The Mercedes-Benz CLA Sure Is Getting Expensive

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
the mercedes benz cla sure is getting expensive

With the Mercedes-Benz A-Class now available in North America, the CLA Coupe (a sedan) is no longer the automaker’s most affordable offering. Part of that stems from the manufacturer need to keep some financial distance between the two. The A-Class is Daimler’s new gateway drug, leading younger buyers down the perilous road of purchasing GLEs and E-Class wagons. It’s best to let the CLA give the smaller sedan some economic breathing room. However, that was never really an issue, as CLA pricing has been running away with itself for years.

According to order forms intercepted by CarsDirect, the 2020 CLA250 will start at $37,645 (including a $995 destination charge). That makes it $3,550 dearer than the 2019 model year and $7,745 more than when the first CLA appeared in 2014.

Before you proclaim Mercedes a ruined brand in the comments, it’s worth examining how and why the brand is repositioning the CLA. That $3,550 price increase helps separate the 2020 model year from the A-Class’ $33,795 MSRP. Currently, there’s only a few hundred bucks separating the two — which isn’t ideal when the whole point of both vehicles is to reel in first-time buyers.

The pair are also extremely similar in both form and function. Without badging, we imagine most people would have no clue which was which. However, the 2020 CLA has been sized up in almost every dimension to help distinguish itself. Roughly two inches longer and wider than its predecessor, the new 4-door “coupe” stretches to 184.6 inches with 72.0 inches of girth. Meanwhile, the A-Class Sedan is 179.1 inches long and 70.7 inches wide.

The CLA250 also has a beefier, turbocharged 2.0-liter engine paired to a seven-speed DTC that’s capable of 33 more horses than the A220’s four-banger. That brings the front-wheel drive (AWD is optional) CLA up to 221 horsepower. Mercedes has also confirmed the 382-hp AMG CLA 45 (pictured above) for North America.

Daimler has similarly improved its technical prowess after leaving it more or less untouched since its debut. The 2020 CLA is decidedly modern, offering all the digital trappings you’d find on the A-Class — including big, customizable displays — with a bit more elbow room. Unfortunately, a lot of those inclusions are isolated behind a paywall. For example, if you want the Driver Assistance Package, you have to tack on other packages to get it. Ultimately, that means tacking on thousands more. As CarsDirect notes, adding those assistance features would instantly push the CLA beyond $42,000 by incorporating the Premium and Multimedia Packages. However, that’s not really uncharacteristic of Mercedes or most other premium nameplates.

Ultimately, the 2020 CLA appears head and shoulders better than the model it replaces, though it’s unclear if the price hike is truly warranted. The A-Class offers most of what you’ll find in the larger model while boasting a similar exterior and nearly identical cabin for less money.

Framed that way, it might be best to keep looking at the CLA as a bargain alternative to the rear-drive C-Class, which starts at $41,400 before destination. Perhaps with the cheaper sedan’s improvements, which include polished the ride quality and improved handling, it’ll be a contender. We’ll give it a full assessment when production models begin circulating later this year.

[Images: Daimler]

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  • Jkross22 Jkross22 on Aug 29, 2019

    The CLA to Mercedes would be like Ford selling a Focus sized F-150. I doubt many MB customers are buying this crap. It's the posers who are leasing them. Get the posers to pay more every month while depreciation for this sh*tbox continues to increase. Win-win. Posers get their glowing Merc star lighting package, Merc gets more of their money and anyone desperate enough to buy one used can keep picking them up for 1/2 off the bloated sticker price.

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    • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Aug 29, 2019

      Curious what the balance between retail lessees (very few buyers) and fleet sales is. The vast majority of CLAs I see in day-to-day life are Car2Go cars. Although I expect the next batch of them will be A-classes.

  • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Aug 30, 2019

    I think you're missing the whole point of the cited comments, let me try to explain this in larger terms. Humanity can essentially be measured on a Bell Curve, and depending on which percentile a person is in a certain area largely determines their world view. From the automotive sales standpoint, Mercedes-Benz in North America has historically targeted the 90% income percentile and up for sales while the remains of the top quartile are realistically the CPO target and the other three income quartiles are generally out of the sales equation but may not only aspire to the brand but probably will acquire very used models long into their life as status symbols. We see this with many other luxury products as well, so its nothing new. Mercedes' main customer base has changed little over the years even as the end product quality has gone up and down in about the past twenty, but with a product like CLA Mercedes is attempting to capture a whole new market in the US for it's new products. Some traditional buyers may find it appealing I don't know, but a traditional buyer who has experienced a true Mercedes would only need to spend a limited amount of time in the first CLA to realize it was not up to par. The 50-75% income quartile who has no previous exposure to a new Mercedes designed and built for the 90% percent price point does not understand nor probably cares about Mercedes heritage or Mercedes built quality, they simply have no point of reference. Daimler knows this and is using its economies of scale to build a cheaper product at a certain price point for a market it can con. Buyers who actually understand what a Mercedes is so to speak see right through the con job. This is the point of the cited comment, this product is lacking a certain amount of Mercedes DNA because from the start it wasn't designed or intended to be a Mercedes on par with what the company sold previously in North America. All three major German marques are in on this game now, and while I am not as familiar with the rival offerings from BMW and Audi, all three are diluting their branding in order to sell/lease product at a cheaper price point to the lower income quartile. Perhaps BMW and Audi did a much better job? I'm not sure. I do know much like Jaguar failed with the X-type, the CLA as introduced was not up to any kind of Mercedes standard for N.A. product and the so called critics agreed. I hope after several years of sales the engineering teams corrected most of the defects with the product, but this isn't to say the product is still up to the level it's supposed to be as a Mercedes. "MB consumers aren’t so brand loyal that they ignore very similar offerings from Audi and BMW and others." Buyers north of the 90% income percentile tend not to be loyal to any brand, they literally have the income to choose virtually anything they want and eat any depreciation without care. These are the people who buy things like the S-class, 7-series, XJ etc. because they will have discarded it quickly and never see most of the serious problems we know these models tend to encounter. The point of the dilution exercise is to target those in the lower quartiles on leasing schemes and turn them into regular customers, but ultimately they are being hoodwinked by marketeers and without any understanding of a better quality product they are willfully ignorant.

  • FreedMike Always lusted after that first-gen 300 - particularly the "Heritage Edition," which had special 300 badging and a translucent plastic steering wheel (ala the '50s and '60s "letter cars").
  • Dave M. Although the effective takeover by Daimler is pooped upon, this is one they got right. I wasn't a fan of the LHs, mostly due to reported mechanical, NVH and build quality issues, but I though Chrysler hit it out of the park with the LXs. The other hyped release that year was the Ford Five Hundred, which, while a well-built car with superior interior space, couldn't hold a candle to the 300.
  • Art Vandelay I always liked those last FWD 300's. Been ages since I've seen one on the road though. Lots of time in the RWD ones as rentals. No complaints whatsoever.
  • Cardave5150 I've had 2 different 300's - an '08 300SRT and an '18 300C. Loved them both a LOT, although, by the time I had the second one, I wasn't altogether thrilled with the image of 300's out on the street, as projected by the 3rd or 4th buyers of the cars.I always thought that the car looked a little stubby behind the rear wheels - something that an extra 3-4" in the trunk area would have greatly helped.When the 300 was first launched, there were invitation-only meet-and-greets at the dealerships, reminding me of the old days when new model-year launches were HUGE. At my local dealer, they were all in formalwear (tuxes and elegant dresses) with a nice spread of food. They gave out crystal medallions of the 300 in a sweet little velvet box (I've got mine around the house somewhere). I talked to a sales guy for about 5 minutes before I asked if we could take one of the cars out (a 300C with the 5.7 Hemi). He acted like he'd been waiting all evening for someone to ask that - we jumped in the car and went out - that thing, for the time, seemed to fly.Corey - when it comes time for it, don't forget to mention the slightly-stretched wheelbase 300 (I think it was the 300L??). I've never found one for sale (not that I've looked THAT hard), as they only built them for a couple of years.
  • Jkross22 "I’m doing more for the planet by continuing to drive my vehicle than buying a new one for strictly frivolous reasons."It's not possible to repeat this too much.