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We drive the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35

by Ali Arsham
Monday, July 20, 2020

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Mercedes CLA 35
Mercedes CLA 35

Mercedes has been promoting their CLA35 as a vehicle with sporty driving performance combined with versatile driving and comfort. We got a chance to try the Mercedes-AMG CLA35 and found it to be a blast to drive and somewhat of a bargain.

The CLA35 is based on the A class which is the smallest in the Mercedes lineup. The CLA family starts with the CLA 250 and ends with the CLA 45. While the CLA 45 is a full AMG model with a hand build AMG engine, the CLA 35 is the AMG enhanced version. The four door sedan has the coupe look which sacrifices some interior space but remains comfortable for four people.

Carrying three people in the back seat is possible but those passengers would want to get out of there if the trip was long. The trunk is where things get tight with 11.6 cubic feet of space which is fine for everyday work but not for big family trips.

The exterior styling is nice but is a bit conservative and does not raise your pulse very much. We did not get much comments from people at gas stations or parking lots since it does not look that different from any other CLA. Once you open the door and sit inside you will really see that this is no ordinary CLA. Our car had very supportive and attractive race inspired seats that are deeply bolstered and offer fantastic support.

Once you open the door and see these seats, you start to realize that this car is special.  Grab the flat bottom leather and suede steering wheel and you start to smile as you get eager to fire up the engine. Behind the steering wheel sit two huge digital clusters that control everything.

The display on the right side controls all of your climate control, stereo, navigation and other controls. Because everything is accessed through these screens, there are very few buttons on the dash resulting in a very clean interior.

Dash
Dash

Once you fire up the engine, your ears will tell you that this car is definitely special. The 2.0 liter inline-4 turbo engine is a new development and is based on the M260 four-cylinder engine in the new A-Class. The twin-scroll turbocharger combines optimum responsiveness at low engine speeds with a significant power increase at higher engine speeds.

The housing of the twin-scroll turbocharger is divided into two parallel ducts. Together with two separate ducts in the exhaust manifold, this makes it possible to channel the exhaust gases separately on the turbine wheel. This results in a better efficiency and response. The small engine puts out big numbers in the CLA35 with 302 hp available at 5800 rpm.

The engine is mated to an AMG Speedshift 7 speed dual clutch transmission. The power is distributed to the wheels through the AMG 4MATIC all wheel drive system. The torque distribution is variable to suit the dynamic handling requirements. The system can operate a front-wheel drive only and can send up to 50 percent to the rear axle based on factors such as speed, lateral and longitudinal acceleration, steering angle, gear selected, and the accelerator position.

The front suspension uses McPherson struts in the front with special geometry to reduces the influence of the drive on the steering for more agile handling. The aluminum suspension arms reduce unsprung mass, enabling a more sensitive response from the springs.

The AMG-specific front steering knuckle has a radially bolted brake caliper, a technology originating from motorsport. The 4-link rear axle is connected to the body via a subframe. Three transverse arms and the trailing arm, the wheel carrier and the bearings from the proven A 45 are used on each rear wheel.

The optional Adaptive Damping System enables the driver to choose between three different suspension control modes. The spectrum ranges from comfort focused to sporty. The system operates fully automatically, adapting the damping forces for each wheel according to the driving situation and road conditions. This happens within milliseconds and is infinitely variable, with a wide spread of damping characteristics.

Driving the CLA35 will quickly make you realize that this is a serious performance car. The seats hold you in and the steering wheel talks to you. Throw the car into a corner and you can quickly drive at the limit with confidence.

You can really drive this car hard and fell safe
You can really drive this car hard and fell safe
While 302 hp may not seem like a lot these days, it works very well in this car. On a twisty road, the CLA35 is a blast to drive because it feels connected and you can actually use the full power of the engine and not be scared that it can get away from you and have to rely on computers to keep the car under control. The ride is definitely firm and reminds you that this is not any ordinary car.

Great cars are usually very expensive but the CLA35 is actually a great bargain, if you do it right. Base price of the CLA35 is $46,900 and you get a lot for that sum. Add in a few options like the sport seats and you are looking at around $51,000. You just have to be careful not to get carried away since most dealers will try to sell you fully loaded cars that can have $20,000 in options.

Take it easy on the options and you can have a great car at a great price.

Specifications

PRICE$47,895
ENGINE2.0L DOHC 16-valve turbocharged I-4; 302 hp @ 5,800 rpm, 295 lb-ft @ 3,000-4,000 rpm
TRANSMISSIONS7-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine AWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE21/31 mpg (city/hwy, est)
L x W x H184.8 x 72.2 x 55.3 in
WHEELBASE107.4 in
WEIGHT3,505 lb (mfr)
0-60 MPH4.5 sec (mfr)
TOP SPEED155 mph


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