Audi’s entry level sedan, the A3 had no direct competitors here in India during the time of its launch. Mercedes Benz, not one to allow its rival to establish a monopoly, has recently unveiled the stunning CLA-Class for the domestic market. The understated Audi takes on the unapologetically brash CLA-Class. Who wins? We find out.
Audi’s range has always been about understatement and the A3 is no exception. The A3, as with the rest of the automaker’s range features the brand’s signature trapezoidal grille and LED DRLs. The A3 will no doubt be mistaken for its bigger brother the A4 quite often. However, while the current gen A4 is rather drab and far too clinical, the German car maker has endowed the baby sedan with a little bit of flair. As a result, the A3 pulls off an impressive blend of style and sophistication. With the launch of the new cabriolet model, the A3 gets a bit of zest that is so hard to find from the German car maker.
Mercedes Benz CLA-Class:
The CLA-Class adopts a completely different route than its Audi rival. With its seductive curves, coupe like body and stunning headlight design, the CLA is an absolute showstopper. While many may not agree with Mercedes Benz’s latest design philosophy, the CLA’s scintillating body will surely appeal to a younger buyers base, the section of the market that this car was designed for.
Winner: Mercedes Benz CLA-Class
Form follows function in the new Audi A3. The all black cabin swathed in leather and premium plastics is characteristic of Audi. The interiors follow the same design philosophy as the sedan’s exteriors with the German car maker paying more heed to functionality than styling. An analog instrument panel and a steering wheel complete with mounted controls greet the driver. The A3’s MMI system features an advanced unit with a pop-up displa. Users can control the infotainment system via a single knob located in the center stack. The knob also doubles up as a touch pad with character recognition technology for ease of typing.
Other notable features include a 20 GB buit in hard disk and dual zone climate control.
Mercedes Benz CLA-Class:
The drama continues on the inside with the CLA featuring an all black cabin with chrome accents gracing the dashboard, instrument cluster and A/C vents. The sporty silver accented three spoke steering wheel is reminiscent of units found in the brand’s high end AMG range. Everything about the CLA-Class exudes a bit of flair. The air vents too feature a unique design styled to resemble propellers.
Mercedes Benz’s infotainment system however is not quite as advanced and does feature the same levels of functionality as the A3’s.
Winner: Mercedes Benz CLA-Class
Under The Hood:
Available in both petrol and diesel, the A3 will appeal to both the enthusiast as well as the long distance commuter. The diesel variant is powered by a 2.0 L TDI unit that churns out 140 hp @ 3200 RPM and 320 Nm of torque @ 1750 RPM. The 1.8 L TFSI petrol mill on offer produces an impressive 178 hp @ 5100 RPM and 250 Nm of torque @ 1200 RPM.
While Audi offers a seven speed DSG for the petrol, the diesel has to make do with a six speed DSG gearbox.
Mercedes Benz CLA-Class:
Mercedes has never been one to fit its entry level models with high caliber engines and the CLA is no exception. The German automaker will offer a four cylinder turbocharged 2.0 L petrol engine that produces 135 hp and 300 Nm of torque while the diesel engine is expected to be a four-cylinder 2.2-litre mill that churns out 100 hp and 300 Nm of torque. Although power figures pale in comparison to the A3’s, the massive torque produced from both variants will keep the driver entertained.
Both engines are mated to a seven speed dual clutch gearbox.
Winner: Audi A3
The CLA-Class’ alluring sheetmetal is one of the best in the business. Sadly however, Mercedes Benz has opted to design a car whose beauty is only skin deep. The A3 offers far more under the hood and inside the cabin. Although the Audi could have used a bit more drama, the A3 is the definite winner.
Mercedes Benz. The name itself pretty much says it all. They have been one of the leaders in luxury car making for many years and look to do the same in years to come. When Mercedes Benz came to India back in 2002 they brought a car which at the time where so rare to see in India (keep in mind they were one of the first German manufacturers between BMW, Audi and themselves to start selling cars in India in the 21St century). The cars introduced then where years ahead in many if not every aspect to the cars available in India at the time. Nearly 12 years down the line I think it’s safe to say their cars are still some of the best. Their cars nowadays are brimming with the latest technological developments, high levels of luxury, and some head pinned to the head rest performance.
The C Class is Mercedes Benz’s Entry level luxury sedan. The competition in India mainly comes from BMW with the 3 series and Audi with the A4 (Volvo does have a pretty good car in this segment but sales aren’t like these 3). These are 3 very good cars in their own right. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses so it’s hard to pick between them. This particular C Class is going to be replaced soon with the latest version which is supposedly coming out sometime next year. The rumors are that the new one looks like a baby S-Class (which is a bit disappointing if I do say so). I always admired Mercedes Benz Cars because each car had its own character per say. Each Car from the A – Class to the S – class had its own persona, its own gorgeous looks but maybe that time is at an end. For now though we still do have this version of the C- Class on sale for with the resources to buy it. This particular C- Class is the C220 CDI. It’s the diesel variant of the car and starts at Rs 39.35lakh (Ex Showroom Delhi)
The C Class is something of a muscle man between the 3. With its muscular looks and powerful engine this car oozes with the go fast feeling but its one of the best cars to cruise on the highway with too! This particular car is now about 1 yr and a half old and has 22000 kms under its belt and it holds true to the saying that the German cars are built to last (there is also a saying that their built like tanks which shouldn’t be taken literally!). So now how is it like to own one?
Exterior Design, Quality & looks:
The Mercedes Benz C – Class, is a car which tries infusing the best of both modern and classic. It has the sharp, aggressive line and looks but on closer inspection there is the blend of smooth lines throughout the car. The front end is something which can scare you at night if you find the car hurtling at you in your rear view. The angular and bold looks of the front can leave you admiring it for sometime without realizing.
As you move along the car the bold angular lines give way to more smooth curved shapes and lines. From almost just past the bonnet you can see the shape of the car changes to a more fluid shape all the way to the rear. The wheel design too blends in very well with the cars dimensions. The rear of the car isn’t as menacing as the front although with its dual fibre optic light strip in each tail light at night the car does look a bit futuristic. The overall shape and design of the rear though is different to that of the front. Its much smoother and curved and does catch your eye.
The overall build quality of the exterior is one of the best available in the Indian market today. It feels and looks well put together and like it will last for years to come and will be able to take a few hits as well. All in all this is car is very attractive to look at and has the quality to match its price.
Interior Design & Quality:
It’s now time to look at the part which makes a luxury car a luxury car. The Interior. This is the part of a car which almost every person will look at to decide whether the car is worth its asking price as well as its name. The interior of a car plays a vital role in making its occupants feel special and I can safely say that with this C- Class, Mercedes Benz haven’t held back. The moment you get into the car you can just feel the quality of the materials used is of a very high standard to make the occupants feel a class above. The seats are leather and electronically adjustable in every manner.
From the head rest to the thigh support – can be adjusted to make the occupants in the front as comfortable as possible. The front seats also come with a memory function which allows the occupant to save their preferred seating position in three slots and with just a press of a button the seat will automatically revert to the position saved in the slot. The rear seats aren’t so bad themselves. Although they aren’t adjustable like the front they are very supportive and comfortable to sit in and one can easily manage in these seats on long drives without any discomfort. One thing to note is that the rear legroom isn’t as good as other cars in this segment. The doors are wrapped in leather and high quality plastics and also do contain some brushed aluminium trim for the door handle.
The dash of the car combines the use of high quality plastics as well as brushed aluminium very well. The buttons on the dash feel very solid and clearly marked for their specific function. The Instrument cluster looks bit retro with its design but looks really good none the less. I l personally like the way they have supplied analogue dials for the engine temperature as well (previous cars didn’t have this). The instrument cluster screen contains the trip computer as well as settings to the car and also information of any malfunction on the car. Pages on the screen can be controlled using the steering controls. The dash also contains the screen for Mercedes Benz’s COMMAND system. The screen is very clear and has two different themes for day and night to allow for more comfortable reading at the specific time.
The system itself could have been a little more user friendly but over time you do get used to it. The system is controlled by a circular knob on the center arm rest just blow the gear lever. The positioning of the controller is near perfect as it falls just under the palm of the driver as he/she rests their arm on the arm rest. The center console of the Dash contains the audio controls, telephone/Bluetooth controls, climate control, as well as some of the luxury feature controls such as the back screen. This in my opinion makes the center console look a bit crowded, it’s not as simple and elegant as in its rivals and is one aspect where Mercedes Benz could improve on.
There is however one feature where the C- Class has a hand above the rest of the competition. The PANORAMIC sunroof. This is basically an almost all glass roof (there is a support which runs from left to right in between the front and back seats on the roof). This support contains the mechanisms which draw the sunroof curtains as well as the front sunroof back. This feature in my mind is the closest thing you can get to a convertible without having to shell out as much for the actual. With the curtains drawn the sunroof allows even the rear passengers to gaze out at the sky however when the front section is drawn out it covers the rear glass obstructing the view. But still this is one thing which really allows all the occupants to enjoy their drive and considering it’s the only car in its class to have this makes you feel pretty special.
Engine & Driving Dynamics:
Now one thing Mercedes Benz is most known for is their powerful engines. The C- Class is no different. When compared to its rivals this car has the most powerful engine of the lot. Even the least powerful diesel engine is more powerful than the other cars in its segment. The C220 CDI is powered by a 2.0 liter Turbocharged 4 cylinder diesel motor. It kicks out 170bhp between 3000 – 4200 RPM (Yes, you read that right it develops Max power over a band of RPM and not just at a specific RPM) and when it comes to torque is gives out a near sport car territory 400NM between 1400 – 2800 RPM. All this power and torque is fed through Mercedes Benz’s 7-G Tronic Gearbox and put down on the road through the rear wheels.
The engine in this car is one of the reasons we decide to go for it over it other competitors. It even made us pick the C220 over the C250 CDI which has a more powerful engine due to its shear efficiency in delivering both max power and max torque through nearly the whole Rev band! There isn’t much turbo lag to deal with. Almost as soon as u put your foot down you get the feeling of being pushed into your seats. In fact you don’t need to put your foot all the way down. There’s so much torque to play with you would almost never get tired of it. Be it in the city or on the highway overtaking is a breeze in this car.
One more thing which makes this one of the most unique diesel engines I’ve come across is the sound. On start up and between idle and about 2500 RPM this engine does sound like a diesel engine but move past 2700 RPM and all that changes. The engine sort of almost starts to roar like a petrol engine would. The first time I experienced this, it captivated me and over time grown to love it. The one place where the car could be a little better is the gearbox. It is one of the best for the city.
The changes are smooth and the gearbox almost sort of knows what gear you need & when. But take the car to the highway and gearbox starts to show signs of weakness. Its slow to down shift a gear (if you need) when you overtake which at times if you’re not careful can put you in a bit of a tight spot. However Mercedes Benz has provided a solution if your brave enough to use it. At the bottom of the lettering of gear lever you will be able to find a button with E and S written with arrows pointing either way. This is the mode selector. It allows you to navigate between Economy Mode and Sport Mode for the car. Put it in Sport and the car transforms. The throttle and brake response both sharpen and the car holds Revs longer enabling the car to be in its peak at all times. But for the most time you wouldn’t want to use this mode as fuel efficiency then drops massively.
The steering is one of the best there is. It’s a parametric steering system which is fitted to most Mercedes cars nowadays. The system adjusts the weighting of the steering according to the speed of the car. In the city at low speeds the steering is light to make turning easy and on the highway it’s beautifully weighted to allow the driver to know exactly where the wheels are pointing. Add to this the precision of the steering and you have something you can’t but appreciate to have. The suspension of the car uses Mercedes Benz’s Agility Control system but the overall state of tune is a bit too stiff. This can make things a bit uncomfortable if you’re driving on a pothole ridden road. The feel of the brake pedal and the stopping power of the brakes themselves are also very good.
After Sales & Service:
After Sales communication from the Mercedes representatives is good. So is their service quality. But one place which is one of the biggest problems in owning a car like this is the spare costs. This is one thing which can burn a very deep hole in your pocket. So be very mindful that you not only have the money to buy it but to maintain it as well.
Points For Improvement In The C220:
– The central console is to cluttered with buttons. Hopefully Mercedes Benz goes for a more simple approach in the next car.
– The gearbox is sublime in the city but could be better on the highway.
– Spare Costs are very high and scare people away from buying the car.
– Suspension is a bit too stiff for Indian Roads although on the highway this lends to brilliant road holding.
At the end of the day if I had the choice of this car and its rivals I would still pick this one. More than anything else this car connects with the driver. From the moment you get in everything thing about the experience is there to make your life as a driver so much easier but at the same time so much more enjoyable. I’ve never after driving this car come out with anything less than a smile on my face and in my opinion that’s what cars should do.