The CLA: Gateway Drive

mercedes cla 2014

Mercedes Benz moves to stay relevant by aiming at Generation-Y with a bullet in the all-new CLA250.  It is built like a Mercedes, drives like a Mercedes but costs as much as a high-end Ford Fusion. Sincerely.

So I pose the question, “Is Mercedes a brand that you aspire to purchase right now?”  Maybe it hits the top of your list when your hair starts to thin or gray a bit. Or maybe when you get that six-figure salary you are hustling for.

Well, Mercedes would like to welcome you to the party early.

For starters, Mercedes had a contest this summer, prior to the release of the model, enlisting five of Instagram’s top photographers to take to the road for five days in a CLA summer documenting their travels.   The one with the most “likes” kept their CLA, while another CLA was up for grabs for one lucky everyday Instagramer who’s timeline matched the spirit of the CLA.  The campaign, “#CLATaketheWheel” was a success and groundbreaking in marketing and generating a buzz to Gen-Y through social media.

Recently, Mercedes invited Behind The Hustle to the vehicle’s launch in historic Georgetown in the Nation’s Capital. There we had breakfast with Mercedes Benz USA President Steve Cannon, who shared the importance of the CLA as a lively entry point for younger buyers 20 – 30 to get familiar with the brand.

Next, we got a chance to kick the tires and ride with the devil. If you haven’t seen the commercial with Willem Dafoe and Usher, maybe the devil reference missed you.

Behind the wheel, the CLA250 performs well. It is not hitting on all cylinders like a higher priced Mercedes, but that is to be expected for the price.  What is unexpected is how the front-wheel drive vehicle pumps out over 200 horsepower from a beefy 4 cylinder and holds it own in handling and acceleration on the road.  The sporty appeal and aggressive lines on the exterior round out this party starter. The CLA250 stretches the limit of anything offered in its price range. Not to mention the iconic star that rests in the front grill and the center of the steering wheel.

The CLA doesn’t come off as a lesser clone or a knock off.  It’s a Mercedes and that means something.  Safety is still its cornerstone and the base model is loaded with features including Mbrace2, Mercedes smartphone app that sends the Internet to your dashboard and your car to your phone.

“It’s not how far or fast you go; it’s who follows you,” remarks a voice in a promo video for the “CLA Take the Wheel” campaign.

In an age where you are what people think you are according to your social network, perception is key and Mercedes makes a great argument with the CLA250 why that key should be to a Benzo.

2014 Mercedes Benz CLA250
Price Tag: $29,900 base ($34,995 tested)
Power: 2.0L I-4 Turbo Engine 208 horsepower
Transmission: 7-speed Automatic w/Shift Paddles ECO/Sport Modes
Wheels:  17-inch All-Season Tires
Drivetrain: Front-Wheel Drive
Fuel Economy (mpg): 26-city/ 38-hwy

(image via @mbusa)

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by Mike Tucker