MERCEDES-BENZ 2016 CLA 250 4MATIC SHOOTING BRAKE SUCCEEDS BRILLIANTLY IN PACKING PERFORMANCE, VERSATILTY, AND FINESSE INTO A CURVACEOUS WAGON BODY.
With AMG styling plus 18-inch alloys, lowered sports suspension, all-wheel-drive capability and loads of punch from the 2.0 litre direct injected turbo-four and seven-speed dual-clutch auto, it turns corners as quickly as it turns heads.
It is, in every way, a singularly more attractive and dynamic alternative to an SUV.
Vehicle Style: Medium five-door wagon
Price: $66,400 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 155kW/350Nm | 2.0 litre 4cyl turbo-petrol | 7sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.9 l/100km | tested: 8.2 l/100km
In 2013 Mercedes-Benz added ‘affordability’ to its bag of tricks with the launch of the current A-Class. It lobbed into this market with a mouth-watering mid-$30k price tag.
And what a success story. The A-Class hatch has led a meteoric rise in Benz sales, luring armies of younger and first-time buyers to the three-pointed star.
It has also spawned a few spin-offs from the platform that sits below it, Like the high-riding GLA soft-roader, the swoopy CLA four-door coupe and now the Shooting Brake wagon.
- Artificial leather trim, air-conditioning, electric park-brake, rain-sensing wipers, parking assistance, reversing camera, powered tailgate, powered driver’s and front passenger seat with heating and memory, keyless-go, panoramic glass sunroof, 40/60 split fold rear seat, intelligent lighting system, multi-function three-spoke steering wheel with shift paddles.
- Infotainment: Dial or trackpad operated MB COMAND system with multi-function colour screen,iPod/iPhone connectivity, USB connectivity, digital radio, Bluetooth, sat-nav, owners manual.
- Cargo volume: 495 litres (seats up), expanding to 1354 litres.
The Shooting Brake’s interior is identical to its CLA coupe cousin, but with 40mm more headroom and 25 litres more luggage space.
It still shares the fusion of sportiness and luxury - with a bit of retro - with its bright red seatbelts, stitching and silver-chrome garnish lifting the tone of the all-black cabin.
There’s a mountain of standard features and several option packs to select from to further personalise the Shooting Brake.
Looking like an afterthought that protrudes ungainly from the dash is the COMAND infotainment system. The eight-inch screen however provides crystal clear graphics and navigated through a feast of menus and functions, (many customisable) by a console-mounted dial or track pad.
Music streaming and Bluetooth hook-up was a breeze and the Harmon Kardon audio pumps out a solid, premium sound. My only niggle was that digital radio stations tended to drop out, even around town.
Mercedes has dispensed with the traditional printed owner’s manual and embedded it within the COMAND system, saving
I liked the convenience of the door button that closes the windows and sunroof if you’ve stepped out of the car and forgotten to do so.
One gripe is the gear-lever placement on the right side of the steering column, where the indicator stalk normally lives. Although it frees up the console area, it is easy to get caught out selecting neutral at the wrong moment.
Given its compact appearance, it is reasonably spacious up front with 1021mm front legroom and 970mm headroom; over 40mm more than the CLA.
Rear legroom is compromised though, just 688mm, but headroom is almost 900mm and shoulder room a respectable 1351mm.
Forward and side-visibility is good, but the plunging roof and angled rear-window limit the view. The luggage area has grown by 25 litres over the CLA but the tailgate opening isn’t huge, making it tricky to load some items.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 155kW/350Nm 2.0 litre direct injected four-cylinder turbo-petrol
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, all-wheel-drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front suspension, Multi-link rear
- Brakes: 316mm front disc brakes, 316mm rear disc brakes
- Steering: Electric power steering
The CLA 250 Shooting Brake 4Matic, is the top non-AMG model carrying the 155kW 2.0-litre turbo powerplant found in the A 250, B 250, CLA 250 and GLA 250.
It's coupled to a seven-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox driving a part-time all-wheel-drive system through a variable-split centre differential.
The engine delivers plenty of punch for enthusiastic driving, getting to 100km/h in just 6.8 seconds from standstill. Yet it also turns its hand easily to effortless highway cruising and is never found wanting should you need a sudden burst of speed.
With bucket loads of torque on tap from 1200rpm, it feels spirited and athletic from standstill and right through the mid-range, until the revs outweigh power output in the upper range.
The exhaust note pops and bangs with each gear change under hard acceleration, an accompaniment that adds to the overall theatre of the car.
On the open road, the seven-speed autobox goes about its job without any fuss, but in stop-start traffic where gentle throttle applications are used, it hesitates and doesn’t engage smoothly.
Three driving modes are available: Economy, Sport and Manual. I found Sport made the gears hang too long (and with too many revs under the bonnet) while in economy, it couldn’t wait to get to the next cog, sapping torque and power.
Selecting Manual does the trick as you can then dictate the gear-change points (and it’s quite a bit of fun to paddle up and down and revel in the aural accompaniment from the pipes at the rear).
The drive modes are linked to the steering feel, power, and specially-tuned AMG dampers, which deliver a very firm ride to say the least, even in Economy mode.
Around town most bumps are felt through the cabin and it gets agitated over smaller ruts. The trade off is the way it hunkers down through corners with little body roll and lots of assuring composure.
The speed-sensitive electric power steering makes manoeuvring around town easy without sacrificing feel or accuracy at higher speeds.
Keeping everything in check are big, meaty cross-drilled disc brakes with red AMG callipers that have a solid progressive feel under foot.
Road noise however is a constant companion, whether on smooth or coarse surfaces.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars. The CLA sedan scored 36.16 out of a possible 37 points.
Safety Features: As you might expect from the safety pioneers of the industry, the CLA 250 Shooting Brake 4Matic is packed with the latest driver assist systems and safety technologies.
These include: nine airbags, ‘pre-safe collision prevention assist plus’ with semi-autonomous braking, blind spot monitor and lane keeping assist, pre-safe attention assist, ABS, automatic-locking doors with emergency opening, brake assist, crash responsive emergency lighting, ESC and run-flat safety tyres with pressure-loss warning system.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The reality is the CLA Shooting Brake has no direct rivals. But looking around the Benz showroom shows an alternative in the shape of the C-class wagon (for similar money) and BMW has the 3 Series GT, with its sloping roof and frameless doors.
We would also perhaps throw the Volvo V60 into the mix, and that''s about it.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The CLA Shooting Brake has been an instant hit and the most popular iteration of all models using the A-Class platform. It’s roomy, practical and, with those looks, highly individual.
It can back that up with really enjoyable on-road panache, plus a relatively small $1500 premium over the coupe, making it a wise choice for most.
It is a very complete and stylish small wagon from Mercedes-Benz, with real on-road elan and presence. If you’re shopping sub-$70k for a family chariot, it comes with a confident recommendation from us.
But while it has no direct competitors right now, watch this space; nobody lets their rivals have the sandpit to themselves for long.
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