Lexus IS300 2019 review: snapshot
The Lexus IS300 was a nameplate that stood out all those years ago, and then came the era of turbocharging. Lexus didn't think IS200t was a fitting badge - so it renamed the 2.0-litre turbo model.
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Mercedes-Benz’s Gordon Wagener is a car design rock star. He’s the guy that shapes the three-pointed star’s design strategy and a decade ago introduced the concept of ‘sensual purity’ as a key driver of the way the brand’s cars should look and feel. And this is the latest expression of that thought, the second-generation (C118) CLA four-door Coupe.
But does the drive match the creative style? We got behind the wheel of the first model to arrive, the entry-level CLA 200, to find out.
While the way a car looks is a subjective call, and as always, your thoughts are welcome in the comments below, I’m putting it out there… this is a beautiful machine. And Gordon Wagener’s not pulling any punches, either. He thinks it has the potential to become, “a modern design icon.”
The long bonnet, cab-rear, wide-track proportions sit within a slightly larger footprint. The new CLA is marginally longer, wider, lower overall, and has a lengthier wheelbase than the model it replaces. And the car’s intricate mix of gently curved surfaces and hard lines is expertly managed, with a standard AMG body kit, complete with 18-inch rims, adding just a hint of macho intent.
The angle of the shoulder runs from this character line, virtually unchanged up to the roof, and the inward slope of the side glass (car designers call it tumblehome) is quite pronounced. And the sweeping curve at the top of the front guards is defined by hard strakes on the outer edges of the bonnet.
The rear view is arguably the CLA’s most appealing angle with the intersection of the sloping turret, boot, and rear guards neatly resolved.
It’s super slick aerodynamically, as well, boasting a Cd of 0.23, running a close second to it’s A-Class sedan sibling (0.22) which Merc claims as the world’s most aero-efficient series production four-door.
But what about the inside? Well, the biggest visual feature is the customisable MBUX media and data interface, expressed dramatically through a pair of 10.25-inch widescreens.
The info available and number of configurations offered is mind-blowing. It’s very 2019 and spot-on target for the digital generation.
Piano black surfaces around the dash and console lift the tone (but pick up the fingerprints) while the signature turbine-style vents add another flash of visual interest without compromising function.
Other highlights include front seats with racy one-piece backs (reflected on the top of the outer rear seats, as well), frameless doors enhancing the coupe feel, and neatly detailed stitching around the dash and doors.
Despite a two mm drop in overall height, the CLA’s front headroom has been extended by 17mm, and there’s lots of room up front, with storage running to two cupholders in the centre console, a lidded bin/armrest between the seats (including twin USB ports), an overhead sunglass holder, decent door pockets with room for bottles and a medium-size glove box.
There’s also a mat for wireless device charging at the front of the centre console, complete with another USB input (just in case).
But what does that sexy, sloping roofline do for space in the rear?
Sitting behind the driver's seat set to my (183cm) position, there’s adequate legroom, but despite Merc claiming an extra 3.0mm of headroom, my noggin made firm contact with the headliner.
It’s worth remembering this is a coupe-style four-door, with the packaging compromises a swoopy roof brings. You could call it a ‘2+3’, with a couple of doors added to make access to the back seats easier.
A centre fold-down armrest incorporates two cupholders, again there are generous pockets in the doors with room for bottles, map pockets on the front seatbacks, and adjustable ventilation outlets set into the back of the front centre console are a welcome inclusion.
There are three belted positions across the rear, but the adults using them for anything other than short journeys will have to be good friends and flexible. Kids will be fine.
Boot volume is a healthy 460 litres (VDA), which is down 10 litres on the first-gen car, but the aperture has been widened by no less than 262mm, and a 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat opens up extra space. There are tie-down hooks, a 12-volt outlet and elasticised storage pockets either side of the load space to further enhance useability, plus a cargo net is included.
No news on towing capacity at this stage, and don’t bother looking for a spare, the tyres are run flats.
In Australia the CLA 200 weighs in at $59,500, before on-road costs, which is plenty, but the all-wheel drive CLA 250 ($68,800) will join it early in 2020, so the range will line up against the likes of BMW’s 4 Series Gran Coupe, even the Audi A5 Sportback.
The Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 ($83,400) arrives before the of 2019, with the full-fat CLA 45 S scheduled for Q1 2020 (estimated circa $95,000).
For that $60K price tag the CLA 200’s standard features list includes, dual-zone climate control air, sports seats, ambient (interior) lighting, ‘Artico’ and ‘Dinamica’ trim (faux leather and suede, respectively), the twin 10.25-inch digital media and instrument screens (running the ‘MBUX’ interface), an AMG styling pack (including 18-inch alloy wheels), active cruise control, auto headlights, keyless entry and start, LED headlights, DRLs and tail-lights, a leather multi-function, flat-bottom sports steering wheel, sat nav, park assist (including a reversing camera), rain-sensing wipers, wireless phone charging, ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control, and nine-speaker audio including digital radio as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
All CLAs can also be hooked up (via a smartphone app) to the ‘Mercedes me Connect’ remote connectivity system, allowing access to locking/unlocking the doors, tracking and locating the vehicle, retrieving maintenance and service information, and more.
For the record, our test example was loaded with five option packages, adding no less than $13,630 to the price tag for a total of $73,130. Specifically, the ‘AMG Exclusive Package’ ($3190) – Heated and cooled front seats, ‘Lugano’ two-tone leather upholstery (with contrast top-stitching), adaptive damping, and ‘Energising Comfort Control’, the ‘Communications Package’ ($2490) - Head-up display and Burmester 590W, 12-speaker ‘surround sound’ audio, ‘Driver Assistance Package’ ($1790) – ‘Active Distance Assist’ (including ‘Cross-Traffic Assist’), ‘Driving Assistance package Plus’, ‘Lane Change Assist’, ‘Extended automatic Re-start’ (in traffic), and ‘Route Based Speed Adaptation’, and ‘Seat Comfort Package’ ($1290) - Electrically adjustable front seats, memory function for driver’s seat, exterior mirrors and head-up display (if fitted), heated front seats, and passenger mirror with reverse parking position, and ‘Vision Package’ ($2490) – ‘Adaptive Highbeam Assist PLUS’, ‘Multibeam’ LED headlights, panoramic electric sunroof, ‘Parking package HIGH’ (featuring 360-degree camera).
The CLA 200 is powered by Merc’s 1.3-litre (M 282), direct-injection four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine driving the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission (with paddle shifters on the wheel).
It’s the product of a joint development with Renault, and outputs are 120kW at 5500rpm and 250Nm at 1620rpm, which is pretty impressive for such a small capacity unit.
The single turbo features an electronically controlled wastegate and flexible charge pressure control to optimise boost across the entire rev range (rev ceiling is 6300rpm), with an equal focus on power, step-off throttle response and fuel efficiency.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 5.7L/100km, the CLA emitting 130g/km of CO2 in the process.
At just over 1.4 tonnes it’s fairly hefty for its size, but at partial load between 1250-3800rpm two of the engine’s four cylinders shut down to improve economy. ‘ECO’ mode dampens performance in the name of improved economy, plus stop-start is standard.
And over roughly 200km of freeway, city and suburban running we saw an average of 7.5L/100km courtesy of the on-board read-out.
Minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded, and you’ll need 43 litres of it to fill the tank, which at our real-world average delivers a range of approximately 575km.
So, despite the engine’s small capacity the addition of a turbo means peak torque (250Nm) arrives at just 1620rpm. Power delivery is linear and mid-range acceleration is healthy. Claimed 0-100km/h acceleration is 8.2sec, which is neither sluggish nor particularly fast, but performance is more than adequate around town and on the highway.
The seven-speed dual-clutch auto shifts smoothly, but not particularly rapidly, although a switch to manual mode and use of the wheel-mounted paddles means you can be more selective about which ratio you’re in and for how long.
Standard suspension set-up is strut front, multi-link rear, with many of the components made from aluminium to reduce unsprung weight, and the CLA feels nimble through twisting backroad bends.
Our test car was optioned with the AMG Exclusive Package, which includes adaptive dampers. And no surprise ‘Sport’ mode is severe, and the fillings in your teeth (unless you’re one of those strange people that don’t have any) will be in danger of rattling loose over anything other than a billiard table smooth surface.
By contrast, ‘Comfort’ lives up to its name with a supremely compliant ride without any sacrifice in terms of balance and (taut) body control. The standard 18-inch rims, shod with 225/45 rubber, don’t put a disenable dent in proceedings, either.
The electro-mechanical steering points accurately and delivers a good connection with what’s happening at the front wheels. Assistance is subtle.
Brakes are vented discs up front, with solid rotors at the rear. Purely in the interests of a full and well-rounded review we enthusiastically pushed through some lengthy B-road sections, and the pedal remained firm and consistent.
In short the CLA is a refined city coupe that doubles as a comfortable touring car.
3 years / — km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
It’s hard to fault Mercedes-Benz when it comes to safety, and the new CLA is loaded with standard active and passive tech.
Active safety tech includes ABS, BA, EBD, stability and traction controls, a reversing camera (with dynamic guidelines), 'Active Brake Assist' (Merc-speak for AEB), 'Adaptive Brake', 'Attention Assist', 'Blind Spot Assist' (with exit warning assistant), 'Cross-wind Assist', 'Lane Keep Assist', a tyre pressure warning system, a reversing camera plus ‘Parking Distance Control’ (front and rear), 'Traffic Sign Assist', a wet weather brake drying function, and ‘Active High Beam Control’.
If all that fails to prevent an impact you'll be protected by the 'Pre-Safe' accident anticipatory system, plus nine airbags (front, pelvis and window for driver and front passenger, side airbags for rear seat occupants and a driver's knee bag), and the 'Active Bonnet' automatically tilts to minimise pedestrian injuries.
There’s also an impact-sensing auto door unlock system, an auto emergency call function and crash responsive emergency lighting, plus a first-aid kit, warning triangle and (five) hi-vis vests in the boot are thoughtful additions.
The A-Class (which encompasses the CLA) was awarded a maximum five ANCAP stars in 2018, and for smaller occupants there are three child restraint/baby capsule top tether points across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.
The Mercedes-Benz range is covered by a three year/unlimited km warranty, which, like Audi and BMW continues to lag behind the mainstream market where the majority of players are now at five years/unlimited km, with some at seven years.
On the upside, Mercedes-Benz ‘Road Care’ roadside assistance is included in the deal for three years.
Service is scheduled for 12 months/25,000km (whichever comes first) with pricing available on an 'Up-front' or 'Pay-as-you-go' basis.
For the CLA, pre-payment delivers a $500 saving, with the first three services set at a total of $2050, compared to $2550 PAYG. Fourth and fifth services are also available for pre-purchase.
The Mercedes-Benz CLA 200 is sleek, well-equipped, and beautifully engineered. That said, it’s pricey. You can get a car that’s 80 percent as good for 50 per cent of the price. But getting that extra 20 percent in terms of refinement, dynamic ability and design sophistication is what you’re paying for. If you’ve got the extra dough, top dollar buys you a spot on the top shelf.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
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