There’s nothing wrong with a car company pushing into new areas of the market. The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250, however, shows us the dangers inherent in leveraging existing brand equity to push a product that simply can’t hold up to the scrutiny of expectations and standards set by strong past performance. The CLA250 is the German automaker’s great experiment, an effort to convince entry-level buyers that an affordable Benz is still a Benz at heart, all the while staving off competing entries from Teutonic rivals such as the Audi A3 and meeting compact premium car players Lexus (CT 200h) and Acura (ILX) head-on.
Unfortunately for Mercedes-Benz, the 2014 CLA250 simply doesn’t pass muster. Even worse – for luxury car shoppers – it’s not going to matter. Hordes of first-time premium buyers are going to flock to the CLA-Class based almost exclusively on the cachet associated with the Mercedes-Benz name, which will mean generously-filled coffers for its builder and almost no motivation for the vehicle to be improved to the point of being at least worthy of taking on its class-mates.