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      03-10-2014, 11:16 AM   #1
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Post Entry Level Luxury Sedan Motortrend Review: BMW 320i vs CLA250, CC and Regal

Entry Level Luxury Sedan Motortrend Review: BMW 320i vs CLA250, CC and Regal
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Motortrend has published an entry-level luxury sedan review, comparing the BMW 320i, Mercedes CLA250, VW CC and Buick Regal. Check out some highlights below and head on over to Motortrend for the full review.

The initial idea suggested to yours truly was to line up the Mercedes-Benz CLA250 against the Volkswagen CC R-Line, but the proposal was compelling for all of two minutes. Apart from vaguely sharing body shapes and having turbocharged engines with similar outputs, the bigger, $35K, entry-level luxury question asked was, “Would anybody care?”

Because we wouldn’t have access to an MQB-underpinned Audi A3 until a month after our prospective itinerary, we turned to the other natural Germanic competitor. The MPV-like, front-drive BMW 2 Series Active Tourer is tentatively due in 2015, so a suitably priced 320i was chosen. The least expensive BMW sedan you can lease right this instant also, shockingly, starts at $4550 less than a no-frills 328i.
Even though the 320i came fitted with the passive M sport suspension -- unique springs, shock absorbers, and bushings, with 0.2/1mm thicker front/rear anti-roll bars -- as part of the $1300 Sport Package, it rode confidently on its staggered 18-inch wheels. The BMW suspension delivers a reassuring ride that’s more adept than those of the Regal or CC at snuffing motions after the wheel impact, rather than letting the car oscillate on its own. The purest of BMW purists have harangued that the current F30 3 Series isn’t as laser-focused on handling and as rewarding a driver’s driver as the E30, E36, E46, and E90. We counter the F30 is still an admirable all-around vehicle.

The CLA250 is way different. On an unblemished road, all is right. Take it out of its element—such as out on the wild remnants of Route 66 -- and the cabin sounds like all hell has broken loose. The front end is too tight, sending loud, sharp thwacks through the air where the other three broadcast softer thumps. The body control is good, even if you feel a lot of the road. We started holding our breath any time the surface took a turn for the worse, scowling until the cracks and divots disappeared. The little Merc had optional, $500 18-inch wheels. We’d like to believe the standard 17s with slightly taller-profile tires would offer enough cushioning to alter the ride, but the harshness seems more serious than a set of tires could fix.
First and second place were clear. First goes to the 320i, with its easygoing, composed chassis. It’s the most eager to go driving in by a long shot. Knocks against it: It’s weaker on wind-noise abatement and doesn’t come with as many features, although there are plenty of a la carte options to inflate the final price. Second sits the Regal, exceptionally outfitted with goodies including a heated steering wheel and AC power receptacle and boasting ride comfort for all ages. There’s no embarrassment in (inadvertently) taking it through a canyon.

The votes tied the CC and CLA250, circling us back to the standoff that initiated the whole adventure. Needing to break the stalemate for third place, we flipped through the yeas and nays for the two. The CC: simple and elegantly executed, if a bit bland, and it’s definitely showing its age. The CLA250: The fuel economy (both the EPA estimate and Real MPG) is impressive, and it looks neat, but nobody mentioned the driving experience as a positive.

4th Place: Mercedes-Benz CLA250
It'll be a star when rough-riding luxury cars become all the rage.

3rd Place: Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line
Beauty craving more substance.

2nd Place: Buick Regal T
Nearly bucked the “3 Series always win” trend.

1st Place: BMW 320i
Prepared for any road, anywhere, any time.