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?” With its big-money Super Bowl commercial, Mercedes’ hot, new people-pleaser and its alluring starting price has garnered major public attention. In contrast, the CC is perhaps the most visually attractive VW on sale, but it’s no contest when competing for market relevance. Despite dropping into customer clutches for the first time in September 2013, the CLA-Class was just 1560 units shy of besting CC sales for all of 2013 by December’s end, year for year. Of course, sales totals never singly determine a Motor Trend comparison matchup. Nevertheless, a more inclusive rethink was needed.
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. You’re questioning the rear drive? Hey, nobody ever specified the entry-luxe formula’s drive wheels.