2015 Mercedes CLA 250 vs Acura ILX

35

A decade ago, the thought of a direct comparison between entry-level sedans from Acura and Mercedes… well… to be honest it just wouldn’t have made sense.

Fast forward by a little more than 10 years and we’ve got a real dogfight on our hands.

See, here’s the thing, back in 2004 – the first model year for the TSX – Acura was selling front-wheel drive cars with admirable driving dynamics, stupendous transmissions and high-revving Honda VTEC engines.

As much fun as they were, there still wasn’t any masking the gap between Acura’s cars and what you could get from the Germans. I mean, we’re talking rear-wheel drive, smoother engines and, inexplicably, a telephone number pad.

Of course, the most important of those is rear-wheel drive, and up until 2014, every Mercedes product you could buy in America powered the rear axle first.

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

Then the CLA showed up and suddenly the story changed because it uses a transversely mounted engine to power the front wheels. As you probably know, it does that through a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a dual-clutch transmission.

One year prior to all that, Acura launched the ILX and quite honestly it was a stinker. I say “was” because this year Acura dropped the smaller engine and both of the old transmissions in favor of an eight-speed dual clutch gearbox with a torque converter.

Suddenly the entry-level products from Acura and Mercedes have some striking similarities.

Driving Dynamics and Mileage

The differences between these two are impossible to ignore once you start driving. The CLA just edges out the ILX by seven horsepower, but offers a whopping 78 more lb-ft of torque courtesy of its turbocharged engine. That makes the CLA more entertaining to drive, but the added power isn’t without drawbacks.

CLAEngine1ILXEngine1

We found the ILX’s naturally aspirated 2.4-liter engine to be more efficient than the CLA’s turbocharged 2.0-liter powerplant. The ILX delivered 29.4 MPG compared to the Mercedes’ 27 MPG.

It’s worth mentioning that the Mercedes’ powertrain isn’t without its quirks. The seven-speed dual clutch transmission feels abrupt during initial engagement from time to time, but it’s also quick to shift once you get underway. The ILX’s eight-speed dual-clutch transmission feels is smoother because it uses a torque converter.

And if you activate “sport” mode, the ILX delivers quick downshifts when you lift off the throttle or apply the brakes.

ILXExterior4

Unfortunately, that’s the only bit of Sporty DNA to be found in the ILX. In every other application, the CLA has it beat. The steering is more responsive and better calibrated for spirited driving. The CLA is also more adept to taking corners are higher speeds than the ILX is. In comparison, the ILX has light steering and a softer suspension setup, and isn’t as much fun to drive.

Of course, the optional “Sport Plus” package has a lot to do with that. It includes an AMG tuned suspension and upgraded brakes, which are really noticeable and provide great confidence on the road.

Finally, while the ILX is only available with front-wheel drive, while the CLA is available with all-wheel drive. It costs an extra $2,000 and lends the Mercedes better all-weather capability while neutralizing the risk for torque steer tied to a turbocharged front-wheel drive powertrain. As optional equipment goes, 4Matic is a must-have in the CLA.

ILXInterior3CLAInterior6

Compare Specs

2015 Acura ILX A Spec
vs
2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4Matic Sport
Vehicle 2015 Acura ILX A Spec Advantage 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4Matic Sport
Engine 2.4L NA I4 - 2.0L turbo I4
Transmission 8-speed DCT w/ torque converter - 7-speed DCT
Horsepower 201 CLA 208
Torque 180 CLA 258
Estimated MPG 25 city 36 highway, 29 average ILX 24 city, 33 highway, 27 average
Observed MPG 29.4 MPG ILX 27 MPG
Rear seat legroom 35.6 inches - 35.9 inches
Rear seat headroom 35.6 inches - 35.9 inches
Trunk space 13.1 cubic feet ILX 12.3
Length 182.3 inches - 181.9 inches
Width 70 inches - 70.7 inches
Price (starting) $28,820 ILX $34,425
Price (as tested) $35,810 - $46,155

Interior Differences

CLA offers a much more stylish interior with ambient lighting, highly decorative panel design, a thick-rimmed flat-bottom steering wheel and sport seats that do a splendid job of gripping both the driver and the front passenger. But like so many other stylish things, there is very little space inside. In fact, this really might as well be a coupe because I can’t even sit up straight in the second row.

For some perspective, both of these cars are about the same length and slightly wider than the W204 C-Class.

The ILX isn’t nearly as stylish as the CLA, but by ignoring the silly “four-door coupe” trend the ILX has a real leg up in interior volume. The seats don’t hug you as tightly, but the cloth inserts do a good job of preventing your butt and back from sliding around mid-corner.

Speaking of materials, that’s another area where Mercedes has Acura pinned. There’s nothing wrong with the ILX, but the buttons, dials and gauges in the CLA are more appealing. At the same time, it still feels like a downmarket Mercedes and that isn’t really a good thing.

Finally, trunk space is basically a tie between the two, but we’ve got to hand it to Mercedes. You get a 60-40 split rear seat and a pass-through window, both of which are disappointingly absent in the ILX.

CLAExterior1

Money and Technology

If you’re after value, the ILX is hard to beat. It starts at under $29,000 and tops out at $35,810. On the other hand, the CLA starts at $34,425, which isn’t far from what the fully loaded Acura costs.

This fully loaded ILX offers cool features and driver assists for a low price. That includes things like adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and forward collision warning. Considering that you can get all of that for under $36,000 and the ILX is a great choice if features are high up on your shopping list.

To put it in perspective, if you wanted to equip this CLA with the same features, it’ll end up costing over $10,000 more than the ILX.

And while it will cost you, the CLA does get a few cool exclusive features like a panoramic sunroof and that performance package that makes the car so enjoyable to drive.

CLA vs ILX4

The Verdict: 2015 Mercedes CLA 250 vs Acura ILX

The refreshed ILX is a massive improvement over the early model. It looks better and feels more premium to drive and that ends up elevating the Acura brand as a whole.

In the same token, the CLA 250 feels more like a step down for Mercedes-Benz that we still aren’t totally sold on. The CLA 250 is more car than the ILX by every measure including price and if it were our money, we wouldn’t be ready to go that far over the top.

2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4Matic Sport

2015 Acura ILX A Spec

  • ZX-10R

    The Mercedes is more car than the Acura ever will be…It is a Honda Civic dressed up and if you fools at Autoguide think that is better than the CLA, then you are fools just posting BS review like this. I drove both and the Honda is not even a consideration when people are searching this segment…You see how many ILXs are out there? A few…You see how many CLAs and A3s out there…A lot more. Thank goodness no one would consider you reviews in a car search.

    Do you guys just sit in these cars or actually drive them…BTW paying 35k for a Honda Civic is a stupid but Luke shows us he would…CLA by a good margin. Considering the better handling, looks, performance, and cache the MB beats the civic all day long.

    Nice try Luke but next time write a review based on truth and the difference is too great to think the Civic is the better car in entry level luxury.

  • Disqus11111

    Both these cars are a joke. The only issue to be decided is which one is a bigger joke. The bigger joke by far is the Honda Civic masquerading as something other than what it is. Far and away, the best value and performance in this segment is the Audi A3. It blows both these lumps of dump out of the water.

  • Ryan M. Spirelli

    ZX-10R,

    First off your use of words suggest a lower intelligence level and secondly Mercedes has lower end cars in Europe that share parts with these ones, so the gripe about the Civic masquerading as something is a common denominator in most car manufacturers . Here is the most important point of all……………The US economy sucks, so if you can get an ILX for 10,000 less than the CLK 250, well you do the math (if you can that is).

    Oh before i forget why not back up your opinion on how much greater Mercedes Benz is than Honda and do try and be detailed about it if you can.

    Remember Mercedes Benz at one point mixed Chrysler parts in with their beloved vehicles 😉

  • Shiratori90

    Troll harder…..

  • Usman Haider Sheikh

    one can build a civic better than that ilx in 35k budget here.

  • Kinetis

    You do know the Audi A3 is basically a tarted up Volkswagon Golf right?

  • bd

    Plenty of people pay $40k+ for a “Toyota Avalon” (previously a Camry) and for a “Toyota Highlander” as seen in ES and RX sales.

    As an aside, it’s not like 3 Series, C Class and A4 interiors were exactly “luxury” to begin with as the new C Class is the 1st to have an interior befitting its price.

  • Hugh1234

    I think, Acura should seriously consider about changing the designer…. It looks like low priced Honda car in Japan’s market or car from early 2000. I can’t see any luxurious from this design at all.

  • whipit

    Number one you don’t know what you are talking about, Really a Honda Civic?
    Just that statement defines you as the person who most likely can not even afford to own a Civic, let alone an Acura or Mercedes.

  • whipit

    Another UNINFORMED critic, They are reviewing the 2015 Model ILX, NOT the 2014 Model, which is a completely different car. So by your measure, if we don’t see five cars that look alike at the stop light it is worth anything?
    You have a lot to learn about luxury cars! Go back to your Chrysler 300 and leave the reviews to people that Actually buy the cars.

  • Mark Bondy

    Most people will not cross shop these two cars. Perhaps the CLA versus the TLX.

  • Calvin L Miller Jr

    That 10k gap is just entirely too much to excuse. Really makes this a little pointless because 10k in this range of car goes a long way towards a much much better experience. 3-4k we can excuse because that’s at-least reasonable but you can get an s3 for what you paid for that cla.

  • Steve C

    What is a car comparison without 0-60 times? It is not just how much horsepower and torque but how it is used by the drivetrain as a whole. The revised ILX is a 2016 model and significantly improved over the 2015 model. However, both of these cars have their strengths and serious weaknesses. CR says that they are both dreadful cars. I would say that a GTI, R, A3, S3 or C series would be a much better choice. However, the S3 and C series can easily go over $50K.

  • Phil

    the Audi A3 is such a cheap looking car inside and out. Its shameful. nothing to brag about there. it screams downmarket Audi. I’d pick its VW its based sibling, or a bigger better VW before the A3

    Oh and i really can’t wrap my head around why people hate how the ILX is civic based. .. .ALL manufacturers use / share platforms between mainstream brands and higher end models or car to suv platforms.. no different then vw-audi, toyota-lexus etc…

  • ZX-10R

    Ryan referencing the past in this conversation is not really bright we are talking about now…The ILX is not a success…The CLA has been a home run for MB. No sure where you are but people are buying cars over $40k easily…I did and yeah I considered an MB and Audi…My money would never go to rebranded Toyodas and Hondas. Infiniti/ Nissan actually makes interesting products.

    So guess what Ryan…You can have the ILX / Civic that Honda would die to have me buy…I would never of course so you can have mine that will stay on a Honda lot.

  • ZX-10R

    LOL another honda owner come to defend their shame and sheeple mentality. You can have the civic.

  • ZX-10R

    You must own a honda…Keep defending that…Honda = Cheapos.

  • Shiratori90

    Yeah, you don’t know me, so I suggest that you shut it to avoid embarrassing yourself.

  • Shiratori90

    Except they will. They are both in the same class.

  • Shiratori90

    Delusional…….

  • Shiratori90

    You can’t buy a Civic with the engine and transmission that is in the ILX.

    Nice try though.

  • Shiratori90

    It won’t be a home run after the “newness” wears off and word gets out that it’s a piece of crap.

    Ultimately, the level of ignorance and douchebaggery in your “statement” is laughable.

  • F23a4

    Sorry ILX, but one would be hard pressed to spend $33k on that when the more functional and better performing Accord Touring V6 can be had for the same price.

  • Ein Stein

    The ILX may be a better dressed Civic (or more accurately, the Civic Si), but I’m hard pressed to see this as a dealbreaker. The Civic Si is an excellent ride – both in sedan and coupe form – and the ILX adds some content (and thankfully less hard plastic). Sure, you don’t get the limited-slip diff, but the dual-clutch transmission is quick, and the look is more grown up than Civic.
    And consider Acura’s target market – it isn’t gearheads and boy racers. The 40-50 year-old professionals who will be buying the ILX won’t be expecting a harsh-riding, pocket rocket.

  • LubecLou

    Mercedes=expensively unreliable POS

  • LubecLou

    You can buy a civic SI with a slick-shifting 6 speed manual, idjit, which I would rather have. The SI will toast either the ILX or the Mercedes POS

  • Usman Haider Sheikh

    that 200 hp k24, I can get that, one can swap a 2jz in any ride u could imagine for less than 3500 $ here :p

  • Rudy™

    Exactly–thanks for pointing that out. I am tired of the constant “ILX = Civic” bullshyte being spewed all over the Internet–most of it is just trolling and hatred, and some just clueless. All other major carmakers share a chassis between designs and brands. Hell, even a couple of the Jaguars of the past were based on a Ford Crown Vic, when Ford owned them, and ditto the Volvo with Ford components. And some of the complaining/trolling was of the same volume. It happens, folks. Deal with it.

    Want a dressed-up Civic? Get an Acura EL from Canada, from several years ago (based on the 7th and 8th generation Civics), where the differences truly were cosmetic–a leather seat here, a taillight or headlamp there, etc. Sit in a current Civic and ILX, look under the hood, put it on a lift and look at the undercarriage and suspension, pull the dashboard off and see what’s behind it…and make us all a list of all these similarities that make these the same car as the trolls are quick to point out. It’s not going to be a very long list…

  • Rudy™

    I like both, and really prefer the feature set of the ILX, but in this case I might tip the scales in favor of the Accord Touring only because it is roomier inside.

  • mainabdul

    ✄✄⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘———-.✄✄✄✄✄⌘⌘ you best guide < http://www.NetCash9.Com ______________

  • ZX-10R

    Enjoy your souped up Civic Shitaki.

  • scottturner

    1 year ago I decided to abandon my old job and I am so happy now… I started freelancing from home, over a website I discovered on-line, several hrs a day, and my income now is much bigger then it was on my previous work… My last month payment was for 9000 bucks… The best thing about this work is the more time i got for my family…

    —>Read more

  • AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!

  • AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!

  • AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!!!!!!!!