... wow. I'm not a stranger to small displacement engines and turbos. I travel a lot for work and I've spent weeks at a time in Mercedes C300's, BMW 328i's, and other mid-sized and compact cars. I've personally owned, Acuras, Hondas, Subarus, Mitsubishis, among others. My current vehicles are a Ford F-150 Ecoboost and Land Rover LR4. Neither is a stranger to torque. The CLA is replacing a 2005 SAAB 9-3 Convertible 2.0T, a respectably fast car in its own right.
The CLA really shines far beyond the specs on paper. Admittedly it doesn't sound like a V8. But it does pull like one. The power band starts low and continues until red line. I kept hitting the rev limiter in manual mode before I got used to it. It comes fast. 60 - 100 mph also comes quickly. I put about 150 freeway miles on it and had no trouble pulling large, steep hills and passing lines of semi-trucks in a blur. After awhile my cheeks hurt because I had a big, cheesy grin on my face the whole ride home.
To me, how you feel about a car depends in large part on how it behaves trying to pass other cars. That "rush" you get when you hit the gas at 55 or 60. If you feel like its gasping for breath passing someone at 75 mph, its no fun. Not this car. I wouldn't say "amazing" in describing this car's punch. I would say "exciting", "very confident" and "sporting" in spades. It brings plenty of smiles. Especially considering I averaged 30 mpg driving it like I was on fire.
The transmission is great. I've read a ton of reviews and seen the quibbles some people have with this box. After driving it around for a day I have to say those people don't know how to drive. The tranny in this car is perfectly suited to the car if you know how to use it strapped to a 2.0 liter turbo. For those who want leisurely, sedate meanderings around town or the country - it is a solid, smooth, refined drive with perfect low-rev shifts in ECO mode. For those who want a more sporting adventure on curvy roads or in traffic, it responds perfectly. Upshifts are quick and precise. I can see someone who wants to jackrabbit this car between fast revs and low speeds (like a teenage around-the-block test drive) thinking this tranny is rough in spots. It's the driver, not the car. Pick your fun, and this car will go there. I've had cars that were sporty in their drive, but not refined and vice versa. So far this car seems to be able to do both equally well.
Which brings me to the handling. It is superb. The Edition 1 is lower than the standard CLA. It also has the 18' black rims and summer run-flat tires. It isn't your daddy's Cadillac. It is quite smooth for what it is though. This car tracks beautifully with hardly any perceptible understeer. You honestly can't tell it's front wheel drive. There is no torque steer on take offs - even on corners. I read reviews that Merc had been able to do this with the electronic power steering. I was doubtful. I'm not now. What an amazing trick considering how much torque this car puts to the ground. I pushed pretty hard into some 30 mph corners on some 60 mph back roads. Diving into the corner and accelerating out was seamless and felt good. The engine and tranny pulled great and, despite trying, I had a hard time getting the car to break loose or feel unsure in the tightest of turns.
The interior is great. Plenty of soft-touch surfaces and pleasing things to look at. I won't bore anyone with specifics because we've all seen the pics, but the quality is there for sure. The Edition 1 comes with "neon" green stitching, leather seating, and "Dynamica" suede-like surfaces on the seats. There are green and white "racing" stripes in the middle of the seats too. I like it, but could just as well love solid black seats too. A lot of the Merc-standard upgrades are there. For instance, the door side pockets are lined with a soft material on the bottom. Presumably this is to keep the crap that we all stuff down there from rattling around against plastic. Nice.
Did I mention this car is gorgeous?
I'm a happy camper. I'm old enough to get away from the teenage cars and young enough that an S-Class would just seem weird parked in my garage next to my kid's bikes. The CLA is perfect for spirited rides in the hills, long drives to Vegas across the desert and my wife's trips to the gym. I'm glad I bought it.