Now that there’s a new A-class sedan in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, the CLA 4-door Coupe more room to stretch its legs, no longer having to bear that entry-level label. So, what better vehicle to lead the charge as a new way into the world of AMG performance!
So yes, the CLA itself is no longer the bottom step for the Mercedes-Benz brand, but this 2020 Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 is filling that role as the new gateway into the AMG fraternity.
The standard CLA’s 221–horsepower 2.0-liter turbo gets a significant boost to 302-horsepower and 295 lb-ft. of torque. It feels mega-powerful, and puts you in a great mood as soon as you hit the start button.
Transmission is the same 7-speed DCT, but with revised gearing to AMG specs, and Race Start function added. Regardless of driving mode, if you want manual control at any time, just grab one of the shift paddles behind the wheel.
While front-wheel-drive based, 4MATIC all-wheel-drive is standard; but can only send 50% of power to the rear.
The CLA is not really a small car, with its 107.4-inch wheelbase and 184.4-inches of overall length, much closer to compact C-class than subcompact A-class. This generation’s wheels are set apart 2-inches wider than previous, making for a much more stable platform; while AMG adds to that, structural reinforcements, aluminum suspension bits, upgraded steering parts, and silver-painted brake calipers.
You’ll also get a power dome hood, extended wheel arches, and AMG-specific front fascia with twin-louvre grille.
18-inch wheels are standard, with 19s optional; while in back there’s a new bumper with diffuser-like insert, and a small spoiler lip on the deck lid.
Inside, there’s not quite the standard set by current Mercedes small SUV’s but the CLA is a clear step up from the A-class sedan. AMG additions include unique screens for the digital gauge cluster and multi-function steering wheel that both feels great to the hands, and features comprehensive controls without looking cluttered or being confusing to operate.
The CLA 35 also gets the larger 10-inch touchscreen, and while that’s not as big as some of the huge tablets available these days, we never found ourselves driving around wishing for a larger screen.
Lots of MB-Tex and microfiber materials throughout the cabin, as well as color stitching and seat belts.
Seats are more race-inspired than true race seats. Still support is great without excessive side bolstering.
It certainly feels more like a driver’s car than before, stable and purposeful, with no flabbiness whatsoever. Dial up Sport + mode for the active suspension, find some curves, and you’ll be even more impressed with its ability to stay smooth, yet be very responsive.
At the track, it was really quick through our cone course; excellent body control with a tendency to oversteer, but with such high levels of grip that it was almost a moot point. It was easy to keep momentum with quick steering and good amounts of feedback. It felt smaller than it is, responding well to just tossing it into corners like a hot hatchback.
As in other AMG products, AMG DYNAMICS integrates into the drive modes, providing as much or as little driving assistance as you want, with selective braking.
But the real star of this show is under the hood. The 2-liter turbo launches this car hard, whether you use Race Start or not. We hit 60 in 4.9-seconds.
The transmission rattles off fast and firm shifts, and the engine has a nice snarl to it as it revs. ¼-mile completed in 13.4-seconds at 107 miles-per-hour.
With a 111-foot average stopping distance from 60, the brakes offered plenty of stopping power, with both good feel and great stability.
Away from the track, Sport + mode is not too harsh to live with on a daily basis, but the hyper nature of the engine and transmission can be a little much to deal with when you just want to chill out and relax during your commute. And that’s where Comfort mode comes in, delivering the driving experience we’ve come to expect from Mercedes-Benz regardless of size.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 23-City, 29-Highway, and 25-Combined. We averaged a good 26.9 miles-per-gallon on Premium.
For an average Energy Impact Score, burning 13.2-barrels of oil and emitting 5.8 tons of CO2 yearly.
CLA 35 base pricing is $47,895, which is about 10-grand over a base CLA 250 and about 10-grand under top dog AMG 45; so, not necessarily a performance bargain, but a lot of fast car for the money.
With AMG becoming more and more accessible, it’s fair to question whether that has also made them less special. We think this 2020 Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 is entry-level done right; a great sport sedan; even though they call it a 4-door Coupe; with a spectacular engine, that will surely have new AMG fans coming back for more.
Engine: 2.0L I4 Turbo
Torque: 295 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 4.9 seconds
1/4 Mile: 13.4 seconds @ 107 mph