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Rough Rider - 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Long-Term Road Test

Edmunds.comEdmunds.com Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 10,315
edited November 2014 in Mercedes-Benz
imageRough Rider - 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Long-Term Road Test

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is a good fit for the narrow confines of the big city, but its ride around town leaves much to be desired.

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    mercedesfanmercedesfan Member Posts: 365
    The answer is pretty easy: Mercedes has never done the "sporty" thing before. The W204 C-Class, even in sport guise, was among the most supple cars in its segment. MB has always prioritized ride comfort over outright handling. However, with the CLA (and certain versions of the W205) they attempted to go after a more youthful market and felt it necessary to deliver a more performance-focused product. They don't have the years of experience that BMW and Audi have, though. Their suspension designers just aren't used to these kinds of constraints. This isn't unusual. Audis rode like crap until just a few years ago for the same reason and sport-package Bimmers used to be borderline intolerable. Sometimes the only way to learn is to do.
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    allthingshondaallthingshonda Member Posts: 878
    Hey Mercedes,

    I suggest you go out and buy a Mazda 6 and check their suspension tuning out and maybe reverse engineer it. Maybe even take a Caddy CTS V-Sport for a ride and look at how it can really be done. Luxury car ride for everyday but select track mode and you can pull .90gs on the skidpad. One word...Magneride.
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    kirkhilles1kirkhilles1 Member Posts: 863

    The answer is pretty easy: Mercedes has never done the "sporty" thing before. The W204 C-Class, even in sport guise, was among the most supple cars in its segment. MB has always prioritized ride comfort over outright handling. However, with the CLA (and certain versions of the W205) they attempted to go after a more youthful market and felt it necessary to deliver a more performance-focused product. They don't have the years of experience that BMW and Audi have, though. Their suspension designers just aren't used to these kinds of constraints. This isn't unusual. Audis rode like crap until just a few years ago for the same reason and sport-package Bimmers used to be borderline intolerable. Sometimes the only way to learn is to do.

    That's interesting. I was originally going to post that "when I think of Mercedes I think Luxury; when I think of BMW I think Sporty", but it may be that Mercedes is seeing their numbers dwindle as older people die off and younger people take their place.
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    farvyfarvy Member Posts: 34
    What is that bright stuff in the air with the blue background? Oh my gosh, it's the sky! No clouds! Sunshine! Warmth! I digress - it's cloudy & freezing cold here in Michigan. On to the car. I believe there is a softer suspension option for the CLA in Europe, but Mercedes decided to only offer the car here with the sport tune. And they even offer a harder tune in the Sport Package Plus option. I guess the young demographic=sporty. I guess I was there at some point decades ago when I was driving Honda Preludes (86, 91, 97). As much as I find myself nodding my head to mercedesfans comments, I have had both Sport & Luxury packages on the W204 C class, & I found the Sport just too rough for me here on the cratered Michigan roads. My last two C classes have been the Luxury spec, & even those are rougher than what I would expect. I drove a base E350 for about two weeks this summer & that rode better than my C class. Loved that E350. I test drove a 2015 C class with the Luxury spec & now that was a nice ride. But even the non-Sport base C class (on 17" wheels) rides better than my current car, so that's what I went with on a new order because I like the looks of it better. I just think it comes down to how they want to tune the car to the particular demographic & where the car sits on the price chart.
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    tomkozskitomkozski Member Posts: 39
    Mercedes should just bring over the CLA with the same base suspension tuning as in Europe. Right now, we have the equivalent of the 'Sport Package' that's sold in Europe.
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    chol92594chol92594 Member Posts: 208
    I'll concur with what others have said about the Euro vs. US suspension options. It was a dumb move for Mercedes to offer the sportier tuning as the base suspension without giving buyers in the US the option for a softer suspension that already exists.

    I think a bigger problem that applies to many other cars besides this is that more and more makes are giving their models larger wheels with lower profile tires. This is fine on performance-tuned models, but anything below an aspect ratio of 50 or 55 doesn't provide enough of a buffer between road imperfections and the suspension IMO. Couple this with the fact that a lot of cars are equipped with performance tires instead of touring/grand touring tires and you end up with cars that are almost inherently set up to ride harshly. In extreme cases, the lower profile tires can even lead to problems with blowouts, bent rims, etc. if the driver isn't careful enough to avoid potholes and other obstacles.

    What manufacturers need to do is either group things like sportier tires, suspension tuning, etc. into packages or at least allow buyers to select different tire/wheel combinations. My mother's 2013 Tiguan SEL has 19" rims with 40 series tires which can make the ride a little harsh. Lesser-equipped models have smaller wheels with thicker sidewalls, but in order to get all of the equipment she wanted, she had to move up to an SEL and take the larger wheel/tire combo as part of the package. Manufacturers need to stop lumping things like this together, or at the very least, provide another option for buyers that don't want or need aggressive wheel and tire packages.
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    darthbimmerdarthbimmer Member Posts: 606
    Run-flat tires (RFTs) certainly contribute to the problem but they're not the whole story. My BMW 135 uses RFTs and it rides harshly over broken pavement and steel construction plates like in downtown San Francisco. It's not a "constant bump, shake and jostle" but it does hit the potholes pretty hard. For this reason I prefer taking my Xterra SUV, aka UAV (urban assault vehicle), when I drive downtown. Its tall tires and tough suspension take the punishment better.

    Also, I agree with @chol92594 that automakers have gone a bit too far with low profile tires. My 135 has 19s, and I feel like those are overkill on a car its size. I'd rather not go bigger than 18", and I'd probably be fine with 17s. My e36 M3 had 17s and handled great.
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    mercedesfanmercedesfan Member Posts: 365
    I would counter other comments on here by saying the CLA's base European suspension tuning isn't much better. I drove a non-sport A-Class through Germany last summer and it still rode far more harshly than a Mercedes should. It is an improvement over the sport setup, but not a complete fix. This goes deeper to a basic design principle about the car. I think we will see MB back away from these rock-hard suspension tunes with coming refreshes/redesigns.
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    legacygtlegacygt Member Posts: 599
    There have been many posts about this. I think it's an important observation. It may also not matter because this car is selling like crazy. Perhaps there will be a long term penalty to MB's reputation for luxury and isolation from imperfections in the road. I'm not sure I agree with the race to blame the run fats. I think it's simpler than that. The CLA is a small, FWD car tuned with a degree of sport to help justify its price and the MB badge. There are other cars that use this same formula but they are not luxury cars. How does the ride in the CLA compare to a Focus ST, GTI, MazdaSpeed3? MB would never want to see such comparisons but I think that's where you need to look to understand what's going on here. If you start with a compact car with FWD and you want to add a degree of sportiness, it's hard to avoid a harsher ride.
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