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2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4Matic Long-Term Update 1

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 8/5/2015 Brian Brantley, Chris Clonts
2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4Matic Long-Term Update 1

We've already racked up more than 3,000 miles on our beautiful 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 with the Sport Plus package, and boy, do we have a lot — good and bad — to talk about. The CLA has a lot of cool features and nice entry-level luxury touches, which we'll get to in later updates.

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But almost anyone who jumps in the CLA250 and drives it for any length of time — even if they're not a veteran auto journalist — will notice one thing first: the transmission. One TEN editor who doesn't get into cars all that often asked, "What's wrong with the shifting?" when she hopped out of it.

MotorTend Image© Provided by MotorTrend MotorTend Image By default, the seven-speed DCT is in Eco mode. And boy, is it conservative. Around town in low- to mid-speed traffic, it seems to want to keep the 2.0-liter turbo-four at just above 1,000 rpm, well below its sweet spot. You feel those early shifts, too. It's like you're walking through thigh-deep mud and trying not to make too much noise.

Granted, even in Eco mode the throttle mapping and transmission logic push the shift points much higher when you're clearly trying to scoot. But in normal driving, it can feel like a chore.

Online conversations among CLA250 owners indicate that many if not most put the car in Sport mode. (A small contingent runs around in Manual mode, but with a seven-speed transmission that's just not much fun or necessary unless you're canyon roading on a weekend.)

MotorTend Image© Provided by MotorTrend MotorTend Image Sport mode drastically raises the shift points, to 2,000-4,000 rpm and even higher if you're really spurring the horse, and brings out the smiles a little more. It's this mode that brings in others' comparisons to the Volkswagen GTI. It's a lot more fun, but there's no question it's going to put a dent in fuel economy.

It also can get a little droney, evoking unrefined CVTs, if you leave Sport mode on in stop-and-go traffic, as it can find itself stuck in second or third at a high rpm but before a shift point. And if you stay at that speed, the programmed logic will generally not relent and shift unless you alter the throttle position somehow or manually upshift with the right paddle.

The whole situation was summed up nicely by "Picard," a member of the MercedesCLA250.org forum. Lots of people — me included — wish there were a mode between Eco and Sport. Say, a "Normal" mode. Or perhaps a dial with which you could arrive at a good balance between the two.

In a future update, we'll try to determine how far apart the two transmission/throttle modes are in miles per gallon. We'll also address the second most frequent punching bag for the car, the dreaded auto stop.

Make no mistake: The CLA250 is a head-turner, if polarizing, with an interior that's a nice place to spend time. We'll look forward to finding out more about what everyday life is like with it and its unique features.

More on our long-term 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Sport here:

The CLA250's looks are known to be polarizing, but from some angles the baby Benz is downright menacing, especially when trimmed in the Sport Plus package.© Provided by MotorTrend The CLA250's looks are known to be polarizing, but from some angles the baby Benz is downright menacing, especially when trimmed in the Sport Plus package. 2015 Mercedes CLA250 (Photographed by Brian Brian/Brian Brantley Media, ©2015)© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Mercedes CLA250 (Photographed by Brian Brian/Brian Brantley Media, ©2015)
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