There’s a tradition of injecting AMG performance in the full line of vehicles that Mercedes-Benz offers. As such, they bring us a new AMG CLA 35 4MATIC – a uniquely designed coupe-like sedan that we call a pocket-rocket.
The new Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 is a unique offering that expands upon the A-Class’ segment to literally inject some performance into the sedan along with unique styling that takes cues from the trendsetting CLS. With that, the AMG CLA 35 is bundled up in a much smaller package, one that is derived from a front-wheel-drive platform but makes its presence known with a robust 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that pumps out a healthy 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. That power is then directed to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) and sent to all four wheels where power can be split 50/50 front/back. The powertrain’s packaging makes for a neat little thrill ride that can dash to 60 mph in about 4.6 seconds and bring the latest tech front and center during those times you’re not hooning in the streets.
Overall performance isn’t exactly breathtaking, but it is fun, and that seems to be the goal of the CLA 35, where it has the formula to turn some heads and give buyers an entry-point for AMG performance. The balance of the CLA 35 is delightful even though its engine is mounted longitudinally like a front-wheel-drive vehicle. Ride quality is surprisingly soft initially when you start out in the CLA 35 in the default Comfort drive mode. However, it’s not until you select Sport or Sport+ drive modes that things start to get interesting with a firmer steering feel, an enhanced exhaust burble sound that rattles off pops from unspent fuel, and a sharp kick-in-the-pants shifting 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. The attitude of the CLA 35 is transformed with its drive modes outside of Comfort, which is a welcomed thing considering this vehicle wears an AMG badge on its small trunk lid.
Completing the AMG performance theme, the CLA 35 gets the proper large cross-drilled brake rotors with 4-piston calipers up front and single-piston out back. The 19-wheels are a matte black and wrapped with Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. There is an aggressive lower rear defuser and decklid spoiler out back while the front gets a menacing look from its darkened grilles and short lower splitter.
When you’re not getting down and dirty with the little CLA 35 pocket-rocket, it is able to muster out 23 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined. Those numbers aren’t stellar, considering this is still a turbocharged 4-cylinder compact-sized vehicle. However, they are attainable as I found during my week with the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35.
The interior of the AMG CLA 35 is an inviting space even though its small. Up front, the sporty heated seats are heavily bolstered but not on the level of being uncomfortable. In fact, Mercedes has done wonders in the past few years to improve upon seat comfort, and it even shows with sporty vehicles like the AMG CLA 35. Out back the legroom is very short but if you take the challenge to sit back there, you’re rewarded with pocketed outboard seats with light bolstering and eye-catching accented red stitching throughout just like you find up front. The dashboard is nicely accented, not only by the red stitching but by always-on 64-color-configurable ambient lighting that is just the business. Mercedes has done wonders with its ambient lighting that can be set through the latest MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User eXperience) infotainment system. The MBUX system in the CLA 35 features two 10.25-inch screens, one as the driver’s gauge cluster and the other as a touchscreen for the infotainment system. The screens are about two inches smaller than otherwise found in MBUX-equipped Mercedes vehicles of larger sizes. The smaller size choice is fitting considering the CLA 35 is a compact vehicle deserving of having the proper proportions to avoid having its equipment look out of place. These details go the distance in the CLA and other smaller A-Class vehicles. Go Mercedes!
The MBUX system in a nutshell can be a bit to take on for new adopters to modern-day automotive tech. There are several configurations of features and a plethora of functions that may be a bit much for some. However, once you get acclimated to the operation of the MBUX system and use of the natural language voice control that can be prompted by just saying “Hey Mercedes,” the CLA 35 becomes your personal driving assistant that can open the roof shade by just a simple voice command among other actions. In all, the system is quick to respond to inputs, and there are several ways of controlling the menus from the steering wheel’s touch-capacitive button, to the touchscreen and lower touchpad.
Mercedes leaves no stones unturned for their pocket-rocket AMG CLA 35 4MATIC. Though, if you wish to play, you must pay. For a luxury performance sedan, the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 4MATIC may seem like there’s a premium to pay for its uniqueness, which can only compete with vehicles like the new BMW M235i Gran Coupe or even the Audi S3, which both have slightly lower price points than the CLA 35. My loaded-up Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 4MATIC tests out at a hefty $62,855 – which could be the right price for those who want such a package – but could send some elsewhere to cross shop the scarce direct competition.