Yup, the way Mercedes packages their items is a pain in the ***.
The idea sounded fraught with danger: another sub-$30,000 Benz, this time with a transverse engine, front-wheel drivetrain. Apparitions of chintzy C-Class Sport Coupes (but with terminal understeer) danced in my head as I winged toward the launch in St. Tropez, France. Is the three-pointed star ready to go slumming again? Isn’t this VW territory?
Or maybe its for people who own Mercedes vehicles that are more expensive and want a daily driver that is more economical... idiotI’ll spare you the suspense, because after driving the car for about as long as you’ve been reading this review, it became crystal clear that this new CLA is no C-Class Sport Coupe. That car was sort of a cynical play to get a low advertised price that could lure folks into the showroom, where they might be talked upmarket. This one is all about meeting Euro CO2 and U.S. CAFE regulations. Mercedes needs people—a lot of new people—to want this car, not one of the bigger ones into which salesmen of yore might reflexively have tried to upgrade them.
Did anyone just read that? 100 percent power to the rear for the 4Matic system?Somewhat miraculously, given the torque at play, the driver’s sense of touch is never troubled with torque steer. I tried standing on the gas from a stop with the wheel turned, kicking down mid-corner at low speeds, and nuthin’. This is impressive, considering there’s no tricky multi-link virtual steering axis front suspension at work—just a humble strut and control-arm setup. It’s either magic, or (as Mercedes asserts) such forces are being cancelled by the electric power steering, which also allegedly compensates for extreme road crowns and heavy crosswinds, and applies corrective steering if the driver hasn’t mastered “steering into a skid.”For the record, I also sampled a 4Matic all-wheel-drive system that incorporates a power takeoff in the seven-speed DCT, and an electronic clutch on the rear differential that dials in as much rear torque as conditions call for, between 100 percent front-wheel drive and nearly 100 percent rear if the fronts are in mid-air or on wet glare ice. The system is supposedly lighter than most as well.