By Nick Dasko
The Mercedes CLA has a head start on the Audi A3 in North America. Young, aspirational people who ignored the old A3 wagonette are cross-shopping these cars, and the Mercedes is going to be the winner in sales to people without children at the very least. While the Audi is basically just taking over in almost every way, particularly in pricing and sizing for the original A4, the CLA, your CLA is not a filler for the 190 or C class. It is unique in style and price and thats what makes it special.
Not only does it look gorgeous, but Mercedes-Benz actually has a wide list of option packs instead of trim requirements. Cars at this price-point get young people into the corporate lineup after their first promotion at their first real job. Young sales reps, realtors, business managers and media flacks can afford a car like this and spend a bit of extra money to spec it the way they want.
I know several of the twenty-something dudes I went to school with will eventually be looking at the CLA because it says the right things to them. It looks amazing and gets great gas mileage, has good power and it even has LED mood-lights. It also has an amazing Harman Kardon stereo system available on the base model. All-wheel-drive is available in the same fashion. These people don't buy performance options unless they are doing it purely for looks or ego. They won't track these cars let alone auto-cross them, they just want something that looks cool and has the toys they want.
My car-guy friends may buy these cars but the stereo will not be the first priority. Performance will be so they can mod their base, AWD CLA into something that can chase the CLA 45AMG.
If you want the optional Bang and Olufsen stereo or AWD on the Audi A3, you have to step up to a bigger engine. You have to pay for a ton of options you didn't want in the first place and the car doesn't look as good as the Mercedes. Everybody wants that stereo, so make it available on the base car!
In many parts of the country, all-wheel-drive is about as necessary as bicycle for a goldfish. Why does an accountant in Portland need all-wheel-drive when all he wants is a loud stereo to make him feel alive on his commute to the office where he sorts through the paperwork of corporations in the most mundane industries possible.
He doesn't, so you will likely see him in the Mercedes showroom complaining about Audi.