Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake 200 AMG Line Review
Shooting For The Top

James Wong
27 Feb 2020
 

"The second generation CLA has matured to a point where you settle for far less compromises in going for the stylish option."

Mercedes-Benz, one of the most traditional German automakers just a decade or two ago, of late is one of the most fashionable and forward-looking. Before any of its competitors did it, they came up with an entry-level four-door Coupe, the CLA, inspired by the successful and genre-busting CLS. Although looking slightly awkward when first launched, squeezing a low and wide shape into the hatchback A-Class platform, it was a hit with millennials who craved svelte looks on a Mercedes for accessible money. 

The second generation CLA is far more resolved, now based on the new, more flexible MFA2 platform. The car has matured beautifully, and the dividends can be seen not just on the Coupe but also on the unique Shooting Brake. Essentially a Coupe-like wagon, the CLA Shooting Brake doesn’t really have any competitors in its niche within a niche. 

Like the Coupe, the Shooting Brake has a long bonnet and compact greenhouse. What is more pronounced in its wagon shape are the sinewy curves over the rear wheel arch which gives the impression it may have drive to the rear wheels (the CLA200 is actually only front-wheel driven). It is now properly eye-catching with no awkward angles, thanks to an increase in length (+48mm), width (+53mm), wheelbase (+30mm) and front (+63mm) and rear tracks (+55mm). Essentially, it is now hunkered down closer to the ground, with wider shoulders and a longer overall profile to let the roofline stretch properly. The last point corrects the main drawback about the Coupe, which is the tight headroom for rear passengers. Something to watch out for with the sports car-like proportions though is how low the front AMG chrome splitter is - it is prone to scrapping at some steep car parks. 

Mercedes has also reduced the number of character lines on the car and as a result the shape is far more organic and natural. I don’t think I have seen a more arresting estate car this side of $200,000. To top it off, the load compartment opening is now a massive 236mm wider than before, which makes the car extremely practical for loading and unloading. If you’re considering a C180 Estate ($203,888 at press time), you would do well to check out the CLA200 Shooting Brake ($185,888 at press time) first. 

Inside

Evidently, Mercedes has invested plenty into the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) and made it the focal point for the whole interior. Two 10.25-inch displays, sitting next to each other like an elongated iPad, function as the control centre of the car. Coming as standard whichever Shooting Brake trim you choose, they are incredibly sharp and crisp to look at, and the software is unflinchingly good. The right screen where the instrument dials sit is controlled by the right of the steering wheel, with a touch sensitive pad. The left screen can be accessed either by the same pad on left of the steering wheel or a touch pad placed in between the front seats. Although it is a little daunting to use at the start, digital natives will soon get used to it and flick through the menus like it’s their own iPhone. 

The “wow” factor continues when it turns dark. Up to 64 colours can be chosen for the ambient lighting (also standard for all trims), and depending on the theme you can make it feel like Friday night in Marquee. Definitely not your father’s Mercedes, then. It’s all very dazzling like a blockbuster movie but what about the other more mundane parts of the interior? 

The good news is that in general, quality is definitely up a notch from the previous CLA. The doors close with a reassuring thunk. There are classier appointments, softer touch materials and an overall futuristic, ultra-modern theme. Forget about standard USB ports; all of them are now USB-C, so Mercedes provided a set of converters but you’ll need more. There is also a wireless charger although this doesn’t connect wirelessly to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto - yet. There are some small let down points, like the flimsy switchgear that seemed to have been put in place on an off-day. Overall though, you are likely to look past the faults for the impressive technology on board.   

If you had concerns about the CLA’s practicality, the Shooting Brake answers most of those questions. Legroom is very respectable for the class front and rear, and although headroom is still a bit of a premium for the rear, it is a far better proposition than it is in the saloon. The boot is also appreciably useful; the opening is wide and low, allowing easy loading of large objects. With the rear seats down I did an IKEA flat pack furniture run easily. It certainly fulfills the brief of an estate car, however improbable those looks may suggest. 

Although comfort has always been a priority for a Mercedes, the CLA has a purposefully youthful character. Aside from the looks, this extends also to the seats. The padding on them is fairly stiff for a Mercedes, although they are never uncomfortable. But it’s something definitely set up for keen driving, as we are about to find out. 

The Drive

If the last CLA was any indication, I was setting myself up for a harsh ride and a slow-shifting dual clutch gearbox. I was truly wrong; this new generation CLA is utterly brilliant in righting all the wrongs of its predecessor. The ride, while set up for sportiness, is now compliant and soaks up bumps admirably unless the road gets really broken. On a highway cruise it settles down nicely and feels like it can munch up the miles with ease. With my wife and baby sat at the back, the high comfort levels even received compliments. 

The gearbox now is really good and rivals the best of its class. Unlike the variants with larger engines which use a further developed 7G-DCT of the last car, the CLA200 uses an entirely new 7G-DCT box. With a low weight of just 67kg, it was developed together with GETRAG. Upshifts are quick and smooth; downshifts are imperceptible and will even blip if Sport mode is activated. It now feels clever, decisive and sharp, which can only enhance the overall experience. 

The newly-developed M282 petrol engine with an unusual displacement of 1.33-litres was developed in cooperation with Renault. Purists may scoff at this but the performance proves them wrong. The all-aluminium engine revs freely all the way to its redline, and sounds good while at it, maybe because its cylinder walls are coated using a patented Nanoslide process and the piston skirts have an Eco-Tough coating. These innovations serve to reduce friction and give high wear resistance. It certainly feels it from the driver’s seat; there is very little inertia to speak of in the engine. In fact it is so enjoyable driving the engine hard that the fuel tank seemed a tad too small; with 43 litres, I had only a range of about 400km with an average fuel consumption during the test drive of 10.8L/100km. For the size of engine it is not very efficient. If Daimler is reading this, they should specify the car with the optional larger fuel tank. 

Even with only four cylinders, the engine is capable of shutting off two of its cylinders. During the test drive I hardly noticed this at all, or indeed even realising that the engine was shut off at the lights. On an idle, the engine has a slight vibration but on the move it does a commendable effort of feeling like a six-cylinder. It is extremely smooth. 

With a small displacement I was initially wondering if there would be enough power. However, the CLA200 Shooting Brake confirms that even base models these days are plenty quick enough. If pushed hard, the car will even torque steer. Otherwise, there is an ample power band to make efficient and quick progress, no doubt aided by the excellent gearbox as well. I hardly felt there was any situation where I lacked power. 

With all that power one is predisposed to go a little quicker. Thankfully, the car feels up for it. The steering, while light, feels precise and unpolluted. It may be unkind to draw comparisons to a Volkswagen, but the way the car drives feels very much like a Golf - a class leader in its own right. However, the CLA is even more emotive and engaging, from its steering tuning to the characterful engine. It’s apparent that a team that loves driving developed the new CLA. 

Given all those sporty overtones, does the CLA still drive like a luxury car? Overall noise levels are low but due to the frameless windows, some unexpected sound frequencies do make their way into the cabin, like drilling from a construction site. Tyre roar does make its way into the cabin as well, more so than one would expect. It is disappointing but at the same time, a trade-off for the Coupe theme (the Shooting Brake has a Cd of 0.26 versus 0.23 for the Coupe) and for the fact that it’s still an entry-level Mercedes.  

For something to impress your mates, it’s worth mastering the auto parking feature. It is very accurate, catching the majority of available lots that passed my way. After a simple confirmation, the car will signal its intentions to park and all you need to do is put it in Reverse. It will do everything else, including going back to Drive to adjust itself forward for a perfect parking position. It really works like a treat, especially for those tight parallel parking lots. 

Our Thoughts

The second generation CLA has matured to a point where you settle for far less compromises in going for the stylish option. It feels like the platform was built precisely for a car like the CLA, and more specifically the Shooting Brake. Of all variants of the MFA2 platform, I would wager that the CLA Shooting Brake is the best of the range. Comparing the same trim levels, the A200 saloon and hatchback do not have the same sophisticated suspension as the CLA200 Coupe and Shooting Brake; A200s have a rear torsion beam unless you pick an A250 or higher. While the CLA Coupe looks wonderful, the CLA Shooting Brake looks equally stunning, if not more so, riding on the trendy estate body shape. Also, there’s nothing else out there like it. 

Alas, it is also the most expensive variant and what you pay can also net you a basic C-Class, maybe even with some change. However if you fancy an estate, the case is much stronger, with the CLA200 Shooting Brake saving you a cool $18,000 (valid until 5 March 2020) versus the dearer C180 Estate. 

#MercedesBenz #Mercedes #C118 #X118 #Autos #Cars #CLA #ShootingBrake

In Summary

We Like

It’s now genuinely beautiful. The proportions are fantastic, the driving experience is genuinely good, the tech is best-in-class and practicality is sorted with a well-sized boot with easy loading. It answers the emotional and practical questions at the same time - a rare occurrence.   

We Don't

Some interior detailing can feel cheap, while the car seems expensive if you’re not into estates. The engine isn’t particularly efficient and the car lets in more noise from the outside than it should.   

Verdict

Among all of the front-wheel drive Mercedes cars, the CLA Shooting Brake is the one to get. The best, most resolved yet, proving Mercedes can build good small cars too.   

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Engine

Engine Capacity 1332cc
Engine Type Inline 4
Power 163bhp @ 5500rpm
Torque 250Nm @ 1620rpm

Performance

Acceleration 8.4s (0-100 km/h)
Top Speed 226 km/h
Fuel Consumption (combined) 17.5 km/L

Misc Technical Data

Transmission 7 -speed DCT
Drive Type FF

Measurements

Body Type Wagon
Dimension
(L x W x H)
(4688 x 1999 x 1442) mm
Wheelbase 2729 mm
Boot Capacity 505 L
Boot Capacity (folded) 1370 L

Brakes

Brakes (Front) Ventilated Discs
Brakes (Rear) Discs