Mercedes’ CLA 250 Sport Shooting Brake is an irrepressibly fun car. But it isn’t for everyone…
SINGAPORE — Its name might be a bloody mouthful — Mercedes-Benz 4Matic CLA 250 Sport Shooting Brake — but the review is short: here’s a car that’s bloody fun. I enjoyed the five-seat, five-door wagon immensely, especially from behind the wheel, but the real question (and maybe the more useful one to you) is, would I spend my own money on it?
Especially since there’s quite a lot of money involved. Mercedes and the Government will separate you from $195,888 and split it between them before you can have one.
What does the money buy you? Not a whole lot, honestly, at least in terms of size. The more CLA Coupe version (with four doors) is actually pretty lengthy, but its rear seats don’t offer much room. If you’re tall, you’ll feel pinched back there.
But the good news is, in Shooting Brake form the CLA gets a noticeable hike in rear headroom, along with a more practical boot.
Not much headroom back here, but more than in the CLA Coupe
Both the Coupe and Shooting Brake were given a facelift late last year, but I’ll be damned if I can tell. Granted, I can’t tell if my wife’s had her hair done*, so maybe I’m not the most observant, but really, you have to squint until it hurts before you’ll spot the changes.
There are apparently new lamps and bumpers (I got that from reading the press release), and inside there’s some fresh cabin trim and a bit more chrome.
But the good stuff from the facelift seems to be under the skin. The suspension is noticeably different, and in the Sport version we tried the CLA now takes bumps firmly but without magnifying every little surface change on the road. The first time I drove an A 250 Sport a few years ago I seriously thought about buying a sports bra, but the post-facelift springs have transformed the car. It’s still sportily taut, but no longer uncomfortably so.
Engage this, and the CLA becomes engaging
One thing that hasn’t changed though is the fizzy personality of the 2.0-litre turbo engine. It’s tuned for 211hp but actually feels like it has a bit more to give, and when you slot the car into ‘Sport’ mode its personality becomes infectiously eager. The twin-clutch seven-speeder becomes more alert, and there’s the odd crackle from the exhaust during upshifts. Result? Non-stop giggles, and a small taste of what the CLA’s unhinged sibling, the AMG CLA 45, is like.
I was pretty astonished by how much traction the car has, too, the first few times I gave it some welly coming out of corners. There’s no wheelspin and no awkward scrabbling for purchase from the front tyres. Instead, the little Mercedes just digs into the tarmac and converts the engine’s muscle into delicious bursts of acceleration.
This says a lot, really
Then I got out and saw the “4Matic” badge on the bootlid, which explains it all, really. Four-wheel drive might not help you turn any more aggressively into a corner, but it’s properly handy on the way out. Rain or shine, the CLA 250 has boundless traction.
Actually you’d have to be soft in the head to be surprised by the car’s sportiness, given our test car’s racy interior trim. As part of the ‘Sport’ package, you get stuff like red seatbelts to match the sporty, bucket-like seats, posh corduroy floor mats, and splashes of red on the air-con vents and upholstery.
On the outside there are things like red front brake calipers (that grip cross-drilled rotors), a strip of red for each bumper, AMG alloys… you get the picture.
Apart from the cracking performance, the sporty adornments are a way to make yourself feel better about spending all this money. The cheapest Shooting Brake is the CLA 180 (which costs $170,888), and it has the same 495-1,394 litre expandable boot.
More to the point, you could get a bigger, plusher Mercedes than the CLA 250 Shooting Brake. The C 180 range starts at ten grand less. It isn’t half as fun, though.
It’s very clear what this wild wagon offers, then. The performance is a treat so it’s for someone who loves driving, and the wagon shape suits people who have particular hobbies (say, buying and restoring antique furniture), and the relatively small size means it’s for someone either childless or sensible enough not to let children dictate that choice of car.
Someone like me, in other words. Except with the money to spend.
*always say yes if she asks
NEED TO KNOW Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4Matic Sport Shooting Brake
Engine 1,991cc, 16V, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 211hp at 5500rpm
Torque 350Nm at 1200-4000rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 240km/h
0-100km/h 6.8 seconds
Fuel efficiency 6.8L/100km
Price $195,888 with COE