Mercedes-Benz invented the four-door coupe species and subsequently, BMW exploited it better. Now the two luxury giants clash in the premium compact class as well, after the BMW launched the 2 Series Gran Coupe, that goes straight at the neck of the Mercedes-Benz CLA. First static comparison.
Back in 2004, Mercedes-Benz invented a new automobile species: the CLS 4-door coupe. In 2013, its compact variant followed, with the name of CLA. BMW took advantage of the trend and launched a 4 door coupe in each segment: 4 Series Gran Coupe in 2014, 6 Series Gran Coupe in 2012, replaced, at the Frankurt Motor Show, by the 8 Series Gran Coupe and now the 2 Series Gran Coupe.
Similar fwd technical platform
Despite the fact that it is called the 2 Series Gran Coupe, it is different from the 2 Series Coupe/Convertible, as it makes use of the front-wheel drive UKL architecture of the 1 Series, X1 and Mini range and not the rear-wheel drive of the 3 Series. That is why the 2 Series Gran Coupe and the CLA resemble each other as two peas in a pod when it comes to the technical platform.
The 2 Series Gran Coupe looks quite massive compared to the 1 Series, being 207 millimeters longer, but it is actually 162 millimeters shorter than the Mercedes-Benz CLA, which is also 30 millimeters wider and 19 millimeters taller. It is clear that the entry level premium models are not so compact any more, at least for the CLA, the overall dimensions compared to those of the C-Class sedan being quite small.
The length gap in the favor of the CLA is also found inside, because the Mercedes-Benz features a 59-millimeter longer wheelbase, that makes the promise of more legroom for the rear passengers than in the 2 Series Gran Coupe. But the 2 Series Gran Coupe offers 33 millimeters more of legroom compared to the 1 Series, the driving position is 12 millimeters higher and the interior height is 14 millimeters larger than in the 1 Series.
The Stuttgart model also holds a slight advantage in terms of boot volume, which is 30-liters more than that of the 2 Series Gran Coupe, considering that both feature 40/20/40% split rear seats. Both models come with two-segment taillights that allow a wide opening of the boot lid. For this reason, the CLA has a 26-centimeter wider opening than the former generation.
CLA standard with digital instruments, 2 Series Gran Coupe only optional
BMW offers a wider range of options, with the Basic, Advantage, Sport Line Luxury Line and M Sport available, while Mercedes-Benz offers the Porgressive and AMG Line packages, plus the Edition 1 launch special series.
There is a screen battle inside. The 2 Series Gran Coupe comes standard with analog instruments and with an 8.8-inch touchscreen. The next upgrade is the BMW Live Cockpit Plus with the same 8.8-inch screen, to which navigation, voice control and controller touchpad are added. And the top level is the BMW Live Cocckpit Professional, with a digital instrument cluster displayed on a 10.25-inch screen and a 10.25-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system with hard disc navigation and gesture control.
By comparison, the Mercedes-Benz CLA is standardly fit with a digital instrument cluster displayed on a 7-inch screen and with a 7-inch screen infotainment system. It can be upgraded with navigation and touchpad or, in the top variant, with a 10.25-inch screen for the instrument cluster and also 10.25-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system with navigation, hard disc and online access.
Multilink rear axle standard on BMW and available on some Mercedes-Benz versions
Passing on to the drivetrain, BMW indicates that all variants feature a multilink rear axle, which is not valid for Mercedes-Benz. Only the upper-range engines, to which an algorithm related to the wheels size and the adaptive suspension configuration, come with the rear multilink axle.
The Mercedes-Benz is standardly equipped with a classical steel springs suspension and, if the AMG Line package box is ticked, customers standardly get a comfort suspension, lowered by 10 millimeters, that is also offered separately as an option. Also as an option, there is an adaptive suspension.
By comparison, the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe comes with the option of an M Sport suspension lowered by 10 millimeters, standard for the M 235i xDrive and optional for all other variants, or with an adaptive VDC suspension.
For the moment, the engine range of the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is quite scant. It must be mentioned that, in the case of the small displacements, BMW went for 3-cylinder engines, while Mercedes called on the collaboration with Renault for the new 4-cylinder 1.33-liter turbo engine and for the 4-cylinder 1.5-liter diesel engine.
The 2 Series Gran Coupe is available from the start as the 218i with a 3-cylinder 140-horsepower 1.5-liter engine, coupled to a 6-speed manual transmission or a dual-clutch 7-speed automatic transmission, 220d with a 190-horsepower 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine with a classical 8-speed automatic transmission and the top of the line, the M235i xDrive equipped with the most powerful BMW 4-cylinder turbo engine, a 2.0-liter 306 horsepower unit, coupled to the classic automatic 8-speed Steptronic Sport transmission.
By comparison, the Mercedes-Benz CLA has three sport variants: the CLA 35 4Matic with a 306-horsepower 2.0-liter engine and a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and the CLA 45 4Matic+/CLA 45 S 4Matic+ with 387, 421 horsepower respectively and an 8-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.
The entry level in the gasoline range is represented by the CLA 180 and the CLA 200 with the Renault-sourced 4-cylinder 1.33-liter engine with 136, 163 horsepower respectively, and in the diesel range, the entry level is the CLA 180 d with a 116-horsepower 1.5-liter engine.
Against the BMW 220 d Gran Coupe, Mercedes-Benz puts the CLA 200 d and the CLA 220 d with the new 150 and 190-horsepower 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine. There are two turbo gasoline engines 100% Mercedes-Benz-sourced, of 2.0-liters with 190 horsepower and 224 horsepower.
For the moment, BMW features a 4-wheel drive only for the top M235i xDrive variant, while Mercedes offers all-wheel drive for both gasoline 2.0-liter engines (CLA 220 4Matic and CLA 250 4Matic) and all AMG variants.
Even though BMW also switched to a front-wheel drive-based platform, the Bavarians claim that the understeering is very much reduced thanks to the use of the ARB system carried over from the BMW i3s, that uses a sensor located in the engine control unit, not integrated in the DSC control unit (ESP), which reduces three times the response time, preventing the understeering. BMW claims that the ARB, together with the Performance Control that brakes the wheel inside the bend, cancels any understeering whatsoever. For the verdict, we shall wait for the first comparative test between the two models.