2020 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe vs. 2019 Mercedes CLA

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The 4 Series Gran Coupe has standard Active Headrests, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the Active Headrests system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The CLA doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

The 4 Series Gran Coupe offers an optional Side and Top 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 4 Series Gran Coupe’s 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 4 Series Gran Coupe 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 seatbelt pretensioners, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, rearview cameras and available all wheel drive.

Warranty

The 4 Series Gran Coupe’s corrosion warranty is 7 years longer than the CLA’s (12 vs. 5 years).

BMW pays for scheduled maintenance on the 4 Series Gran Coupe for 3 years and 36,000 miles. BMW will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Mercedes doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the CLA.

Reliability

The battery on the 4 Series Gran Coupe is in the trunk, which protects it from hot underhood temperatures that can degrade battery life. By keeping the 4 Series Gran Coupe’s battery 20 to 30 degrees cooler, its life is increased by years. The CLA’s battery is in the hot engine compartment.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the 4 Series Gran Coupe first among compact premium cars in their 2018 Initial Quality Study. The CLA was rated third in its category.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that BMW vehicles are better in initial quality than Mercedes vehicles. J.D. Power ranks BMW 11th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 5 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mercedes is ranked 15th.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that BMW vehicles are more reliable than Mercedes vehicles. J.D. Power ranks BMW 7th in reliability, above the industry average. With 12 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mercedes is ranked 13th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that BMW vehicles are more reliable than Mercedes vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks BMW 9 places higher in reliability than Mercedes.

Engine

The 430i Gran Coupe’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 40 more horsepower (248 vs. 208) than the CLA’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. The 440i Gran Coupe’s standard 3.0 turbo 6 cyl. produces 112 more horsepower (320 vs. 208) and 72 lbs.-ft. more torque (330 vs. 258) than the CLA’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

As tested in Car and Driver the 430i Gran Coupe is faster than the Mercedes CLA 250:

4 Series

CLA

Zero to 30 MPH

2 sec

2.4 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

5.7 sec

6.3 sec

Zero to 100 MPH

14.9 sec

16.7 sec

5 to 60 MPH Rolling Start

6.8 sec

7 sec

Passing 30 to 50 MPH

3.6 sec

3.8 sec

Passing 50 to 70 MPH

4.3 sec

4.7 sec

Quarter Mile

14.3 sec

14.9 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

98 MPH

95 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

Regenerative brakes improve the 4 Series Gran Coupe’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The CLA doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

The 4 Series Gran Coupe has a gallon more fuel capacity than the CLA (15.8 vs. 14.8 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Transmission

An eight-speed automatic is standard on the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a seven-speed automatic is available for the CLA.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the 440i Gran Coupe’s brake rotors are larger than those on the CLA:

440i

CLA

Front Rotors

13.4 inches

12.6 inches

Rear Rotors

13 inches

11.6 inches

The 4 Series Gran Coupe’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.

Tires and Wheels

The 4 Series Gran Coupe’s optional 255/35R19 rear 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 4 Series Gran Coupe has standard 18-inch wheels. Smaller 17-inch wheels are standard on the CLA. The 4 Series Gran Coupe’s optional 19-inch wheels are larger than the 18-inch wheels optional on the CLA.

Suspension and Handling

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the 4 Series Gran Coupe’s wheelbase is 4.3 inches longer than on the CLA (110.6 inches vs. 106.3 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the 4 Series Gran Coupe is .1 inches wider in the front and 2 inches wider in the rear than the track on the CLA.

The 4 Series Gran Coupe’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (50.1% to 49.9%) than the CLA’s (61% to 39%). This gives the 4 Series Gran Coupe more stable handling and braking.

Chassis

As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the 430i Gran Coupe xDrive is quieter than the CLA 250:

4 Series

CLA

At idle

40 dB

43 dB

Full-Throttle

73 dB

76 dB

70 MPH Cruising

65 dB

70 dB

Passenger Space

Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the EPA rates the 4 Series Gran Coupe a Compact car, while the CLA is rated a Subcompact.

The 4 Series Gran Coupe has 14 cubic feet more passenger volume than the CLA (92 vs. 78).

The 4 Series Gran Coupe has 1.7 inches more front headroom, 2 inches more front legroom, 1.5 inches more rear headroom, 6.6 inches more rear legroom and 1.1 inches more rear shoulder room than the CLA.

Cargo Capacity

The 4 Series Gran Coupe has a larger trunk with its rear seat up than the CLA (17 vs. 13.1 cubic feet).

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier, especially for short adults, the 4 Series Gran Coupe has a standard power liftgate, which opens and closes automatically by pressing a button or just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, completely leaving your hands free. The CLA doesn’t offer a power trunk, so its trunk has to be closed manually.

Servicing Ease

The 4 Series Gran Coupe 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 4 Series Gran Coupe 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.

Ergonomics

The 4 Series Gran Coupe offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation 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.

In poor weather, headlights can lose their effectiveness as grime builds up on their lenses. This can reduce visibility without the driver realizing. The 4 Series Gran Coupe offers available headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The CLA doesn’t offer headlight washers.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors available for the 4 Series Gran Coupe 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 see further while navigating curves, the 4 Series Gran Coupe offers optional adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The CLA doesn’t offer cornering lights.

A power rear sunshade is optional in the 4 Series Gran Coupe to help block heat and glare for the rear passengers. The CLA doesn’t offer a rear sunshade.

Both the 4 Series Gran Coupe and the CLA offer optional heated front seats. The 4 Series Gran Coupe also offers optional heated rear seats to keep those passengers extremely comfortable in the winter. Heated rear seats aren’t available in the CLA.

On extremely cold winter days, the 4 Series Gran Coupe’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.

Model Availability

The BMW 4 Series comes in coupe, convertible and four-door hatchback bodystyles; the Mercedes CLA isn’t available as a coupe or convertible.

Economic Advantages

The 4 Series Gran Coupe will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the 4 Series Gran Coupe will retain 47.49% to 50.4% of its original price after five years, while the CLA only retains 46.37% to 46.78%.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the 4 Series Gran Coupe is less expensive to operate than the CLA because it costs $328 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the 4 Series Gran Coupe than the CLA, including $367 less for a starter, $138 less for fuel injection, $419 less for a fuel pump and $91 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations

The 4 Series was chosen as one of Car and Driver’s “Top Ten” in 2014. The CLA has never been a Car and Driver “Top Ten” pick.

The 4 Series was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” in 2014. The CLA has never been an “All Star.”

The BMW 4 Series outsold the Mercedes CLA by 39% during 2018.

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

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