While the previous Mercedes-Benz CLA was a pretty thing, it could never be mistaken for the larger CLS, the car that spawned the “four-door coupe” label that turned sedans into sex objects. The 2020 CLA is practically a CLS rendered at three-fifth scale.
Mechanically identical to the 2020 AMG A35 sedan, the CLA35 is the midrange trim between the upcoming base CLA250 and the picante AMG CLA45. Like the 43- and 53-series AMGs, the A35’s 2.0-liter turbo four is “AMG enhanced” rather than AMG built with loving hands, treatment that the outgoing CLA45’s 375-hp inline-four receives. But a couple of years ago, Mercedes was putting out 302 horsepower from a 3.5-liter V-6. Now it’s doing the same from a 2.0-liter inline-four thanks to a powerful twin-scroll turbo, aluminum crank, low-friction components, and multi-spark ignition. There’s 295 lb-ft of torque at 3000 rpm, which in this size of car will feel like a shot in the arm.
A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with standard 4Matic+ all-wheel drive and brake-based torque vectoring route the thrust to 18-inch tires. They’re backed by 13.8-inch front brakes with four-piston fixed calipers bolted along the rotor, a method commonly used in AMG’s much faster street (and race) cars, and 13.0-inch rear brakes with floating calipers, each ventilated and perforated. The multilink rear suspension is lifted from the current Europe-market A45 hatch, while the front axle uses new aluminum control arms.
Additional braces and an aluminum plate underneath the engine stiffen the CLA35’s body for maximum attack in Sport+ mode, with the expected pops and bangs from the exhaust. A new set of driving modes allows the driver to fine-tune the stability control and torque vectoring, along with a Slippery mode when 302 horsepower is most unwelcome. Adaptive dampers, 19-inch wheels, and an aerodynamics pack with canards, splitters, and bigger spoilers are the final (and optional) hardware upgrades.
In everyday driving, the CLA35 offers more blind spots and less headroom than the A35 because looks matter in this world. Three-zone climate control, 64-color ambient lighting, eight-way power driver and passenger one-piece sport seats with memory, a panoramic moonroof, LED headlights, and the MBUX infotainment system with dual 10.3-inch screens and an internet-enabled voice assistant listening for the phrase “Hey, Mercedes” all come standard. Everything else, including the Sun Yellow paint seen here, navigation, 360-degree cameras, and the company’s latest semi-automated driver assists, is optional. Expect the 2020 CLA35 at dealers this fall for less than the 2019 CLA45’s $54,905 base price.