Wapcar – The Mercedes CLA was not born to be so sporty. It started life as an A-Class hatchback, then a Rocky practice accessory later emerged as a four-door coupe – sharper, sportier and more muscular. Is it a wild transformation? Well, no, but that’s enough to make you wonder if it works with as much enthusiasm as the styling suggests.
The same can be said for the Audi A5 Sportback. It’s based on a company car, the A4, though it climbs stairs and crashes into the meat as much as the CLA. He also kept a lot of brains to support his newfound powers. The A5’s interior is sophisticated, and it’s the only car here with a handy hatchback trunk.
Our final competitor is the Jaguar XE. It is not a modified version of another model; rather, this posh pub was born butch. In keeping with his style, he also entered the ring with the strongest of the three.
Looking for 2019 examples from our used trio can save you £7,000-12,000 on a new purchase. Every car is equipped with a turbocharged gasoline engine and a continuously variable automatic transmission, but who will hold their heads high?
If you’re looking for something really, really live, pick up the CLA. While it’s not as powerful as the XE, it’s much lighter, so it fell half a second from the competition’s 0-60mph time in our testing. That’s still a far cry from Mercedes’ claims, but since our test day was rainy and the CLA has front-wheel drive, getting it out of the way without spinning the wheels is almost as troublesome as magic. Alchemy. Although he was neutralized by Mother Nature here, he was definitely the strongest in all situations, including cross-country.
The XE’s engine is powerful and being the only rear-wheel drive car here gives it a huge traction advantage in wet conditions. However, it falls short of Jaguar’s claimed acceleration time, and part of the problem is its eight-speed automatic transmission. It responds much slower than the CLA’s seven-warning rate, and that’s a particular problem when you’re asking for a power boost. It slows down to the point of distraction before eventually offloading and pulling you forward, to say some enthusiasm.
The A5’s seven-speed transmission is better than the XE but later than the CLA. The main reason the A5 is the slowest car on this test is simple: it lacks power and thrust compared to the competition. However, it will find you driving along the outer lane of the freeway without too much strain.
Gearbox tuning affects other things, such as how easy the car is to drive. The smoothness of their brakes and throttle is another factor, and the CLA pulls it along on all three fronts. As a result, proficient driving is the easiest.
The A5’s reluctance to shift a gear causes you to press more and more on its throttle until you finally get a series of excessive revs. Combine that with the original flexible brake pedal and it’s a bit sturdier.
However, there is nothing worse than XE. Its brake pedal has no resistance at the top of its stroke, so it’s extremely hard to judge with any finesse, and the throttle is too spiky, making it difficult to get a smooth start at times. Add to that the stubborn gearbox and the most abrupt and somewhat disappointing engine shutdown system.
At least the XE’s engine makes up for some of the lost ground by being quieter than the CLA’s, although the rear XE’s engine isn’t as unruly, instead sparking sporty. The quietest and quietest engine, however, comes from the A5’s silky-smooth unit.
Once you’ve reached highway speeds, every engine blends into the background and the cars move through the miles with relative composure. The XE gets the most blur around the side mirrors and windshield, while the CLA’s tires make the drone uglier. The A5 is the best in both respects, but you can hear its suspension work on impact. The same goes for the CLA, while the XE is handled extremely well in terms of this type of noise.
On the XE, some will find the suspension you get with the R-Dynamic trim we have here pretty solid, especially on the 19-inch wheels. Other trim levels with softer setups and adaptive suspension may have been optional at launch to help the R-Dynamic, but in testing, it swayed the most on the highway and track. More careful road terrain than its rivals. The payback is that the XE feels secure, so you don’t bounce out of your seat in an impact on the asphalt. It also never collided nearly as potholes.
The A5 wobbles occasionally on sharper things, but otherwise, it’s definitely the quietest car here, giving you very good relief from everything from the buttons to the speed bumps. Our test car rides on the standard Comfort Dynamic suspension, the softer of the two available. A stiffer Sport suspension could have been specified, but if you value comfort we wouldn’t recommend chasing an example with this one.
The collective agreement is between and between. Overall, it’s comfortable, no doubt, but it’s less forgiving than the A5 around town (which has sharper ridges that the XE can better tolerate) and bounces around a lot of dents. and the ledge you meet. often on country roads. However, it is very smooth on the highway.
What about the bends? Well, the XE is by far the most rewarding and engaging, not only because its rear-wheel drive setup is the most enjoyable, but also because it drives so smoothly. Astute drivers will appreciate the gradual and intuitive weight build-up from the moment you start steering. Why is this good, you might ask? Because it helps you hold onto the front wheel, making parking become more of a work of instinct than conscious thought. The stiffer R-Dynamic suspension helps to minimize body roll and instability in high-speed corners, although the standard springs are also quite effective in this regard.
The A5 looks bulky at best, but it’s neat and inspiring enough to get you bouncing around and going fast in no time. Although it leans more than the XE, it feels balanced in the corners and finds plenty of grips, especially up front, which helps it go into corners enthusiastically. Its steering is the main problem, lacking the refinement of the XE and feeling dreary and oppressive when you open or unlock it. The A5’s front-wheel layout also damages the power steering, pulling the steering wheel left and right into your hands.
In town, the CLA is the smallest and easiest to cross and, thanks to the lightest handlebars, requires the least amount of effort to steer. If you take the country road and the following routes it is quite possible to go up to eight out of ten. Try to go harder, though, and the steering offers the fewest connections of the three, and the front end wants to run wide through corners as soon as possible. So the CLA is least called for if you’re trying to follow a twisty road that has some tough cameras and sharp contours.
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