2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4MATIC side
2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4MATIC

Sport Sedan vs Sport Utility: Choose one

It is a titanic battle in today’s marketplace- sport sedan vs sport utility

It is a well-documented fact that sport utility vehicles are fast taking over in the marketplace from sport sedans. In fact, just to complicate your choice a little more, wagons are coming back in style with exceptionally stylish models such as the all-new Volvo V90 Cross Country hitting the streets. But try as I might to justify why people think they need an SUV, I can’t quite wrap my head around the notion that suddenly everyone needs the capability to go off-road. People, what’s so bad about a good old reliable, stylish and fun-to-drive, 4-door sedan that can easily carry you and the kids? What is happening here?

So, if I had roughly $45,000-$50,000 to spend on a new vehicle and I wanted a little European styling and German know-how as part of the package, what are some of my options? Here are two vehicles that I think meet the criterion of the right look and enough practicality to make sense for a family of four.

2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4MATIC

This is not your typical Mercedes-Benz sedan. For one thing, the company refers to it is a coupe and not a sedan. Why? For the obvious reason that sexy sells. If I were to say to you my family drives a two-door car instead of a four-door sedan, chances are you might think I’m pretty cool. In reality, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA is very much a sedan, the only coupe part being a serious lack of adult-friendly rear seat head room given the dramatically swooping roofline.

Power comes in the form of a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. It produces 208 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque at 1,200-4,000 rpm. It feels quick and agile, perfect for those Saturday morning runs before the rest of the world wakes up, or picking up the kids at ballet and soccer later in the day.

Matched to a slick 7-speed dual clutch automatic (DCA) transmission, this front-wheel drive Mercedes-Benz accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 6.7 seconds. Yes that is correct; I did say the front wheels propel the car in the desired direction. Top speed is electronically limited at 210 km/h.

Slippery is a good way to describe the outward shape of the CLA. With a 0.29 drag coefficient, it glides through the air with ease and quiet. At first glance you may wonder how this is possible as the CLA has a rather proud front nose. But closer inspection reveals careful attention to detail as headlights, front spoiler, hood and side-view mirrors all benefit from wind tunnel testing and airflow tweaks.

Inside, the CLA 250 4MATIC is all business. For the first time in recent memory, I have finally found an interior to rival that of Audi in both look and feel. A 3-spoke steering wheel orchestrates the driving experience with authority and convenience. Wheel-mounted controls handle numerous functions and our model was equipped with paddle-shifters, something I like to use regularly. Forward shifts are quick and to the point as directed, though I do find backing up takes a little longer than I am used to as the electronic parking brake takes a moment to disengage when pressing the accelerator pedal.

Three rather large round central vents, (5 in total for the CLA) adjust airflow easily and look fantastic with metallic surrounds. Below this sits the audio system and HVAC unit. Gauges are black numbers on white, look distinctive and function very well. I even enjoyed a feature on our test vehicle that loudly indicated we were approaching a vehicle from behind and should apply the brakes. In fog or heavy rain, or that split second when you look away, this could be a real life saver.

Complaints are few, but worth mentioning. On paper, trunk space is right up there at 470 litres. But the entrance tapers dramatically and is therefore tight with larger items. As stated previously, rear seat head and legroom is at a premium. That said, if you have toddlers to young teenagers onboard, you should be fine. And personally, I am still not a fan of the retro-style gear shift lever located on the steering wheel column and I prefer not to adjust my seat on the door, even though it might look cool being shaped like a seat. But that’s just me.

2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA
Base Price: $37,500.00
Price as tested: $45,430.00
Configuration: front-engine/front-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 2.0L 4 cylinder turbo/7-spd automatic
Power/torque: 252 hp/273 lb-ft
Fuel economy L/100 km: 10.0 city, 7.2 hwy
Fuel (capacity): premium (56L)
Warranties: 3 years/ unlimited km (basic)
Competitors: Acura TSX, Audi A4, BMW 2-Series, Infiniti Q50, Lexus IS, Volvo S60

Related links:
Mercedes-Benz Canada

2017 Porsche Macan

The Macan is powered by a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged engine. Performance numbers indicate 252 horsepower at 5,000-6,800 rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque at 1,500-4,500 rpm.

Matched to a 7-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung transmission, the Macan accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 6.7 seconds (Porsche claims 6.5 seconds with Sport Chrono Package). Top speed is listed at 229 km/h. But there is so much more to how it performs on the road.

Driving the Macan is much like getting behind the wheel of a previous gen Porsche 911 Carrera; it feels surprisingly nimble on the road, almost light on its feet. On the highway, tires grip with the tenacity you except from a Porsche. Punch the accelerator and things start to happen fast as the 4-cylinder takes charge and the speedometer quickly rises. Passing vehicles is easy and the smaller dimensions of the Macan versus the Cayenne seem perfect in the city. It also feels more solid than its Volkswagen Group stable mate, the Audi Q5.

Safety is not an issue with 4-wheel disc brakes, ABS, traction and stability control, front and rear seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and front knee airbags, lane departure warning and front and rear park assist. Torque split front to back is available all the way to 0-100%, providing exceptional all-weather performance and off-road capability.

As you would expect, exterior design cues pay homage to the Cayenne, but there are distinct differences between the two. For one thing, the aluminum clamshell hood is functional, directing airflow to the engine. Large filters suck in great volumes of air allowing for maximum engine performance. It also looks great, providing a proud nose to the Macan and making a statement this is no ordinary mid-size SUV.

A multi-function 3-spoke steering wheel takes inspiration from the Porsche 918 Spyder. It offers easy control while maintaining one of Porsche’s most important motorsport idioms; keep your hands on the steering wheel. Paddle shifters are located directly behind the wheel and require a simple flick of the finger to operate.

Standard Alcantara seat centers are superbly comfortable, offering exception back, leg, thigh and hip support. A large center console features North American size cupholders and plenty of storage. The center console and HVAC system is complex, in typical Porsche fashion, but is easy to use with a little practice and soon becomes an afterthought as I spend more time in the Macan.

The Macan is sized right and drives like a car, hence the reason why we are starting to see more of them on the road. Like the four-door coupe Mercedes-Benz, rear seat leg and shoulder room is at a premium for three adults, but kids and teens should have no problem. Rear storage space is good and this maybe one of the reasons why so many people are choosing sport utility vehicles rather than sport sedans. That and its all-wheel drive capability.

Still, if you really think about it, I would at least consider the lower starting price and better fuel economy of a Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4MATIC and sportier drive characteristics before making my final choice. There is still something to be said for picking up your kids at school or practice in a form pleasing sedan. If nothing else, it should allow you to stand out in a crowded parking of SUV’s.

2017 Porsche Macan
Base Price: $52,700.00
Price as tested: $57,185.00
Configuration: front-engine/all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 2.0L 4-cylinder turbo/7-spd automatic
Power/torque: 208 hp/358 lb-ft
Fuel economy L/100 km: 11.6 city, 9.3 hwy
Fuel (capacity): premium (75L)
Warranties: 4 years/80,000 km (basic)
Competitors: Audi Q5, BMW X3, Infiniti QX50, Lexus RX, Lincoln MKC, Mercedes-Benz GLK, Range Rover Evoque, Volvo XC60

Related links:
Porsche Canada

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