For many years this would have never even entered into consideration to be a comparison test, but with the ILX gaining an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission and the CLA 250 showing up as a front-wheel drive model the stage has been set for these two to go head to head. Because of this advanced dynamics from Acura and the CLA 250 being the entry level offering that is meant to be a discount-oriented model the two are now closer in power and performance than you would ever imagine them to be.
Acura has been known for a long time as a luxury brand that was only a slight step above premium. Often times the models they churned out could be passed in quality by a fully loaded Buick and reaching the level of Mercedes-Benz was never a consideration. Everything they offered on their sedans offered only front-wheel drive, which helped keep prices lower and give drivers cars that were enjoyable to drive and much better than the mainstream models. This gave Acura the reputation for being the smart choice for mid-level management types who were somewhere in the middle of the income brackets.
Mercedes-Benz, well, what is there to say. We all know the reputations as the top level German luxury manufacturer. It’s often a duel between Mercedes-Benz and BMW that gets us stirring to figure out which is the best brand of bratwurst around, but just like American trucks, these German sedans have their own cult like following to which it’s nearly impossible to sway an opinion. For a long time everything from Mercedes-Benz was rear-driven, making no comparison with Acura possible on any stage.
Let’s start with the specs, it may seem a bit boring, but it gives us a baseline with which to work from. The Acura ILX A Spec is powered by a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated inline four-cylinder engine that is attached to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission with a torque converter. This engine puts out 201 horsepower and 180 lb.-ft. of torque with a fuel mileage of 25 city/36 hwy mpg and no availability of all-wheel drive.
For the Mercedes- Benz CLA 250 4Matic Sport the power is turned out by the 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine that is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission giving 208 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque and does have all-wheel drive (hence the 4Matic in the name). The fuel mileage offered is 24 city/33 hwy mpg for this car.
When it comes to the power and control the lead goes to the CLA 250 with more power, torque, and the all-wheel drive. The fuel mileage, although slight does go in favor of the ILX, but AWD cars typically have a slight drop in mpg versus ones without AWD.
Driving the ILX gives a beautiful ride around curves and corners, handling everything on the road with ease. The ILX even offers a sport mode to give quicker shifts and launch the car off the line with the readiness of a big cat about to strike. The suspension is soft and enjoyable with the steering adequate and engaged. The drive of an ILX is exactly what you would want and expect from the luxury brand it has built, a great drive that is fun on any road.
The only warning for the CLA 250 is this, if you have driven other Mercedes- Benz models this one won’t stack up at all. Even with that said, the CLA250 is a much better drive than the ILX. The added power gave more punch on the road along with the immediate push of the turbocharged engine. The suspension and steering are, well, Mercedes-Benz so basically perfection in driving. Step on the gas in this baby and you are off quickly even with a sport mode. Having the AWD gave an increased feeling of overall control. As far as driving is concerned, there is no doubt the CLA250 is the clear winner.
The ILX shows up with a cloth-laden interior that is supportive and comfortable. In fact, the inside of the ILX is large and makes sitting in the back seat a pleasant experience, allowing for more than just the front two passengers to be comfortable. Acura was able to offer this excellent seating comfort by not using a wrap-around style of seating and finding areas where they could add interior space. The trunk of the ILX is even a nice 13.1 cubic feet in size.
For the CLA the seating is perfect up front. The driver and one passenger will love riding in this car as the seats hug you and hold you in place, but as soon as you move to the backseat the space is cramped and small, better left to luggage, small children or pets. Even though the controls of the ILX are well-designed the CLA offers a more upscale look and feel from the control elements. The trunk of this Mercedes-Benz is a good size at 12.3 cubic feet but comes in a little smaller than the ILX. One advantage here is the inclusion of a 60/40 folding rear seat with a pass through from the trunk, which is absent in the ILX. Overall this is a tie for interiors as the ILX feels more room and has the larger trunk, but the CLA has the pass through and better control elements.
Pricing and Packaging
One of the best parts of the ILX is the starting price of $29,000. This makes the ILX a value player and very affordable for most shoppers. At the other end, the ILX tops out at $35,810 giving it one of the smallest price ranges in the car world. For the fully loaded model the added features include such niceties as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and forward collision warning.
As a comparison, the CLA starts at $34,425 and heading up to the fully loaded model with put an additional $10,000 onto that price. At the top end you will get a Mercedes-Benz that is fully loaded with awesome features and the addition of other great items like a panoramic sunroof and the performance package, but for value in packaging, the winner in this category would be the Acura ILX.
Even though Acura has made some huge steps with the ILX, it had to just to be in this conversation, the clear winner in this comparison is the Mercedes-Benz CLA 250. This does not make the ILX a poor performer, on the contrary the ILX is one of the best cars you can buy for the price and a fully loaded model is only a few thousand more than the base model making it easy to gain a car with everything you want for the money.
The CLA 250 is without a doubt the class leader between these two and most likely the overall winner in a category full of front-wheel drive luxury sedans. The all-wheel drive added and the turbocharged engine give this car the best driving experience you can have in a luxury car this size and shows itself to be the clear winner it is for an automaker that has built its reputation on being the best in the luxury car industry.