2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 4MATIC Coupe Review

Many car buyers aspire to own a Mercedes-Benz. But unless you have a trust fund waiting for you, getting one can really stretch the budget. With the introduction of the A-Class and the CLA-Class, the iconic luxury brand has finally offered something that is obtainable to the masses. For true car enthusiasts, an even better news is the offering of AMG versions for both classes. 

Sitting in between the 221hp CLA 250 and the 382hp CLA 45 AMG is the CLA 35. Available from $56,000 CAD, it is one of the most affordable AMGs from the three-pointed star brand. Does it offer the performance to back that AMG badge? 

Thanks to Mercedes-Benz Canada, I was given the chance to test drive the 2021 CLA 35 AMG for one week to find out. Below is my unbiased review.

When the A Class was first introduced, many wondered what was the reason for having both the CLA and A Class at the same time. After all, they share the same drivetrain and the MFA2 platform. To me, the biggest difference is the iconic fastback coupe style of the CLA. The AMG version comes with a few design tweaks and of course, those AMG emblems.

Compared to the elegant pin grille design of the CLA 250, the AMG version boasts a classic twin louvres grille that looks bolder and much more aggressive, befitting an AMG. Other distinctive features include air inlets with silver chrome trim elements and black flics. 

The side view of the CLA 35 is a sight to behold. I love the low and aerodynamic profile of the car. The well proportioned body is accentuated by side sill panels and the optional 19” matte black multi-spoke wheels that came with our tester. 

Dominating the rear view of the CLA 35 is an aggressive rear apron that features a large diffuser insert and two round tailpipe trims. And a pair of protruding bumperettes that I tried to ignore. I have no idea what is the function of them, and honestly think the car will look much cleaner without. A small spoiler lip ties in the distinctive rear lamps. You won’t see a backup camera here because it is hidden behind the three-pointed star logo. 

Apart from the AMG graphics, the AMG steering wheels, and the racing seats, the interior of the CLA 35 features the same high-tech, premium interior as the CLA 250. 

The front seats are covered in ARTICO man-made leather with red contrasting stitching and microfiber inserts. They are quite firm but also very supportive. Drivers with wider bodies may have trouble with the aggressive side bolsters, but their job is to keep you in place while cornering. Red seat belts matching the red contrasting stitching is a nice touch and costs $250. 

The AMG steering wheel features a flattened lower section, sculptural metallic spokes, leatherette wide grips and red contrasting topstitching. It is both attractive and very pleasant to the touch. Additional switchgears allow the driver to adjust the ride quality and driving characteristics on the steering wheel itself. 

While rear legroom is acceptable, rear headroom suffers due to the sloping roofline. If you plan on having occupants in the rear cabin often, I would suggest the A-Class sedan, or better yet, the hatchback. 


The CLA 35 is equipped with Mercedes-Ben’s excellent MBUX system with some AMG specific add-ons. The MBUX system offers multiple ways for drivers to interact with the system. 

First, the standard 10.25" displays are positioned right next to each other to appear as one giant widescreen. The left screen sits right in front of the steering wheel and displays important vehicle information like the speed, fuel economy, and the trip information. The right screen, which is also a touchscreen, sits right on top of the center console. It is multi-functional, and can be configured to show pretty much anything the user desires. 

The CLA 35 allows the driver to choose between the three AMG display styles "Classic", "Sport" and "Supersport" for the instrument cluster. Via the AMG menu, the driver can pull up special driving displays data such as warm-up, g-force, set-up, and engine data. 

The second part of the MBUX system are the touch buttons on the steering wheel. They are similar to the small touch pads I used to see on a Blackberry smartphone. The left one controls the left display, and vice versa for the right. I love the fact that you never have to take your hands off the steering wheel to access pretty much all functions of the car.

There is another way you can control the many functions of the car without taking your hands off the wheel. That is via the LINGUATRONIC voice assist. It is a natural language smart assistant that functions like the Apple Siri or Google Assist. Simply say "Hey, Mercedes", or press the voice command button, and you can ask the car to make a phone call, plot a new navigation route, close the roller sunshade, or change the interior light color. The voice assistant can control basically anything that is not safety related. The system is smart enough to understand commands like "I am cold" or "I am hungry" to raise cabin temperature, or to find the closest restaurant.

The final part of the MBUX system is the track-pad that is located in the center console. There is a padded resting place for the wrist, which allows the fingers to scroll through the display menu or to hand-write inputs. 

There are multiple USB C ports in the car. You will need the provided adapter if you are still using USB A charging cables. With the Premium Package, the CLA 35 also supports Android Auto and Apple Carplay. This really should be standard in the year 2022. 

Safety and Driver Assistance

The CLA 35 comes with the following standard safety features:

  • Active Brake Assist
  • In-vehicle, one-touch calling features
  • Rearview camera
  • Adaptive braking technology
  • Tire Pressure Loss Warning System
  • Heated windshield washer system

Many of the advanced safety features are optional. You can get them via the Premium Package and the Advanced Driver Assistance Package.

They include:

  • MULTIBEAM LED headlamps
  • Adaptive Highbeam Assist
  • Blind Spot Assist
  • Active Parking Assist
  • Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC
  • Active Steering Assist
  • Active Blind Spot Assist
  • Active Lane Keeping Assist
  • Active Lane Change Assist
  • Evasive Steering Assist
  • Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function
  • Active Emergency Stop Assist
  • Enhanced Stop-and-Go
  • Active Speed Limit Assist
  • Route-based Speed Adaptation
  • Traffic Sign Assist
  • Vehicle Exit Warning
  • 360 camera
  • PRE-SAFE Sound
  • Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC

Some of these safety features are unique and deserve some explaining. 

The Pre-Safe system tightens seat belts when the car senses that an impact is imminent. 

The Pre-Safe Sound system emits a special "pink noise" to condition passenger's ears for the loud noises that follow after the crash. 

The vehicle exit warning alerts the driver or passengers of rear approaching vehicles, cyclists, or pedestrians to prevent injuries by an open door. 

The 2021 CLA 35 is yet to be rated by the IIHS or NHTSA at the time of writing.


If the only reason for you to read this review is to find out if the CLA 35 deserves that AMG badge, my answer is a resounding yes. 

The AMG enhanced, twin-scroll turbocharged 2.0L inline-4 engine produces 302hp of power and 295 lb-ft of torque. The engine power is sent to the wheels via the AMG SPEEDSHIFT 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and the AMG Performance 4MATIC all-wheel drive system. 0-100km/hr happens in just under 5 seconds. 

While the engine itself is not hand-built like the 45, the drivetrain of the 35 delivers all the power you need for a thrilling driving experience. For a compact coupe like the CLA, this drivetrain is sitting at the sweet spot between performance and fuel efficiency. The dual-clutch transmission is quick and very responsive to manual inputs. It also has just enough rough edges to make the drive engaging. The 4MATIC system is front wheel biased, but can send up to 50 percent of its power toward the rear wheels.

In corners, the CLA 35 feels agile and balanced. Steering is precise and very responsive. The car behaves substantially differently in each drive mode. The McPhersons strut/wishbone front, and multi-link rear suspension does a decent job of soaking up road disturbances in Comfort mode, but firms up to minimize body roll when tackling corners in Sport or Sport + mode. 

The CLA 35 also sounds great. While some of the exhaust notes are pumped into the cabin artificially, they sound very natural. Downshifts into high RPMs results in satisfying cracks and pops out of the exhaust. 

Fuel economy is surprisingly decent for the performance you get. It is rated at 11.0 L/100 km city and 8.2 L/100 km highway. My one week spirited test drive returns a fuel rating of 11.4 L/100km. I must admit that I did put the car through its paces though.

Cargo Space & Storage

The wider rear profile of the CLA increases the trunk opening by 3.9", but the cargo capacity has actually decreased by 10L to 460L compared to the previous generation. It is by no means class leading, but nevertheless practical for daily use. The 40/20/40 split folding rear seats provide access to the additional storage space into the rear cabin. Below the trunk floor is a tire inflation kit for emergency tire repairs. 

In cabin storage options are decent. They include the optional wireless charging pad, deep storage bin under the front armrest, deep door pockets, mesh pockets behind the front seat backs, a small storage tray under the rear air vents, and the integrated cup holders in the rear folding armrest.

For car enthusiasts dreaming of owning an AMG, the CLA 35 is a great starting point. On top of the luxury high-tech interior and the aggressive exterior, the CLA 35 offers the most important thing for an AMG, performance. While it is not at the CLA 45 level, I would say you get more out of the CLA 35’s drivetrain on civilian roads. One thing is for certain, the CLA 35 excels at delivering a fun ride. 

Test Vehicle
2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 4MATIC Coupe

$56,000 CAD Base, $68,000 CAD as tested

Polar White



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