You can virtually set your watch by Mercedes product unveilings, and your latest opportunity to keep that Tag in time is the new Mercedes-AMG CLA35 Shooting Brake – the hottest variant (so far) of Mercedes’ elegant compact wagon.
With an A35 version of the regular A-class hatch recently launched, it was only a matter of time before the spin-off CLA also adopted the trappings of A35 trim, including a potent 302bhp four-cylinder, all-wheel drive and some dedicated AMG equipment and specification tweaks.
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The CLA unveiled at the Geneva motor show instantly became one of Merc’s best efforts yet at styling a smaller car, and the CLA35 enhances that with new 18-inch alloy wheels (with 19-inch rims an option), a specific front radiator grille and front and rear aprons, and a roof spoiler.
An optional Night Package (with black detailing) and AMG Aerodynamics Package with extra aerodynamic elements lend the car more aggression if required, while those optional 19-inch wheels are available in three different designs, with a gloss black five-spoke option and both gloss- and matt-black-finish multi-spoke alloys.
Inside too there are AMG-specific touches, including sports seats trimmed in Artico and Dinamica – that’s artificial leather and artificial suede to you and us – complete with red stitching (also found on the dashboard), while a standard red interior trim strip can be replaced with an aluminium-finish panel if preferred.
AMG logos scattered throughout will give the game away further, as will specific AMG displays for the MBUX infotainment system, just as they do on the A35 hatch. In that car we found the display options a little over the top, with the Supersport option in particular a case of style over substance – but with so much configurability, most owners will settle on something that works. AMG spec also means there’s a G-meter, lap timer and increased engine data menus, as well as a data-logger in the unlikely event any CLA35s see track use.
None of this would mean much without a suitable mechanical specification to back it up, and as already alluded to the CLA35 uses the same 2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine, seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and all-wheel-drive system as the A35 hatchback.
That means a healthy 302bhp and 295lb ft of torque, the latter from 3000rpm, putting it in the same ballpark as the Volkswagen Golf R. On paper it’s good for 0-62mph in 4.9sec and a top speed limited to 155mph, and while the next-gen A45 (and CLA45s) will better those numbers, experience with the A35 suggests the CLA will feel plenty quick enough.
Characteristics of the engine, transmission, steering and all-wheel-drive system and, if optioned, the AMG Ride Control adaptive suspension, can all be tweaked through Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual driving mode settings, with Sport+ being the most amusing thanks to rev-matched downshifts and crackling from the valved exhaust.
The behaviour of the front strut and rear multi-link suspension can be tweaked if AMG Ride Control is selected, while under the skin Mercedes has rigidly mounted the front and rear subframes for greater precision, and AMG models get specific front steering knuckles compared to standard CLAs. Brakes are 350mm discs with four-pot calipers up front, and 330mm with one-piston calipers at the back.
This is all in addition to the CLA already being 48mm longer and 53mm wider than its predecessor, as well as 2mm lower, while a 505-litre luggage space with the seats in place – 10 litres more than in the old CLA Shooting Brake and 135 litres more than in the A35 – on its own will help sell the CLA35 Shooting Brake for some.
Pricing, full specification information and a UK on-sale date are still to be confirmed, but with existing CLA models being around £2900 more than their A-class equivalents and the new shooting brake a little more than the Coupe, expect the CLA35 to start at around £40,000, some £3000 more than the Golf R Estate.