Engine, Transmission, and Performance
While both models boast the company’s latest turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, the CLA35 makes 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque and the CLA45 develops 382 ponies and 354 lb-ft. The CLA35 drives through a seven-speed automatic transmission while the CLA45 has an eight-speed automatic. They both have standard 4Matic+ all-wheel drive, which can send all of the power to the rear wheels. The 45 can even be equipped with a tail-sliding Drift drive mode. A set of optional adaptive dampers provide adjustable ride quality. We haven’t driven the CLA45 yet, but our initial impressions of the CLA35 suggest that it will be quick, and the powertrain will operate smoothly even when pushed hard.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The CLA35 and CLA45 are equipped with Mercedes-Benz’s new MBUX infotainment system, which features tiny touchpads on the steering wheel and a console-mounted control pad. Overall, the setup is easy to use and configure. The digital instrument-cluster screen and the standard 7.0-inch infotainment display live under one large horizontal piece of glass that stretches across much of the dashboard. Bluetooth connectivity and an eight-speaker sound system are standard, and all models come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. The options list includes an upgraded Burmester audio system and SiriusXM satellite radio. Upgraded versions of the infotainment system include Mercedes’ Siri-like personal assistant and augmented reality displays to enhance the navigation system.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The 2020 CLA45 stands out on the street from the 2020 CLA35 with a flashier grille, wider front fenders, extra aerodynamic bits, and more. However, the two have similar aesthetics on the inside. Both can be outfitted with black faux-suede accents as well as red seatbelts and contrast-stitching. They also have customizable ambient interior lighting that includes illuminated circular air vents in the instrument panel. The front seats are pleasantly spacious, but there’s limited headroom in the second row due to the car’s sloping roofline. This sedan provides 11.6 cubic feet of cargo space. That’s less than in the outgoing model, but it’s still enough to house a couple of overnight bags or an average grocery haul.