14 JULY 2014
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On Test with Ted Wilkinson of The Guild of Motoring Writers
Mercedes-Benz CLA 180 Sport
A really 'with it' Car!
First sight of the new Mercedes-Benz CLA saloon got me even more excited than when I tested the new A-Class model.
Yes, Mercedes-Benz has a very desirable and extensive car range but just recently it has really come up trumps with some mould-breaking new models.
Cars are invariably categorised and to all intents and purposes I would suggest that this new model kicks off in the junior executive sector though considering Mercedes character I suspect that a really potent AMG version will eventually emerge as the car’s dynamics seem ideal for considerably more outright performance.
What is on offer here is a choice between a 170 bhp turbo diesel engine or a 122 bhp turbo petrol engine. I tested the 1.8-petrol version in Sport specification which I suggest will prove popular for those undertaking mixed types of journeys such as some short trips and also longer journeys.
This car turned eyes and generated lots of questions, invariably from existing Mercedes-Benz owners and from those currently driving other premium brand cars.
Hey! I thought, this car is selling itself!
Mercedes-Benz has majored on rear wheel drive cars and this sensibly sized, very comfortable five-seat saloon sticks to that layout, offering very competent handling, bags of driver feel good factor, a slightly firm but not uncomfortable ride through the slightly lower Sports/Comfort specification suspension and invigorating performance from the modern age 4-cylinder engine.
Mechanical noise is not bad, just a slight beat when the engine is working up and some rumble from the good gripping tyres.
As I have come to expect, the output of modern car engines has come in leaps and bounds and from this 1.6-litre engine, that incorporates variable valve timing and stop+start system, the performance is seriously impressive. Top speed is a claimed 130 mph with acceleration from rest to 62 mph (100 kph) said to take a respectable 9.2 seconds, the performance being aided by a sensibly ratioed 6-speed gearbox that provided accurate and quick changes though I suspect on the very new test car the mechanism would get even snappier once it had loosened up.
The efficiency of the power unit is also proven by an official combined fuel consumption of 50.4 mpg which I suggest equates to a real world figure of around 45 mpg unless one really presses on a lot.
The interior is as impressive as the exterior, finely sculpted plastic mouldings, bold instrumentation that sensibly included a digital KPH reading as well as the usual MPH, clearly marked minor controls and sensible use of chrome and patterned metal trim. Looks the business, typical Mercedes.
The high back leather upholstered front seats feature incorporated head rests and provide figure hugging comfort and the memory electrically adjustable facility, excellent pedal positioning and adjustable steering column enable the driver to tailor a comfortable driving position regardless of physical individuality. Both front seats are adjustably heated.
Driver vision is very good from the front and to compensate for the high boot line there is a rear view camera (a cost extra item) plus standard fit automatic parking system. State-of-the-art directional headlights and powerful rain sensing wiper system make for easy driving under all conditions.
Styling might suggest practicality sacrifices. Well, nothing serious, rear passenger space is actually more than acceptable for three adults both for head and leg space, the boot has small aperture and a high lower lip but though shallow goes back a long way and the space can be augmented by the 60/40 split folding rear seats. There are chrome luggage securing lugs in the load space but no evidence of a spare wheel.
Safety is up to the usual high standard I expect from this car brand. Air bag protection is extensive including the usual front bags plus head and side airbags and a driver’s knee airbag. There is a collision prevention assist system, adaptive brake lights, an active bonnet to minimise pedestrian impact, crash responsive emergency lighting, Acceleration Skid Control system, tyre pressure warning system and a fatigue alert system.
For general kit this car is right up there, the package comes with an easy use satellite navigation system, keyless start/stop, an extensive infotainment system, automatic climate control, multi-function steering wheel, on-board computer and a lot more.
That’s just for starters and there are some desirable options as fitted to the test car, these included auto fold exterior mirrors, lane tracking package, blind spot assist, run flat tyres – still a very competitive price for a very impressive car. It is on my short list!
MAIN RIVALS: BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Mazda6, Honda Accord, Alfa Romeo Guilietta.
STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Ride and Comfort 9
Price From: £24,355 – as tested: £31,795
NOTES FROM TED WILKINSON’S MOTORING DIARY
CAR HIRE: An increasing number of crime incidents involving hire car victims in close proximity to airports has made wise hirers remove the rear window stickers promoting the hire car supplier. Regulars suggest that if the hiring company has not removed the sticker then the user should do so immediately after taking over the car - it can temporarily be stuck back to the inside of the boot and replaced once the hiring is over. www.bvrla.co.uk
There are also warnings that users should never leave the car unoccupied at motorway/auto route service stations.
GOLF SCORES: Volkswagen has announced a feature-packed Golf version, the Golf Match with a higher specification that the SE model it replaces. Price starts at £19,680 on the road for the entry level 1.4 TSI 122 PS. www.volkswagen.co.uk
JAGUAR: When the very important Jaguar XE compact luxury sedan arrives to take the fight to the BMW 3 Series towards the end of next year, it will have a new series of engines called Ingenium under the hood. Jaguar Land Rover have released a few details about these next-generation power plants. All versions will be turbocharged and feature aluminium blocks based around modular 500-cc cylinders. They’ll be able to grow or shrink depending on the application, and there will be both gasoline and diesel version. The XE will share a platform with the upcoming Jag crossover, and it’s likely Ingenium applications won’t be limited to those two vehicles. It should make it for a revamped 2.2 XF as well. www.jaguarlandrover.com
ROAD ACCIDENTS: Serious casualty rates rose by 25% last year on 20 mph controlled roads and slight injuries by 17%. On 30 and 40 mph speed limit roads there was a 5% and 3% reductions respectively in the number of slight accidents. www.gov.uk/government/collections/road-accidents-and-safety-statistics
ROLLS-ROYCE: Following the success of the R-R Studio opening in Cannes last year, the iconic car maker has opened a similar venue in Porto Cervo, Sardinia where R-R guests can appreciate the exclusive club atmosphere and inspect a wide range of the latest models, including the exclusive Phantom Drophead Coupe Waterspeed Collection Car. www.rolls-roycemotorcars.com
VAUXHALL: Now available is the Vauxhall GTC with the refined and powerful 1.6 CDTi ‘Whisper Diesel' engine. It is the latest model to benefit from the economical new engine, following its introduction in the Astra, Meriva and Zafira Tourer. The engine replaces the 1.7 CDTi, providing 320Nm torque (up 20Nm) and 136PS (an increase of 6PS) to ensure its refinement and economy is matched by its performance, delivered through an improved six-speed manual transmission. Available in Sport, Limited Edition and Sri Trims, equipped with Start/Stop plus a braking energy recuperation system as standard, the GTC 1.6 CDTi delivers fuel economy of up to 68.9mpg on the combined cycle and has CO2 emissions of just 104g/km and 109g/km. Priced from £22,260. www.vauxhall.co.uk
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