2019 Audi A4 vs. 2019 Mercedes CLA

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The A4’s pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The CLA doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

The A4 has a standard Audi Backguard System that uses a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the Audi Backguard System moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. At the same time the pretensioning seatbelts fire, removing slack from the belts. The CLA doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

The A4 has standard Secondary Collision Brake Assist, which automatically apply the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The CLA doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

The A4 Prestige has a standard Top and Corner View Cameras to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The CLA only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.

To help make backing safer, the A4’s optional cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The CLA doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

Both the A4 and the CLA have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front and rear seatbelt pretensioners, front wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available lane departure warning systems and blind spot warning systems.

For its top level performance in all IIHS frontal, side, rear impact and roof-crush tests, its standard front crash prevention system, and its available headlight’s “Acceptable” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the A4 the rating of “Top Pick” for 2018, a rating granted to only 85 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The CLA has not been fully tested, yet.

Warranty

The A4’s corrosion warranty is 7 years longer than the CLA’s (12 vs. 5 years).

Reliability

The Audi A4’s engines use a cast iron block for durability, while the CLA’s engine uses an aluminum block. Aluminum engine blocks are much more prone to warp and crack at high temperatures than cast iron.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Audi vehicles are more reliable than Mercedes vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Audi 13th in reliability, above the industry average. With 6 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mercedes is ranked 15th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Audi vehicles are more reliable than Mercedes vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Audi 10 places higher in reliability than Mercedes.

Engine

The A4 45 TFSI’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 40 more horsepower (248 vs. 208) and 15 lbs.-ft. more torque (273 vs. 258) than the CLA’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

As tested in Motor Trend the A4 45 TFSI is faster than the Mercedes CLA 250:

 

A4

CLA

Zero to 30 MPH

1.7 sec

2.4 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

5 sec

6.3 sec

Zero to 80 MPH

8.5 sec

10.7 sec

Zero to 100 MPH

13.6 sec

17.3 sec

Passing 45 to 65 MPH

2.7 sec

3 sec

Quarter Mile

13.7 sec

14.9 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

100.4 MPH

93.7 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the A4 45 TFSI Quattro gets better fuel mileage than the CLA 250 4MATIC (23 city/34 hwy vs. 24 city/32 hwy).

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Audi A4 uses regular unleaded gasoline (premium recommended for maximum performance). The CLA requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the A4 Quattro’s brake rotors are larger than those on the CLA:

 

A4 Quattro

CLA

Front Rotors

13.3 inches

12.6 inches

Rear Rotors

13 inches

11.6 inches

The A4’s standard front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs on the CLA are solid, not vented.

The A4 stops shorter than the CLA:

 

A4

CLA

 

70 to 0 MPH

155 feet

160 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

105 feet

114 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the A4’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the CLA (245/40R18 vs. 225/45R17).

The A4’s optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 35 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the CLA’s optional 40 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the A4 offers optional 19-inch wheels. The CLA’s largest wheels are only 18-inches.

The A4 has a standard space-saver spare tire so you can replace a flat tire and drive to have the flat repaired or replaced. A spare tire isn’t available on the CLA; it requires you to depend on its run-flat tires, which limits mileage and speed before they are repaired. If a run-flat is damaged beyond repair by a road hazard your vehicle will have to be towed.

Suspension and Handling

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the A4’s wheelbase is 3.7 inches longer than on the CLA (110 inches vs. 106.3 inches).

The A4’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (56% to 44%) than the CLA’s (61% to 39%). This gives the A4 more stable handling and braking.

The A4 Premium Plus Quattro handles at .92 G’s, while the CLA 250 pulls only .90 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The A4 Premium Plus Quattro executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.1 seconds quicker than the CLA 250 (25.3 seconds @ .74 average G’s vs. 26.4 seconds @ .69 average G’s).

Chassis

As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the A4 Prestige Quattro is quieter than the CLA 250:

 

A4

CLA

At idle

42 dB

43 dB

Full-Throttle

70 dB

76 dB

70 MPH Cruising

63 dB

70 dB

Passenger Space

Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the EPA rates the A4 a Compact car, while the CLA is rated a Subcompact.

The A4 has 14 cubic feet more passenger volume than the CLA (92 vs. 78).

The A4 has .7 inches more front headroom, 1.1 inches more front legroom, 2 inches more rear headroom, 8.6 inches more rear legroom and 1.3 inches more rear shoulder room than the CLA.

Cargo Capacity

With its sedan body style, valet key, locking rear seatbacks and remote trunk release lockout, the A4 offers cargo security. The CLA’s non-lockable folding seat and non-lockable remote release defeat cargo security.

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier, especially for short adults, the A4 has a standard power trunk, which opens and closes automatically by pressing a button, or optionally by just kicking your foot under the back bumper, completely leaving your hands free. The CLA doesn’t offer a power trunk.

Servicing Ease

The A4 uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The CLA uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

The engine in the A4 is mounted longitudinally (North-South), instead of sideways, as in the CLA. This makes it easier to service and maintain, because the accessory belts are in front.

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Audi service is better than Mercedes. J.D. Power ranks Audi third in service department satisfaction. With a 3% lower rating, Mercedes is ranked 6th.

Ergonomics

The A4 has a standard heads-up display that projects speed and navigation instruction readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The CLA doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

Heated windshield washer nozzles are standard on the A4 to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The CLA doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts detailed tests on headlights for their range both straight ahead and in curves and to be certain they don’t exceed acceptable amounts of glare to oncoming drivers. The A4’s available headlights were rated “Acceptable” by the IIHS, while the CLA’s headlights are rated “Poor.”

In poor weather, headlights can lose their effectiveness as grime builds up on their lenses. This can reduce visibility without the driver realizing. The A4 has standard headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The CLA doesn’t offer headlight washers.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors standard on the A4 Prestige detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The CLA doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

To help drivers avoid possible obstacles, the A4 has standard cornering lights to illuminate around corners when the turn signals are activated. The CLA doesn’t offer cornering lights.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the A4 has standard extendable sun visors. The CLA doesn’t offer extendable visors.

The A4 has standard heated front seats. Heated front seats cost extra on the CLA. The A4 also offers optional heated rear seats to keep those passengers extremely comfortable in the winter. Heated rear seats aren’t available in the CLA.

Optional air-conditioned seats in the A4 keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The CLA doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

On extremely cold winter days, the A4’s optional heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The CLA doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the A4 owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the A4 will cost $2555 less than the CLA over a five-year period.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the A4 is less expensive to operate than the CLA because it costs $297 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the A4 than the CLA, including $149 less for a starter, $262 less for fuel injection, $91 less for a fuel pump and $409 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® chose the Audi A4 as its “Top Pick,” the highest scoring vehicle in its category, based on reliability, safety and performance. The Mercedes CLA isn't recommended.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the A4 first among compact premium cars in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The CLA isn’t in the top three in its category.

The Audi A4/S4 outsold the Mercedes CLA by 64% during the 2018 model year.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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