Choosing a new car is hard these days, not because so few of them are good and you’re likely to get a lemon, but because so many cars are good that you can’t really go very wrong. Well, selecting your next car just got a little harder, especially if you’re looking for something small, sexy, and sporty. Meet the new 2020 Mercedes-AMG CLA35, the first performance variant spun from the all-new CLA-class.
Joining the recently introduced A35 as Mercedes-AMG’s new entry models, the CLA35 slips through the ropes packing 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque from its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. That’s down 73 horses and 55 lb-ft from the old CLA45, but despite the loss, the CLA35 takes only 0.5 second longer to hit 60 mph according to Mercedes-AMG, doing the deed in 4.6 seconds. Gearshifts are handled by the familiar AMG Speedshift seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, and power is then routed to all four wheels via an AMG-tuned 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system. Longer by 1.0 inch, lower by 0.4 inch, and wider by a whopping 5.0 inches than the previous CLA45, the new CLA35 promises more useful space and better comfort, too.
Chassis upgrades include a stiffening plate bolted under the engine and two diagonal underbody braces, an active exhaust, optional adaptive dampers with three modes, and larger brakes. The latter consists of four-piston fixed monobloc calipers and 13.8-inch rotors up front and single-piston sliding calipers and 13.0-inch rotors at the rear. Eighteen-inch wheels are standard, with 19s available as an option.
If the driving experience is anything like the current CLA45, there’s no doubt it will scratch the need-for-speed itch of many buyers—if it doesn’t, a new CLA45 is likely on the way packing lots of power—but a highlight in day-to-day use will be the addition of Mercedes-Benz’s all-new MBUX infotainment system. Built around artificial intelligence, the MBUX system offers the marque’s next generation of voice control, a 10.3-inch touchscreen, a touchpad, and touch-sensitive buttons on the steering wheel for its interfaces. The MBUX Interior Assistant can even recognize arm and hand gestures to allow control of some functions.
On top of the MBUX upgrades, the new CLA35 also offers a deep roster of driver-assistance functions, including adaptive cruise control with route-based adaptive speed (which can slow down ahead of intersections, roundabouts, and more), active steering assist, active lane change assist, and a whole host of emergency braking, blind spot, and other crash avoiding and/or mitigating features.
Other standard features on the CLA35 includes 18-inch AMG wheels, five USB-C ports, a panoramic glass roof, LED headlights, keyless start, three-zone climate control, 64-color ambient lighting, sport seats (eight-way power driver and passenger seats with three-position memory), and more. The rundown of optional upgrades includes the driver assist tech, parking assist, upgraded multimedia features, adaptive high beams, Burmester surround-sound audio, and a range of AMG appearance bits, as well as a Track Pace function that will log your lap and sector times for later analysis.
We’re still waiting to learn curb weight, fuel economy, and price, but that information should be forthcoming soon after the car’s official public debut at the 2019 New York International Auto Show on April 16. The new CLA35 will reach dealers late this year.