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2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550 Road Test

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The new second-gen G-Class stays true to its iconic design and purpose.

Few vehicles ever earn “icon” status. They’re either not around long enough, or their manufacturers change them so dramatically from their original purpose that only the name remains.

Case in point, Chevy’s new car-based Blazer family hauler compared to Ford’s go-anywhere Bronco. One is a complete departure from the arguably iconic truck-based original, whereas the other resurrects a beloved nameplate with new levels of on- and off-road prowess.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
For crossover buyers the G will be too boxy, but to serious SUV fans it’s just right.

Land Rover has done something similar with its new Defender, yet due to radically departing from the beloved 1990-2016 first-generation Defender 90 and 110 models’ styling (which was based on the even more legendary 1948-1958 Series I, 1958-1961 Series II, 1961-1971 Series IIA, and 1971-1990 Series III) it runs the risk of losing the nameplate’s iconic status.

In fact, a British billionaire eager to cash in on Land Rover’s possible mistake is building a modernized version of the classic Defender 110 for those with deep pockets, dubbed the Ineos Grenadier (Ineos being the multinational British chemical company partly owned by said billionaire, Jim Ratcliffe). That the Grenadier was partly developed and is being produced by Magna Steyr in its Graz, Austria facility, yes, the same Magna Steyr that builds the Mercedes-Benz G-Class being tested here, is an interesting coincidence, but I digress. The more important point being made is that Mercedes’ G-Class never needed resurrecting. Like Jeep’s Wrangler, albeit at a much loftier price point, the G-wagon has remained true to its longstanding design and defined purpose from day one, endowing it with cult-like status.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The G 550’s LED headlights look much the same as the old model’s from a distance, but inside they’re much more advanced.

The G-Class was thoroughly overhauled for the 2019 model year, this being the SUV’s second generation despite more than 40 years of production, so as you can likely imagine, changes to this 2020 model and the upcoming 2021 version are minimal. The same G 550 and sportier AMG G 63 trims remain available, but the more trail-specified 2017-2018 G 550 4×4 Squared, as well as the more pavement-performance focused 2016-2018 AMG G 65 haven’t been offered yet, nor for that matter has the awesome six-wheel version, therefore we’ll need to watch and wait to see what Mercedes has in store.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
This G 550’s wheel and tire package meant it remained on-road.

The 2019 exterior updates included plenty of new body panels, plus revised head and tail lamp designs (that aren’t too much of a departure from the original in shape and size), and lastly trim modifications all-round. The model’s squared-off, utilitarian body style remains fully intact, which is most important to the SUV’s myriad hardcore fans.

While I’m supposed to be an unbiased reporter, truth be told I’m also a fan of this chunky off-roader. In fact, I’m actually in the market for a diesel-powered four-door Geländewagen (or a left-hand drive, long-wheelbase Toyota Land Cruiser 70 Series diesel in decent shape), an earlier version more aligned with my budget restraints and less likely to cause tears when inevitably scratching it up off-road. Of course, if personal finances allowed me to keep the very G 550 in my possession for this weeklong test, I’d be more than ok with that too, as it’s as good as 4×4-capable SUVs get.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Simple and small, yet filled with LEDs for faster response to brake input.

While first- to second-generation G-Class models won’t be immediately noticeable to casual onlookers, step inside and the differences are dramatic. The new model features a totally new dash design and higher level of refinement overall, including the brand’s usual jewel-like metalwork trim, and bevy of new digital interfaces that fully transform its human/machine operation. Your eyes will likely lock onto Mercedes’ new MBUX digital instrument cluster/infotainment touchscreen first, which incorporates dual 12.3-inch displays within one long, horizontal, glass-like surface.

The right-side display is a touchscreen, but can alternatively be controlled by switchgear on the lower centre console, while the main driver display can be modulated via an old Blackberry-style micro-pad on the left steering wheel spoke. Together, the seemingly singular interface is one of my industry favourites, not only in functionality, which is superb, but from a styling perspective as well.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Everything about the new G’s interior is better.

The majority of other interior switchgear is satin-silver-finished or made from knurled aluminum, resulting in a real sense of occasion, which while hardly new for Mercedes is a major improvement for the G-Class. Likewise, the drilled Burmester surround sound speaker grilles are some of the prettiest available anywhere, as are the deep, rich open-pore hardwood inlays that envelope the primary gauge cluster/infotainment binnacle, the surface of the lower console, and the trim around the doors’ armrests.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Compared to the outgoing G-Class, the new model is over the top in refinement and luxury.

The G isn’t devoid of hard composites, but centre console side panels that don’t quite meet pricey expectations aren’t enough to complain about, particularly when the SUV’s door panel and seat upholstery leatherwork is so fine. My test model’s interior also featured beautiful chocolate brown details that contrasted its sensational blue exterior paint well.

Driver’s seat bolstering is more than adequate, as are the chair’s other powered adjustments, the only missing element being an adjustable thigh support extension. Still, its lower cushion cupped below my knees nicely enough, which, while possibly a problem for drivers on the short side, managed my five-foot-eight frame adequately. At least the SUV’s four-way powered lumbar support applied the right amount of pressure to the exact spot on my lower back requiring relief, as it should for most body types. Likewise, the G 550’s tilt and telescopic steering column provided plenty of reach, resulting in a near perfect driving position despite my short-torso, long-legged body.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The left half of the large driving display is for the primary instruments and multi-info display, controllable via steering wheel switchgear, whereas the right half is an infotainment touchscreen.

As part of the redesign, Mercedes increased rear seat legroom to allow taller passengers the ability to stretch out in comfort. What’s more, those back seats are nearly as supportive as the ones in front, other than the centre position that’s best left for smaller adults or kids.

All of this refinement is hardly inexpensive, with the base 2020 G 550 priced at $147,900 plus freight and fees, and the 2021 version starting at an even heftier $154,900. This said, our 2020 and 2021 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Canada Prices pages are currently reporting factory leasing and financing rates from zero-percent, which could go far in making a new G-Class more affordable. The zero-interest rate deal seems to apply to the $195,900 2020 G 63 AMG as well, plus the $211,900 2021 G 63 AMG, so it might make sense to buy this SUV on credit and invest the money otherwise spent (I’m guessing commodities are a good shot considering government promises of infrastructure builds, inflated currencies, runaway debt, market bubbles, etcetera, but in no way take my miscellaneous ramblings as investment advice).

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
All of the G 550’s buttons, switches and knobs are superbly crafted.

By the way, along with information about factory financing and leasing deals, CarCostCanada provides Canadian consumers with info about manufacturer rebates when available, plus dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Find out more about how CarCostCanada’s very affordable membership can work for you, and remember to download our free smartphone app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store, so you can have all of this great information at your fingertips anytime, anywhere.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
If you’d rather not use the touchscreen, Mercedes offers this well-designed controller on the lower console.

Anytime or anywhere in mind, the G 550 can pretty well get you everywhere in Canada, anytime of the year. There’s absolutely no need to expend more investment to buy aftermarket off-road components when at the wheel of this big Merc, as it can out-hustle most any other 4×4-capable SUV on the market. While I would’ve liked even more opportunities to shake the G-Class out on unpaved roads, I certainly enjoyed the number of instances I did so, and can attest to their greatness off the beaten path. I’ve waded them over rock-strewn hills, negotiated them around jagged canyon walls and between narrow treed trails, coaxed them through fast-paced rivers and muddy marshes, and even felt their tires slip when dipped into soft, sandy stretches of beach, so my desire to own one comes from experience. Just the same I didn’t want to risk damaging my G 550 test model’s stylish 14-spoke alloys on pavement-spec 275/50 Pirelli Scorpion Zero rubber, so I kept this example on the street.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The G 550’s driver’s seat is sublime.

The G 550’s ride was sublime even with these lower-profile performance tires, which goes to show that car-based unibody designs don’t really improve ride quality, as much as at-the-limit handling. The G-Class’ frame is rigid after all, as is its body structure, while its significant suspension travel only aids ride compliance. Therefore, it made the ideal city companion, its suspension nearly eliminating the types of ruts and bridge expansion joints that intrude on the comfort levels of lesser SUVs, while its extreme height provides excellent visibility all around.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Even rear passengers get the royal treatment, the Burmester audio system’s speaker grille’s beautifully made.

Those who spend more time on the open highway shouldn’t be wary of the G 550 either, as its ride continued to please and high-speed stability inspired confidence. I would’ve loved to have been towing an Airstream Flying Cloud in back to test its 7,000-lb rating (and given me more comfort than my tent), but I’m sure it can manage the load well, especially when factoring in its 2,650-kg (5,845-lb) curb weight.

Despite that heft, the G 550 performs fairly well when cornering, the previously noted Pirellis proving to be a good choice for everyday driving. I’ve previously driven the AMG-tuned G 63 on road and track, so the G 550’s abilities didn’t blow me away, but it certainly handles curves better than its blocky, brick-like shape alludes.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Mercedes increased rear passenger legroom in the second-gen G-Class, making it more comfortable for larger occupants.

Braking is strong for such a big, heavy ute too, and while the G 550’s 416-horsepower 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 can’t send it from standstill to 100 km/h at the same 4.5-second rate as the 577-hp G 63, its 5.9 seconds for the same feat is nonetheless respectable, its 450 lb-ft of torque, quick-shifting eight-speed automatic, and standard four-wheel drive aiding the process perfectly, not to mention a very engaging Sport mode.

Engaging might not be the best word for it, mind you. In fact, I found the G 550’s Sport mode a bit too aggressive for my tastes, bordering on uncomfortable. It helps the big SUV shoot off the line with aggression, but the sheer force of it all snapped my head back into the seat’s pillowy headrests too often for comfort’s sake, but only when trying to move off the line in particularly quick fashion. When first feathering the throttle, as I usually drive, and then shortly thereafter dipping into it for stronger acceleration, it worked fine. I wish Mercedes’ had integrated a smoother start into the SUV’s firmware, but the requirement to use skill in order to get the most out of it was kind of nice too. All said, at the end of such tests I just left it in Eco mode for blissfully smooth performance and better economy.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The G’s cargo door swings to the side in order to support the rear-mounted full-size spare, but unlike Jeep’s Wrangler it provides easy curb-side access.

Fuel sipping in mind, no amount of technology this side of turbo-diesel power (how I miss those days) can make this brute eco-friendly, with Transport Canada’s fuel economy rating measuring 18.0 L/100km city, 14.1 highway, and 16.3 combined. It’s not worse than some other full-size, V8-powered utilities, nor does it thirst for pricier premium fuel, but this might be an issue for those with a greener conscious.

Speaking of pragmatic issues, the G-Class is a bit short on cargo capacity when comparing to some of those full-size SUV rivals just noted, especially American branded alternatives such as the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator. Then again, the G fares better when measuring up to similarly equipped European luxury utes, with the 1,079-litre (38.1 cu-ft) dedicated cargo area a sizeable 178 litres (6.3 cu ft) greater than the full-size Range Rover’s maximum luggage volume. Interestingly, both luxury SUV’s load-carrying capacity is an identical 1,942 litres (68.6 cu ft), which is ample in my books.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
There’s lots of room for gear in the back of the G, but take note the rear seats don’t fold flat.

After my week with Mercedes’ top-line SUV, I can’t complain. Certainly, I would’ve liked a larger sunroof or, even better, something along the lines of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited’s new Sky One-Touch Power Top that turns the entire rooftop into open air while still maintaining solid sides and back with windows, but this might weaken the G’s body structure and limit its 4×4 prowess. I also would’ve liked a wireless phone charger, and would have one installed if this was my personal ride.

Hopefully my next G-Class tester will be more suitable to wilderness forays, possibly as an updated gen-2 G 550 4×4²? Previous examples included portal axles like Mercedes’ fabulously capable Unimog, but in just about every other respect I was thoroughly impressed with this well-made luxury utility, and glad Mercedes stayed true to this model’s iconic 4×4 heritage. To me, the G-Glass is the ultimate on-road, off-road compromise, and I’d own one if money allowed.

Story and photos by Trevor Hofmann

CarCostCanada

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic Road Test

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The new Mercedes-Benz A 220 looks too sleek to be a regular four-door sedan.

I’ve heard the line before. People only buy Mercedes-Benz products to flash its prestigious three-pointed star. That may be true in some cases, but with respect to the new A 220, and many other cars in its extensive lineup, it wins new luxury buyers by being best in class.

It doesn’t hurt that the A 220 looks as good as it does, but take note that at just $37,300 (plus freight and fees) the newest model in Mercedes’ wide and varied 2020 collection isn’t just for the affluent. Yes, that number is a significant $2,310 more than last year’s A 220, but it now comes with standard 4Matic all-wheel drive, Canadians probably not buying enough of the 2019 front-wheel drive variants to make a business case viable moving forward. Still, Mercedes’ most affordable new model is well within reach of those not normally capable of buying into the luxury class, with this base model priced very close to fully loaded versions of mainstream volume-branded compacts.

At first sight the A 220 appears too long, low and lean to be a compact four-door sedan, but with a little research I soon found out its 4,549 mm length, 1,796 mm width, 1,446 mm height and 2,729 mm wheelbase puts it slightly smaller than some mainstream compacts you likely know better, including the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra and Mazda3, while it competes directly in size and particularly in price with premium-badged sedans such as the Audi A3, Acura ILX, and new BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, although the Bimmer more accurately targets Mercedes’ sporty CLA-Class four-door coupe.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The subcompact luxury sedan provides a roomy interior with practical cargo carrying capacity.

The new BMW hasn’t been around long enough to collect usable sales data, and it’s hardly been the best of years for the car industry on the whole anyway, so therefore a look back to calendar year 2019 more accurately shows the A-Class and the rest of Mercedes’ small car lineup cleaning up in Canada’s compact luxury competition. Mercedes sold more than 5,000 subcompact luxury models in 2019, which included the new A 250 hatch as well as this A 220 sedan, plus the CLA-Class and outgoing B-Class (more than 300 of the now cancelled Bs were delivered last year, and another 200-plus over Q1 of 2020).

By comparison, the second-best-selling Mini Cooper, which is also a collection of body styles and mostly lower in price, found more than 3,700 Canadian buyers, whereas the Audi A3/A3 Cabriolet/S3 garnered 3,100-plus new customers, the ILX almost 1,900, the 2 Series (ahead of the new four-door coupe arriving) at just over 1,200, and BMW’s unorthodox i3 EV finding 300 new owners. Incidentally, the A-Class, which was the only model in this segment to achieve positive year-over-year sales in 2019 (slightly below 14.5 percent), won over 3,632 new buyers last year alone, placing it just behind the previously noted Mini that saw its Y-o-Y sales fall by 17 percent.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Its sporty styling, LED headlamps and attractive detailing sets the new A 220 apart.

Certainly, the A 220’s attractive styling and approachable pricing contributed to its strong sales last year, but there’s a great deal more to the swoopy four-door sedan than good looks and price competitiveness. For starters is a knockout cabin that wows with style and hardly comes up short on leading-edge features. Most noticeable is Mercedes’ all-in-one digital instrument panel/infotainment display, that combines some of the most vibrantly coloured, creatively penned graphics in the industry with wonderfully functional systems, while housing it all within an ultra-wide fixed tablet-style frame.

These electronic interfaces are important differentiators when comparing an entry-level Mercedes to fully loaded compact sedans from mainstream volume brands like Honda, Toyota, Hyundai and Mazda. Truly, the A 220’s lower dash and door panels aren’t necessarily made from better materials than its more common compact counterparts, respectively the Civic, Corolla, Elantra and Mazda3, but most everything above the waste comes close to matching the tactile and materials quality found in more expensive Mercedes models, like the C-Class and even the E-Class. Together with the eye-popping digital interfaces already mentioned are gorgeous stitched leather door inserts, rich open-pore textured hardwood along those door panels and across the dash, while satin-finish aluminum trim can be found all over the interior, my personal favourite application being the gorgeous turbine-like instrument panel HVAC vents.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The A 220’s luxurious cabin is sensational.

Going back to the all-in-one primary instrument cluster and infotainment widescreen display, dubbed MBUX for Mercedes-Benz User Experience, the left-side gauge package provides a number of different display themes including Modern Classic, Sport and Understated, plus the ability to create your own personalized themes, while the layout can be modified to a numeric format speedometer in place of the traditional-looking circular one, with the rest of the display area used for other features like navigation mapping, fuel economy info, regenerative braking charge info, Eco drive setting information, etcetera.

Over on the right-side of my test model’s MBUX display were the usual assortment of centre-screen infotainment functions, like navigation (albeit with the ability to opt for an augmented reality feature that shows a front camera view displaying upcoming street names and directional indicators); audio system info including graphical satellite radio station readouts; drive settings that include Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual modes (that can also be chosen via a rocker switch on the lower console); advanced driver assistive systems settings; a calls, contacts and messages interface; a big, clear parking camera with active guidelines; plus more, and on top of all this Mercedes provides more hands-on control of infotainment functions than any competitor.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The entry-level A 220 provides all of the style and most of the features found in pricier Mercedes-Benz sedans.

Adjustments can be made via the touchscreen itself, which is rather uncommon in the luxury class, plus you can use Mercedes’ very smart Linguatronic Voice Control system that’s easily one of the most advanced in the industry (but take note that “Mercedes” is a tad too eager to help out, always responding with a pesky “How can I help you?” when mentioning her name), or alternatively let your thumbs do the talking via a miniscule set of BlackBerry-like optical trackpads on the steering wheel spokes, or finally use the touchpad on the lower console, which is surrounded by big quick entry buttons as well. That touchpad is the best I’ve used this side of my MacBook Pro, providing intuitive responses to tap, swipe and pinch inputs, is as easy to use as dropping your right arm from the steering wheel, and didn’t cause me to divert my eyes from the road more often than necessary.

An attractive row of climate controls stretches across a smartly organized interface just below the centre display, featuring highly legible readouts and lovely knurled aluminum toggle switches, all hovering above a big rubber smartphone tray that boasts wireless charging capability. All around, the A 220 provides most everything you’ll need and a number of things you won’t, but I like the soft purple ambient lighting nonetheless.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
A fully digital gauge cluster comes as part of the new MBUX infotainment system.

The only negative I could find were the small, delicately sized and hollow feeling steering wheel stalks for the turn signals/wipers and selecting gears, but due to how well they’re made I still can’t lambaste them completely. I’m thinking they’re more about reducing mass to save on fuel and improve performance, not that they’d individually make a big difference to either. To be clear, I’ve never tested lighter or less substantive column stalks ever. In fact, the shift paddles feel heftier, but they certainly did what they needed to and won’t likely fall apart, it was just a strange decision for Mercedes to make such important hand/machine interfaces so flimsy feeling.

Even before I shifted the A 220 into gear, I was shocked at how thin the lower door panel composite was. Was this due to weight savings as well? The plastic extrusions were perfect with thin ribs strengthening their upper edges, so it wasn’t a case of cutting corners, but they didn’t feel up to Mercedes’ usual high-quality standards. Fortunately, as noted earlier, the A 220’s more visible surfaces are superb, other than the hard-composite lower centre console that might be somewhat disappointing to those that have recently spent time in one of the upper trims of the volume-branded compacts noted before, which mostly finish such areas in soft padded pleather.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Mercedes does away with a traditional centre stack, but what’s left is a much more convenient dash design.

Up above is a particularly nice overhead console featuring controls for a big panoramic glass sunroof, plus LED dome and reading lights, and more. It was strange that the B and C pillars weren’t wrapped in fabric, with only the A pillars done out to premium standards, just like the mainstream cars just mentioned, but of course this isn’t totally uncommon in the luxury segment’s most basic entry-level category. At least all of components fit nicely together, with each lid and every door shutting with firm Teutonic solidity, except for the glove box lid that was particularly light in weight.

My tester’s interior was doused in a light grey and black two-tone motif, much of the grey being leather that covers both rows of seats that are wonderfully comfortable and wholly supportive, particularly via their side bolstering. They even included manually-adjustable lower thigh extensions that I loved. I’m not only talking about the front seats, by the way, because those in the rear outboard positions provided good comfort as well, thanks to sculpted backrests and more foot and legroom than expected, plus a decent amount of headroom.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The new MBUX infotainment system is truly best in the industry.

After adjusting the driver’s seat for my long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight, small-build body type, there was still about five inches in front of my knees and more than enough space for my feet while wearing a pair of boots, while side-to-side roominess was good too. With three inches of airspace over my head, tall teens and larger adults than me should have no problem fitting in back, while the rear headrests also provided comfortably soft support.

Mercedes provides a fold-down centre armrest in back, but I found it too low for comfort, although it would likely be ideal for smaller sized adults or children. It comes with a duo of pop-out cupholders that clamp onto drinks well, while a set of netted magazine holders are attached to the backside of each front seat too. Each rear outboard passenger gets their own HVAC vent as well, plus just under these is a pull-out compartment complete with a small storage bin and a pair of USB-C chargers. No rear seat warmers were included in my tester, but LED reading lights could be found overhead.

Cargo shouldn’t be a problem being that the A 220’s nicely finished trunk is quite big for this class, and I really appreciated the ability to stow longer items like skis down the middle thanks to ultra-versatile 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. Folding the seats down is easy too, because Mercedes offers up a set of trunk-mounted levers.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Mercedes provides four different ways to access the MBUX infotainment system, including this well designed trackpad.

Together with everything already mentioned, this year’s A 220 comes well equipped with standard features such as LED headlamps, 17-inch alloys, brushed or pinstriped aluminum interior inlays, pushbutton start/stop, MBUX infotainment (although the base model’s display size is smaller than my tester’s at 7.0-inches for each of its two screens), a six-speaker audio system (that provided deep resonant bass tones along with nice mids and highs), a power-adjustable driver’s seat with memory, heated front seats, the panoramic sunroof mentioned earlier, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, plus a lot more.

You may have noticed more gear in the photos, this because my test model also came with $890 worth of Mountain Grey Metallic exterior paint; $500 of 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels; a $3000 Premium package featuring proximity keyless access, power-folding mirrors, a bigger 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and the same sized centre display featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, voice control, induction charging, auto-dimming rear view and driver’s side mirrors, ambient lighting, a foot-activated powered trunk release, vehicle exit warning, and Blind Spot assist; a $1,600 Technology package that added multibeam LED headlights with Adaptive Highbeam Assist and Active Distance Assist; plus a $1,000 Navigation package including a GPS/nav system, live traffic, Mercedes’ Navigation Services, the augmented reality function noted before, a Connectivity package, and finally Traffic Sign Assist.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Comfortable, supportive and fabulous looking, the A 220’s seats are superb.

The long list of additions continue with a new (for 2020) $1,900 Intelligent Drive package boasting Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Evasive Steering Assist, Enhanced Stop-and-Go, Active Lane Change Assist, Pre-Safe Plus, Map-Based Speed Adaptation (which uses the nav system info to adjust the A 220’s speed based on road conditions ahead before the driver can even see what’s coming), Active Lane Keeping Assist, an Advanced Driving Assistance package, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Distance Assist Distronic, Active Steering Assist, Pre-Safe, and Active Speed Limit Assist; $900 Active Parking Assist; $475 satellite radio; plus black open-pore wood inlays for $250 (walnut inlays are available for the same price); all of which added $10,515 to the 2020 A 220’s previously noted $37,300 base price, making for an impressively equipped compact Mercedes at just $47,815 (plus freight and fees).

It was missing a lot of additional gear too, by the way, including a $1,500 Sport package or $2,000 Night package, $500 optional 19-inch alloys, a $250 heated Nappa leather steering wheel, a $1,500 head-up display unit, a $650 surround parking monitor, a $700 450-watt, 12-speaker Burmester surround audio system (which is quite the deal for this brand), a $300 garage door opener, a $450 powered front passenger’s seat with memory (the base model’s is manually operated), and $1,200 worth of cooled front seats (these new for this model year).

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
This big panoramic powered glass sunroof comes standard.

As impressive as the new A 220’s styling, cabin design, detailed execution and loads of features are, the brand’s century of heritage really comes through when out on the road. Despite only endowed with 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, straight-line acceleration is quite strong and even more so when set to Sport mode, at which point shifts from the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic come quickly and precisely. The car’s now standard 4Matic all-wheel drive allowed all four of the 225/45R18 Michelins below to latch onto pavement simultaneously, resulting in sharp, immediate results when my right foot was pegged to the throttle, while the little sport sedan tracked brilliantly during fast-paced highway and curving byway excursions, even in rain-soaked conditions.

Standard shift paddles add some hands-on engagement that was really appreciated when pushing hard in Sport mode, but I also found them useful for short-shifting to save on fuel. I opted for Eco mode for such situations, which provided even smoother more relaxed shifts as well as fuel economy improvements. The A 220 is rated at 9.6 L/100km city, 7.1 highway and 8.5 combined, and while we’re talking efficiencies, last year’s front-wheel drive version didn’t make that much of a difference due to a claimed fuel economy rating of 9.7, 6.8 and 8.4 respectively, so therefore Mercedes’ choice to offer AWD as standard equipment won’t hamper your fuel budget.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The rear seating area is roomy, comfortable and refined.

It was during my usual relaxed pace of driving, with a focus on saving fuel, that I really appreciated the A 220’s excellent ride quality, impressively smooth for this class of car, but then again it’s important for me to point out that it’s never soft and wallowy. In Germanic tradition its ride is firmer than rivals from Japan, although I couldn’t imagine anyone complaining about harshness. The A 220’s hushed ambiance makes it feel even more refined and luxurious, making it ideal for isolating noisy, bustling city streets as well as toning down the sound of wind on the open road.

I must say, if my own money was on the line in this entry-level luxury segment, I’d opt for the A 220 over its four-door subcompact premium rivals, as it scores high marks in all key categories. It looks stunning and offers up what I think is the nicest interior in the class, can be had with all the features I want and need, is great fun to drive when called upon yet provides all the pampering luxury I’d ever want, and is a fairly pragmatic choice too, at least with respect to four-door sedans.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The spacious trunk benefits from a large centre pass-through for loading in longer cargo like skis.

This said I have yet to drive the new BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, although its self-proclaimed four-door coupe body style won’t be able to offer up the same amount of rear seat headroom as the A 220, and the only other subcompact luxury competitors are the Audi A3, which has been on the market for seven-plus years with only a subtle mid-cycle makeover, plus the Acura ILX that’s just as long-in-the-tooth, although only last year it had a much more dramatic update. Still, the ILX is merely an old Honda Civic under the skin, albeit with a better powertrain and gearbox.

Whether opting for the new A 220 or one of the other cars mentioned in this review, I’d be sure to check them all out right here at CarCostCanada before heading to the dealership, mind you. Our 2020 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Canada Prices page was showing up to $750 in additional incentives at the time of writing, while the 2019 model (if still available) was available for up to $2,000 in additional incentives. Members can access information about manufacturer rebates, financing and leasing deals, or other incentives, and best of all is dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands at the time of purchase. Find out how CarCostCanada works here, and make sure to download our free app at the Google Android Play Store or Apple App Store so you can access all this valuable info when you’re at the dealership.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

All-new Mercedes CLA promises big improvements when it arrives this fall

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
Say hello to the fabulous looking new 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Since arriving on the subcompact luxury scene six years ago, the Mercedes-Benz CLA has been in a constant sparring session with Audi’s A3, but when the challenger from Ingolstadt said so long to its conventionally-powered five-door hatchback and we all said hello to an entirely new four-door sport sedan, the four-ringed brand has enjoyed a slight sales lead over its sporty four-door coupe competitor. 

Of course, M-B and Audi aren’t the only two battling it out for entry-level premium car customers, with Mercedes’ very own B-Class MPV luring in plenty each year from its faithful following, not to mention Acura with its ILX sedan, BMW with its 2 Series coupe and convertible, etcetera, but the problems facing this class aren’t as simple as a handful of rivals doing their best to one-up each other anymore, but rather getting noticed in a luxury market that’s a lot more about SUVs than anything that hugs the pavement so closely. 

For this reason we’ve all got to give Mercedes a round of applause (or maybe a standing ovation) for courageously hitting back with myriad car models in most every luxury segment while others are fleeing. In fact, Mercedes will soon offer more models within the subcompact luxury sector than some competitors have cars, period. Perhaps we can chalk this up to being in the automotive industry longer than any rival, a reality that provided experience through plenty of changes in market sentiment, or possibly it’s just plain stubbornness, but whatever the reason, this German brand not only offers six sedans, two wagons, seven coupes, and six convertibles for a total of 21 different body styles you can purchase right here in Canada, right now, but on top of these the Stuttgart-based marque will be adding the A-Class sedan later this year, bumping its car count up to 22, a mind-blowing pavement-hugging lineup in an auto market that’s supposedly only purchasing high-riding SUVs these days. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
With completely new styling from front to back, the new CLA provides a more aggressive new look that’s bound to excite compact luxury buyers. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Of course Mercedes-Benz, Canada’s number one-selling luxury automotive retailer, is capable of filling nearly every niche anyone can conjure up because of its enviable brand equity. Build it and they will come, or so the paraphrased saying goes, and for the most part it’s true. Just look at this subcompact luxury car sector that most brands aren’t even participating in. Mercedes’ B-Class has been attracting entry-level buyers since 2005 when it arrived as a 2006 model, while the same Canadian M-B retailers have been selling the CLA since 2013 (check out pricing and more for the current CLA-Class right here on CarCostCanada now), and the new A-Class hatchback since January. 

Through the first two months of 2019, Mercedes’ collective subcompact luxury sales (including the B-Class) tallied up to 606 units, which dwarfed the 350 Audi A3s sold into the same market, let alone BMW that only managed to sell 139 2 Series and i3 models during the same two months, and as noted we haven’t even seen sales from the lower priced M-B A-Class sedan kick in, or for that matter this entirely new CLA four-door coupe that will hit the streets this fall, building on a success story that’s been pretty impressive so far. 

“With the first CLA we celebrated a huge success by selling some 750,000 vehicles and created a totally new segment with a four-door coupe in the compact class,” says Britta Seeger, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Mercedes-Benz Cars Marketing & Sales. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
These are by far the most complex LED headlamps in the subcompact luxury sector. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Interestingly, more than two thirds of Canadian CLA buyers were new to Mercedes during that model’s peak sales stint, while it’s also critical to point out that these new M-B owners were seven years younger than the brand’s usual average age of clientele. Later this year Canadians will be given the choice of four recently updated or completely new subcompact models (five if you divide the A-Class into its current hatchback and upcoming sedan body types), with this CLA being the most expressive, and sportiest in the collection, and plenty of these newfound Mercedes owners will more than likely stay with the brand when it comes time to trade in and escalate up to fancier more profitable models within the lineup, as their income increases with age and experience. 

“The new CLA is even more emotional and sportier than its predecessor,” continued Seeger. “Coupled with new operating systems, it sets a new benchmark for the entire class.” 

There’s a very big reason Mercedes chose the Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to debut its new CLA last January, the massive Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment interface that, together with its integrated digital instrument cluster, spans much of the car’s instrument panel, but its attractive new styling caused more of an initial crowd. 

Most should agree the new CLA looks more mature due to its seemingly stern forward-slanting sport grille design, which Mercedes claimed is “reminiscent of a shark’s nose” in its press release. Found in front of a lengthier hood highlighted by sculpted “powerdomes”, the new grille is bookended by a more angular set of LED Multibeam headlights incorporating 18 individually-controllable LED elements, all hovering above a more intricately detailed lower front apron. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
Like the headlights, the new CLA’s LED taillights are hardly short on signature lighting elements. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Additionally, the new CLA boasts muscled up side panels with flared fenders, while its entire roofline has been positioned farther toward the rear for a more traditional GT design. The more conventional look continues at the back thanks to a rectangular trunk cutout between totally new LED tail lamps that, like the lenses up front, are narrower and laid out higher and more horizontally for a wider overall appearance. Not only fresher and arguably better looking, the extensively wind tunnel-tested 2020 CLA is now much slicker through the air resulting in a 0.23 coefficient of drag. 

“As a four-door coupe, the new CLA intrigues with its puristic, seductive design and sets new standards in the design DNA of ‘sensual purity’. It impresses with its perfect proportions reflecting the first design sketch: a long, stretched hood, a compact greenhouse, a wide track with exposed wheel arches and our typical GT rear with a strong distinctive ‘Coke-bottle shoulder’,” said Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer of Daimler AG. “In short, the CLA Coupe has the potential to become a modern design icon.” 

The updated CLA’s interior is obviously focused on a younger customer, the vivid orange highlights of the show car and sizeable conjoined digital displays right out of the iPad, Surface and Galaxy Tab playbooks. The fixed-freestanding widescreen combination includes a gauge cluster to the left, which removes the need for an instrument hood altogether, and an infotainment touchscreen to the right, the latter controlled by Mercedes’ trademark palm-rest and new touchpad (the scrolling wheel is gone) on the lower console. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The new CLA’s dash design makes everything else in the subcompact luxury segment look old. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Do-it-yourself shifting comes via a set of paddles behind the 9 and 3 o’clock positions of the beautifully detailed leather-clad flat-bottom sport steering wheel, while above the previously noted infotainment controller is an elegantly thin climate control interface. Lastly, if that mammoth display didn’t first tug at your eyeballs, the stunning turbine-style circular HVAC ducts across the dash certainly should have. 

Back to the mother of all in-car electronic interfaces, which was actually introduced in the new A-Class a year ago and E-Class before that, the graphically stimulating multi-information display and surrounding digital dials sits next to Mercedes new high-resolution MBUX infotainment system as noted earlier. Along with fully customizable displays, Augmented Reality navigation that reportedly provides a much more realistic mapping system plus more, the new system’s computing power is greatly enhanced over the CLA’s outgoing system, and even features software that can “learn and respond to natural speech,” said Mercedes-Benz. 

If you’ve ever struggled to get a voice activation system to understand your prompts you may be glad to hear this next bit of news, because M-B’s new voice assistant is said to communicate more closely to Amazon Alexa, with the simple prompt of “Hey Mercedes” leading to more capability than any other in-car voice system offered thus far. What’s more, it’s intelligent enough to recognize the speech patterns of the individual asking the question, even when others are engaged in a different conversation. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The MBUX system’s graphics are so mesmerizing you might just find yourself driving off the road. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

“The latest version of voice control for MBUX – the Mercedes-Benz User Experience – can be experienced in the new CLA. For example, the voice assistant ‘Hey Mercedes’ is able to recognize and answer considerably more complex queries,” said Sajjad Khan, Member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars for CASE and Head of Digital Vehicle & Mobility. “What’s more, the voice assistance no longer gets confused by other passenger’s conversations. Instead it only responds to the commands of the person who last said ‘Hey Mercedes’ to activate the system.” 

Additionally, Mercedes says their new MBUX voice assistant can even recognize and respond to more complex indirect questions, such as “Find Italian restaurants with at least four stars that are open for lunch but exclude pizza shops,” for example. It can also manage a greater assortment of subjects, with other press release-cited examples including “Hey Mercedes, How did the Toronto Raptors play?” when referencing sports news, or “How has the Apple share price performed compared to Microsoft?” for its take on business news. If you need a quick calculation, MBUX can do that for you too, with the example given being, “What is the square roof of 9?” while Mercedes provided the questions “How big is Texas?” and “What is the fat content of avocados?” for the general knowledge category. 

While some potential buyers may ante up for the new CLA just to for MBUX alone, plenty of others will appreciate the car’s larger overall size. It now measures 48 millimetres (1.9 inches) longer at 4,688 mm (184.5 in), while its wheelbase has been stretched by 30 mm (1.2 in) at 2,729 mm (107.4 in). Additionally, it spans 53 mm (2.1 in) wider at 1,830 mm (72.0 in) without the side mirrors, and finally its roofline is 2 mm (0.1 in) lower at 1,439 mm (56.6 in). 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
With infotainment that rivals the best of today’s tablets, the new CLA should appeal to younger buyers and the young at heart. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

As you can guess it’s more accommodating inside, but while those up front enjoy 17 mm (0.6 in) of additional headroom, and rear passengers get 3 mm (0.1 in) more space overhead, whereas shoulder room has been improved by 9 mm (0.3 in) up front and 22 mm (0.8 in) in the rear, plus front to rear elbow room grows by 35 and 44 mm (1.4 and 1.7 in) respectively, front legroom has actually shrunken by one millimetre, while legroom in the back seat lengthens by just a single millimetre as well. 

The cargo compartment is smaller too, but just by 10 litres (0.3 cubic feet) to a still-sizeable 460 litres (16.2 cu ft), while on the positive the new CLA’s squarer trunk lid width increases by a whopping 262 mm (10.3 in), plus the load floor was widened by 113 mm (4.4 in) wider and deepened by 24 mm (0.9 in). 

Lift the opening at the other end and you’ll once again find a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine underneath, and while Mercedes hasn’t shared performance figures for its most affordable CLA 250 variant yet, it will likely measure up to the new A 250 Hatchback, which makes 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque for a 13 horsepower gain and identical twist. Putting power down to the front wheels or 4MATIC all-wheel drive is Mercedes’ in-house 7G-DCT twin-clutch automated gearbox, with a beefed up version of the transmission and standard AWD expected to be included in the (finger’s crossed) AMG variant, the current performance model good for 375 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
An elegantly thin HVAC panel floats above the CLA’s minimalist lower console, replete with an all-new touchpad infotainment controller. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

An increased dimension not yet mentioned is track width, which is up a healthy 63 mm (2.5 in) at the front wheels and 55 mm (2.1 in) in the rear, while the CLA also benefits from a lower centre of gravity, all of which should combine for a big improvement in overall performance. Additional chassis improvements include a Direct-Steer system and hydromounts up front, while the rear suspension includes a decoupled multi-link axle that reduces NVH, plus bigger stabilizer bars for reducing body roll. Lastly, 18-inch wheels shod in 225/45 tires should come standard, while 19-inch alloys wearing 225/40 rubber will be available. 

And what about advanced driver assistance and safety systems? Standard with the CLA will be Active Brake Assist, while Active Lane Keep Assist, which helps to centre drivers within their lane and prevents them from unexpectedly veering off the road, will be optional by choosing the Intelligent Drive Package that also incorporates Pre-Safe Plus with rear traffic warning and an automatic backup braking system. 

Also notable, the Intelligent Drive Package, which debuted in Mercedes’ flagship S-Class, can pilot the CLA autonomously in certain circumstances, but Mercedes is quick to point out that this semi-autonomous system still needs “cooperative driver support,” or at least it will until its many advanced functions are allowed to work on their own. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
M-B adds a lot more width to new CLA’s interior. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Produced in Kecskemét, Hungary, the redesigned 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA should help increase Mercedes’ command of the subcompact luxury car market when it joins the new A-Class sedan for autumn 2019 availability (find new A-Class Sedan and Hatchback pricing and more right here on CarCostCanada now), not to mention the A-Class Hatchback, GLA-Class subcompact crossover SUV and who knows what else (but according to Mercedes more are coming), and by so doing secure an entirely new generation of three-pointed star devotees. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz