“Mercedes has had enormous success with its 4Matic AWD system, accounting for eighty five percent of its sales.”

Montreal.

If there is one part of this vast country that knows about winter and winter driving, it’s the province of Quebec.

Winter weather can stretch from November until April, which is why this frost bitten part of the country mandates winter tires on all vehicles and was the perfect spot to showcase two products from Mercedes Benz, the B-Class and CLA-Class.

Both are now equipped with Mercedes 4Matic all wheel drive (AWD) system. Touching down in Montreal, the outside temperature was heading to minus twenty three overnight and minus nineteen for a daytime high, plus snow, lots of snow. Perfect for winter driving but not for standing outside.

Looks

Both the B-Class hatchback and CLA sedan are based on the Mercedes small car platform that is also shared with the GLA compact crossover.

The B and GLA are sold with front wheel drive (FWD) and now AWD. The latest B-Class was introduced a few years ago and gets a mild facelift, including a new grille, lower chin spoiler, different wheels and a new accent line down the side. The CLA was just introduced last year so external updates will have to wait another couple of years.

The B-Class is a taller hatchback design that provides a useful package for young families, including bigger rear windows and a large hatch and cargo space.

The CLA on the other hand is more about style, competing for the young, upwardly mobile crowd that want to be seen in this sleek, low slung sedan; it isn’t the best choice for a family.

Inside

Both the B-Class and CLA receive nice updates for 2015 on the inside.

Both share the same dash so updating both made sense. The screen that sits front and centre on the dash, like and iPad is larger, moving to a standard 7-inch screen or optional 8-inch screen on cars equipped with navigation. This screen is controlled with a small knob between the front seats. Other updates include a sportier and very comfortable steering wheel, a revised stereo head unit and a new instrument cluster behind the steering wheel. Heated seats are now standard equipment for 2015 but heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel are not available in these cars.

The B-Class 4Matic is a $2,200 premium over the FWD version, starting at $33,500. The CLA has the same $2,200 charge for AWD, starting at $36,800. One nice feature available on the CLA is an “exclusive” package that includes a leather dashboard with French stitching for $2,300.

Drive

To explore the abilities of these two new products, the Olympic rowing basin used for the 1976 Montreal games was partially plowed, exposing sheet ice with a fresh sprinkling of snow. This provided a great example of the limits of grip and the abilities of the electronic stability program, in conjunction with the AWD system.

On sheet ice, there is no grip, so sliding is easy. It was on the rural roads outside of Montreal near the ski resort of Bromont that the 4Matic system proved useful. The system is designed to provide power to the front wheels as often as possible and instantly transfer power to the rear wheels when extra grip is needed, it all happens in a nanosecond. The maximum amount of power sent to the rear wheels if fifty percent.

I noticed that these cars, when placed in “sport” mode actually allow the car to slip and slide without the electronics being too oppressive. An overly aggressive nanny style is often used by other manufacturers and it shuts down any type of sliding, something that can be welcome by advanced drivers.

Altogether, both cars feel very well balanced, almost like a rear-wheel-drive car when a controlled slide is achieved.

Verdict

Mercedes has had enormous success with its 4Matic AWD system, accounting for eighty five percent of its sales. With the introduction of these two new models in late 2014, the number has jumped to over ninety percent. This opens up the safety and stability of AWD to a larger market.

One thing to keep in mind is these two products offer great value if the buyer keeps and eye on the options. The “must have” package include the Premium Package for an additional $3800 on both the B-Class and CLA. This includes automatic climate control, a huge panoramic sunroof, rear view camera, blind spot system and navigation. This brings the 4Matic price on the B-Class to $37,300 and $40,600 on the CLA. Not overly expensive for a Mercedes Benz product but pricier than the starting price suggests.

Should you consider the 4Matic version of the B-Class and CLA? Absolutely, based on the added level of security, grip and improved resale value.

Contact: zack [dot] spencer [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca


 

The Lowdown

Power: 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder with 208hp

Fill-up: 10.0L/7.5L/100km (city/highway)

Sticker price: B-Class 4Matic $33,500 CLA 4Matic $36,800

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