2020 Lexus ES Series vs. 2019 Mercedes CLA

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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The ES Series has a standard Secondary Collision Brake, which automatically applies 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.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The ES Series offers optional Intuitive Parking Assist with Auto Braking that uses rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The CLA doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

The ES Series offers an optional Panoramic View Camera 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 ES Series’ 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 ES Series 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, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, driver alert monitors and available blind spot warning systems.

For its top level performance in IIHS driver and passenger-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, roof strength and head restraint tests, its standard front crash prevention system, and its headlight’s “Good” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the ES Series its highest rating: “Top Pick Plus” for 2019, a rating granted to only 46 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The CLA was not even a standard “Top Pick” for 2016.

Warranty

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Lexus’ powertrain warranty covers the ES Series 2 years and 20,000 miles longer than Mercedes covers the CLA. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 6 years or 70,000 miles. Coverage on the CLA ends after only 4 years or 50,000 miles.

The ES Series’ corrosion warranty is 1 year longer than the CLA’s (6 vs. 5 years).

Reliability

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A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the ES Series’ reliability 20 points higher than the CLA.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Lexus vehicles are better in initial quality than Mercedes vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Lexus 8th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 4 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mercedes is ranked 12th, below the industry average.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Lexus vehicles are more reliable than Mercedes vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Lexus first in reliability, above the industry average. With 28 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mercedes is ranked 13th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Lexus vehicles are more reliable than Mercedes vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Lexus first in reliability. Mercedes is ranked 17th.

Engine

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The ES 300h’s standard 2.5 DOHC 4-cylinder hybrid produces 7 more horsepower (215 vs. 208) than the CLA’s 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder. The ES 350’s standard 3.5 DOHC V6 produces 94 more horsepower (302 vs. 208) and 9 lbs.-ft. more torque (267 vs. 258) than the CLA’s 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder.

Fuel Economy and Range

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On the EPA test cycle the ES 300h gets better fuel mileage than the CLA FWD (43 city/44 hwy vs. 24 city/37 hwy).

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

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Lexus ES Series uses regular unleaded gasoline. The CLA requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

The ES Series’ standard fuel tank has 1.1 gallons more fuel capacity than the CLA (15.9 vs. 14.8 gallons).

Transmission

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

The ES 300h has a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT). With no “steps” between gears, it can keep the engine at the most efficient speed for fuel economy, or keep it at its peak horsepower indefinitely for maximum acceleration. The CLA doesn’t offer a CVT.

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the ES Series’ optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the CLA (235/45R18 vs. 225/45R17).

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

The ES Series 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

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For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the ES Series’ wheelbase is 6.7 inches longer than on the CLA (113 inches vs. 106.3 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the ES Series is 1.9 inches wider in the front and 2.4 inches wider in the rear than the track on the CLA.

Chassis

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The ES Series F Sport uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The CLA doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

Passenger Space

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Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the EPA rates the ES Series a Mid-size car, while the CLA is rated a Subcompact.

The ES Series has 21.9 cubic feet more passenger volume than the CLA (99.9 vs. 78).

The ES Series has 2.2 inches more front legroom, 2.4 inches more rear headroom, 12.1 inches more rear legroom and 1.1 inches more rear shoulder room than the CLA.

Cargo Capacity

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The ES Series has a much larger trunk than the CLA (16.7 vs. 13.1 cubic feet).

With its sedan body style, valet key and remote trunk release lockout, the ES Series 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 ES Series offers an optional power trunk, 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

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The ES Series 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.

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Lexus service is better than Mercedes. J.D. Power ranks Lexus second in service department satisfaction. With a 11% lower rating, Mercedes is ranked fifth.

Ergonomics

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The ES Series’ optional easy entry system raises the steering wheel and glides the driver’s seat back when the door is unlocked or the ignition is switched off, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The CLA doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

The ES Series 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.

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 ES Series’ headlights were rated “Good” to “Acceptable” by the IIHS, while the CLA’s headlights are rated “Poor.”

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors standard on the ES Series 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 ES Series has standard cornering lights to illuminate around corners when the turn signals are activated. The CLA doesn’t offer cornering lights. The ES Series also offers optional adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle.

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

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

Optional air-conditioned seats in the ES Series 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 ES Series’ 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

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Insurance will cost less for the ES Series owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the ES Series will cost $2315 less than the CLA over a five-year period.

The ES Series will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the ES Series will retain 48.23% to 49.19% of its original price after five years, while the CLA only retains 44.57% to 45.25%.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the ES Series is less expensive to operate than the CLA because it costs $409 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the ES Series than the CLA, including $69 less for a water pump, $108 less for a muffler, $458 less for a starter, $203 less for fuel injection and $222 less for a fuel pump.

IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Lexus ES Series will be $267 to $760 less than for the Mercedes CLA.

Recommendations

© 1999 - 2019 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2019/10/23

Consumer Reports® recommends the Lexus ES Series, based on reliability, safety and performance. The Mercedes CLA isn't recommended.

The Lexus ES Series outsold the Mercedes CLA by over two to one during 2018.

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

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