Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
If 302bhp in a relatively small car sounds like a potent combination, that's because it is. Even on cold, wet roads, the CLA 35’s claimed 0-62mph time of just 4.9sec never feels in doubt. Put your foot down and the CLA 35 simply digs in and goes, its four-wheel drive system transferring all of the engine's power to the road without a hint of wheelspin.
With its neutral, predictable cornering balance and superb body control, the CLA 35 is a car that can cover ground extremely rapidly, regardless of conditions. However, in terms of pure driving thrills, it suffers from the same problems as its closest rival, the BMW M235i Gran Coupe; its ‘safe’ front-biased all-wheel drive system restricts the amount of fun you can have in the corners. Put simply, if you want a four door, five seat vehicle that feels truly thrilling, we’d recommend the far cheaper Honda Civic Type R hatchback; a car that involves you in the driving process, thanks to its slick manual gearbox, well-weighted steering and nimble chassis.
And while we’re nit-picking, despite a few cracks and pops from its exhaust when one of the sportier modes is engaged, the CLA 35’s engine sounds rather tuneless – even when you rev it really hard. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox isn’t as obedient as we’d like in manual mode, either (there are paddles behind the steering wheel with which you make manual shifts).
More positively, switch to Comfort driving mode and the engine settles into a distant hum while you’re cruising, the gearbox swaps ratios smoothly and ride comfort is perfectly acceptable for something this sporty. There is an awful lot of tyre roar, though – especially on the motorway.