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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Last night, I got to explore around and inside the CLA250 that is currently on showroom display at MB of Bellevue (Washington). I would have to say that I'm not a big fan of the shift lever stalk. There are a few reasons why I think this way.

First, the operation of the stalk is somewhat unique and every time that you allow anybody else to drive your car, you're going to have to stop and give them a lesson in how to shift the car and place the car in park. The stalk operates and feels very similar to the turn signal stalk on the left side of the wheel. There are upper and lower detents where you move the stalk about 1 inch up or 1 inch down to shift gears. To shift into park, you have to press the button on the end of the stalk until it clicks. There is no mechanical linkage between the stalk and transmission, it's all electronic switches.

Second, I'm concerned about the durability and strength of the stalk. The position of the stalk will remind people of much older cars where you had to manually move the stalk several inches to shift between P-R-N-D-L. So if you turn over your car to somebody that gives the stalk a good strong yank like they were driving a '68 Chevy then....I think you get the picture. You'll be finding the pieces of the stalk on the floor while the parking attendant does his best Sgt. Shultz impersonation "I know nothing, nothing!"

Third, is the Park button on the end of the stalk. Again, when you turn over the car to a person that is not experienced with the operation of the stalk, then they will likely push up on the stalk and think that they have placed the car into Park. But oops, the car will not be in park, it will be in reverse. If they decide to quickly exit the car or take their foot off the brake then the risk of accidentally backing into something or somebody is very high.

There are times to be clever and innovative in design, but maybe the shift stalk is not the best place to highlight creative thinking.
 

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First, the operation of the stalk is somewhat unique and every time that you allow anybody else to drive your car, you're going to have to stop and give them a lesson in how to shift the car and place the car in park.
Well, there's your first problem. Don't let anyone else behind the wheel. ;)

The stalk operates and feels very similar to the turn signal stalk on the left side of the wheel. There are upper and lower detents where you move the stalk about 1 inch up or 1 inch down to shift gears. To shift into park, you have to press the button on the end of the stalk until it clicks. There is no mechanical linkage between the stalk and transmission, it's all electronic switches.
I wouldn't be concerned about it being electronic as opposed to mechanical. You might run into issues with valets who haven't driven a CLA though. I'm not sure how the CLA's actuator compares to that in other MB cars but based on your description I wouldn't be surprised if you did have to take a second or two to tutor someone in a parking garage or at a valet.

Second, I'm concerned about the durability and strength of the stalk. The position of the stalk will remind people of much older cars where you had to manually move the stalk several inches to shift between P-R-N-D-L. So if you turn over your car to somebody that gives the stalk a good strong yank like they were driving a '68 Chevy then....I think you get the picture. You'll be finding the pieces of the stalk on the floor while the parking attendant does his best Sgt. Shultz impersonation "I know nothing, nothing!"
I'm guessing most of the members of the forum might be surprised to learn that cars existed in 1968 but I get your point. If you're going to have to show someone how to use/find the transmission controls in the CLA you'll probably take a second to remind them that they don't need any real pressure to engage the actuator's controls. I hate automatics...lol...I'm glad the 45 at least has its control in between the front seats where it belongs (or, at least, that's where it appear to be in the pictures).

Third, is the Park button on the end of the stalk. Again, when you turn over the car to a person that is not experienced with the operation of the stalk, then they will likely push up on the stalk and think that they have placed the car into Park. But oops, the car will not be in park, it will be in reverse. If they decide to quickly exit the car or take their foot off the brake then the risk of accidentally backing into something or somebody is very high.
More stuff to get used to and more reason to never hand over your keys (except in the event of an emergency and even then maybe not..lol). Can you take the key out while the transmission is in reverse? It doesn't lock it out?

-Eric
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
More stuff to get used to and more reason to never hand over your keys (except in the event of an emergency and even then maybe not..lol). Can you take the key out while the transmission is in reverse? It doesn't lock it out?

-Eric
In my example, the parking attendant or valet is not going to kill engine and remove the key. They're more likely to leave the car running and quickly hop out of the drivers seat. So if the car is in reverse and the engine is running then things are going to get bad in a big hurry.
 

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I my experience, valets and garage attendants don't typically leave the keys in the car. You might leave the car sitting there but if you're (understandably) concerned you aren't going to walk away until you've shown them how to operate the control stick. They, however, typically park it and hang the keys in a central box. That means they should have trouble removing the keys (assuming there's a lock-out feature) if they try to leave the car in Reverse and hop out with the key. No?

-Eric
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Is it necessary to use the paddle stick?
Sorry CEB, I'm not fully understanding your question. If you're talking about the shift paddles then those are used to upshift and downshift through the various forward gears. You won't be using the shift paddles to shift between P-R-N-D. Once the car is out of your sight then the valet parking attendant will be glad to test the full range of functionality of the shift paddles. :mad:
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
I my experience, valets and garage attendants don't typically leave the keys in the car. You might leave the car sitting there but if you're (understandably) concerned you aren't going to walk away until you've shown them how to operate the control stick. They, however, typically park it and hang the keys in a central box. That means they should have trouble removing the keys (assuming there's a lock-out feature) if they try to leave the car in Reverse and hop out with the key. No?
Eric, I don't think we know for 100% certainty if it's possible to remove the key while the transmission is in any gear except Park. I would strongly suspect that it is NOT possible to remove the key. That would be a huge design and safety flaw.

I just did a quick test in my SLK350. When in reverse, the key will rotate and you can kill the engine. The key will not remove from the slot using normal force and pressure. The warning chime rings and the dash displays a warning message: "Remove the key." If the car were on an incline, I'm sure it would roll if I were to take my foot off the brake. There's only so much of this kind of testing I want to do on my own vehicle! ;)

Our observations vary on how parking attendants and valets handle returning cars to owners. I have seen cases of both your and my example. All it will take is one time where they follow my example for there to be a damaged rear bumper best case or somebody run over and trapped underneath the car worst case. Neither case is good. But even in your example, the person that you "train" to operate the shift stalk may not be the same person that retrieves your car later. Maybe we will have to leave written instructions on the dash: "How to shift this car....and don't forget the Park button!"
 

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Eric, I don't think we know for 100% certainty if it's possible to remove the key while the transmission is in any gear except Park. I would strongly suspect that it is NOT possible to remove the key. That would be a huge design and safety flaw.
I agree completely.

Our observations vary on how parking attendants and valets handle returning cars to owners.
Stop right there! We are in violent agreement. lol Too funny, if you re-read my posts you'll see that I was only referring to when we drop off our cars to the valet. I completely see your point on what could go wrong when they return them to us. I knew I had to be missing something. In most cases, as you point out and I completely agree, they drive up and hop-out without removing the keys. Now, I will also note that in many cases a good (read: smart) valet/garage attendant will also turn off the car BUT that doesn't mean they will or that the car might not roll or something else might not go wrong while the car is in gear (instead of in Park like the valet/attendant thought).

Interesting issue -- maybe we should sell pre-printed instructions for CLA owners to hand over to valets. lol What's the saying...within every problem lies an opportunity?

-Eric
 

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David,

I decided to take some of our questions off of the table by turning to the Book of Answers (aka: the Owner's Manual).

Page 143 of the CLA's owner's manual says the following:

"The automatic transmission shifts into park position P automatically:
- if you open the driver's door while the vehicle is stationary in transmission position D or R
- if you open the door while traveling at very low speeds in transmission position D or R
In addition, a warning tone sounds and a display message is shown."

I guess that kills any need for the pre-printed instruction business or any real concern that the car will accidentally be left in D or R (absent some electronics failure). :D

-Eric
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
I originally thought that all 3 of these issues were going to be exclusive to the CLA250, but upon closer inspection of the CLA45 Order Guide, the CLA45 may have a similar concern with point #3, the separate Park button from the console shifter. Some photos in the CLA45 Order Guide clearly show a separate "P" Park button (European shifter) behind the console shifter and other photos show no Park button. Frustrating! I don't recall if there were any pictures that showed enough interior details of the white CLA45 shown at the NYC event and whether it was a Euro or USA variant or something in between. Wait and see. In the meantime, Eric and I are going to start building our empire creating "How to Shift and Park a CLA" stickers.

Looks we were creating posts at the same time. Your info makes most of this post irrelevant. Who knew we could find answers in the Owner's Manual?
There still might be a business case for "Please don't yank on my shift stalk" stickers. I can clearly see 2 unique audiences for such a sticker. We could even do T-shirts. :eek:
 

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In my experience this proved to be a non-issue. Maybe since I was born in the 80s and never experienced a shifter from a '67 chevy. It was VERY intuitive in my use in the E63. I've also seen similar applications in other vehicles, starting with the 2002 BMW 7 series (E65).

The stalk sticks out in plain sight and the arrows on the stalk along with the information & guidance presented in the center instrument cluster screen go hand in hand.

Ironically this solves the cup holder "issues" as well. Now americans have plenty of cup-holder space in the center where the shifter used to be, and since many buyers aren't always enthusiasts, I'm sure they'll be happy for the tradeoff.

Just my 2cents :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Tavolcom9, I hope you are correct and this topic works out to be a non-issue once the cars start getting out in volume in the field. I started this thread based upon my observations sitting in the drivers seat of a CLA250 on the showroom floor, no practical driving experience. There seems to have been some over-engineering of how to make the shift controller a little different on this car. My main point is that there are some things that need to be very simple and intuitive to prevent damage and human error.
 
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