Performance wagon fans from the U.S. have missed yet another enticing, fun new model, in the form of the new (second generation) Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake. More specifically, one of the AMG-tuned performance versions, the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35. The sleek new CLA load lugger is quite a pretty car, with a striking interior, and this AMG version also adds proper poke and cornering ability into the mix.

Power comes from a 302 horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder that sends its power to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Naturally, since it is an AMG mode, it features styling tweaks and upgrades to set it apart from CLA Shooting Brake examples and the same goes for the interior. It’s a car that packs a proper punch, but it’s also practical, very stylish and very modern-feeling inside too. None of the modifications are over the top, though, because, as you might know, this is the lesser of the two AMG versions of the CLA wagon and the design needs to reflect this.

For most people, the more powerful Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Shooting Brake will be too much, not necessarily in terms of looks, because that model doesn’t look significantly more extreme than the CLA 35, but in terms of mixing sporty looks and performance. The CLA 35 will undeniably be more popular primarily because it looks pretty much the same as the CLA 45 and most buyers won’t feel the need for the extra 100 horsepower that the more powerful version offers and the inherent extra performance.

Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 Shooting Brake Exterior

Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 4MATIC Shooting Brake
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Mercedes has tried to differentiate the CLA from the A-Class with which it shares its underpinnings and interior more than it did with the previous generation of the two cars. Previously, the CLA could easily have been described as a sedan or wagon version of the A-Class hatch, whereas now things have changed a bit. The CLA has a wider track than the A-Class and its stance looks ever so slightly more planted than that of the hatch.

The automaker wanted more and clearer differentiation between its front-wheel drive-biased models, especially since now it not only offers the CLA but also the A-Class sedan; if you want a small wagon Merc, though, the CLA Shooting Brake is your sole option. In AMG CLA 35 trim, the Shooting Brake does look a bit more special than examples lower down in the range, but from an exterior visual standpoint, it appears as if Mercedes intentionally wanted the CLA 35 to look like an AMG Line model and vice versa.

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From the front, you can’t really tell that the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 Shooting Brake isn’t just an AMG Line example of the regular CLA Shooting Brake. They share what appears to be exactly the same front bumper - the only difference that we were able to spot are the satin black blade bits of trim around the outer bumper intakes. The actual intakes themselves are fake on the CLA 35, as they are on the normal CLA AMG Line.

The grille pattern is different, though, as is the badge. On the CLA Shooting Brake AMG Line, the Three Pointed Star is supported by single wings on either side, whereas on the AMG A35, it is supported by dual wings which are finished in a rather snazzy looking brushed aluminum texture. Oh, and there’s a discrete AMG badge in between the left side badge wings, but that’s really all there is to it; I’m sure this A35 AMG grille and badge combo will be a very popular mod for CLA owners and that at some point in the near future, aftermarket versions of it will be available.

Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 4MATIC Shooting Brake
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Moving to the side of the CLA 35 wagon, it is again very hard to tell it apart from an AMG Line. The unique (standard 18-inch, optional 19-inch) five-twin-spoke AMG rims that hide bigger brake calipers and rotors are the only real giveaway, because aside from them, there really aren’t any different components. If you look closely, though, you might be able to spot the larger exhausts sticking out of the AMG CLA 35’s rear bumper, but, realistically, only the trained eye would be able to notice this detail.

It’s from the rear that you really notice the CLA 35 is anything more than an AMG Line. It comes with a unique lower part of the rear bumper (the upper part of the bumper is identical to other CLA wagons) that is finished in satin black and comes with a built-in diffuser. The fins on the diffuser look a bit too small to be of any real aerodynamic use, but they certainly look cool, as do the large single exhaust tips that poke out through the lower corners of the bumper.

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Obligatory AMG and CLA 35 badges on the bootlid leave you in no doubt as to what you are looking at. They are complimented by “Turbo 4Matic” badges on the front fenders, as well as AMG script on the rims, calipers and grille. Overall, the AMG A35 Shooting Brake is subtle and it certainly doesn’t shout about its performance like its bigger AMG A45 Shooting Brake brother.

By contrast, the CLA 45 Shooting Brake is immediately noticeable as being more than just an AMG Line.

It has bulging wheel arches, a brash front bumper with real openings and winglets on the side, plus the all important Panamericana front grille with vertical elements. You won’t mistake this for anything other than an A 45. It also has unique side skirts, more extreme rim designs, bigger brakes and a yet even more extreme lower part of the rear bumper, complete with quad exhausts (they may be fake, as they are fed by a single smaller pipe that’s hidden behind them, but they certainly look the part and help the A 45 stand out alongside lesser CLAs).

Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 Shooting Brake Interior

Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 4MATIC Shooting Brake
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There is a lot to like about the AMG CLA 35 Shooting Brake’s interior. The layout is very modern, especially thanks to the two big 10.25-inch screens that come as standard on the AMG version (they’re normally an option on lesser models which only feature two 7-inch screens as standard). The AMG 35 doesn’t appear to have any additional special touches other than the AMG-branded, flat-bottomed steering wheel.

The AMG wheel has a thicker rim compared to the regular AMG Line helm, as well as perforated leather around the part you grip. In fact, the sides of the wheel are also flattened out somewhat, in order to improve grip and the feeling that you are driving something special and not an ordinary CLA. This AMG wheel also has a driving mode selector dial below the right horizontal prong and it really does help lift the cabin quite a bit - especially since it’s not especially distinctive compared to lesser CLAs.

Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 4MATIC Shooting Brake
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The AMG CLA 35’s seats appear to be identical to what you can get in a CLA AMG Line. They are exactly the same design which you can have in a mix of leather and swede, or two-tone leather, both of which can be had with contrasting stitching. But, essentially, aside from the sportier steering wheel, you’d be hard pressed to tell you were in an AMG CLA 35 and not a CLA 200 with the AMG Line pack.

That’s not to say the interior is bad. Quite the opposite, really, since it is pretty much identical to what you get in the new A-Class and B-Class, both of which are really nice places to sit.

Plus, any CLA wagon has that little bit more space for cargo, as well as some extra rear headroom to better accommodate tall occupants in the rear. Materials are generally good, although there are quite a few spots (mainly lower down in the cabin) where plastics feel scratchy and not of the best quality. However, all points you frequently touch do feel properly plush and fitting for a Mercedes.

In regards to actual load-lugging capacity, the CLA Shooting Brake can accommodate 570 liters, which can be extended to 1,370 liters with the rear bench folded (the CLA sedan has a 460-liter trunk). These numbers are good and mean the CLA estate is genuinely good at carrying things in the back, but it is not quite as good as the only other vehicle on the market that looks like it - the new Kia Proceed whose numbers are 594 liters and 1,545 liters respectively.

Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 Shooting Brake Drivetrain

Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 4MATIC Shooting Brake
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The AMG CLA 35 Shooting Brake has the same M260 engine as the AMG A 35, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged to make 302 horsepower (306 PS / 225 kW) between 5,800 and 6,100 rpm and 400 Nm (295 pound-feet) of torque between 3,000 and 4,000 rpm. No manual transmission option is offered, so the only way to swap cogs is the standard-fit seven-speed dual clutch with steering wheel-mounted paddles.

According to the manufacturer, the CLA 35 wagon sprints from standstill to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.9 seconds and its top speed is 250 km/h (155 mph). These figures are exactly the same as those quoted for the CLA 35 sedan, even though the three-box model is some 30 kg (66 pounds) lighter (1,515 versus 1,545 kg) and therefore slightly more efficient.

Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 Shooting Brake Specs

Engine M260, 2-liter, four-cylinder, turbocharged
Output 302 hp @ 5,800-6,100 rpm
Torque 400 Nm (296 lb-ft) @ 3,000-4,000 rpm
0-100 km/h (62 mph) 4.9 seconds
Top speed 250 km/h (155 mph)

The engine itself feels very strong and eager to pick up even lower in the rev range. It doesn’t sound especially sporty, even by force-fed four-pot standards, but it’s by no means bad. It essentially is considerably more capable than it is noisy, but that’s nothing an aftermarket exhaust couldn’t fix. The standard exhaust does have a flap that opens in the more aggressive driving modes, but for some even this louder setting might not be loud enough for a 300+ horsepower car.

Mercedes seems quite proud of the new 4Matic all-wheel drive system that helps the CLA 35 transmit its torque to the tarmac smoothly and seamlessly. Under normal conditions, all power is sent to the front axle only, but when the car’s electronic brain senses a loss of traction, up to 50 percent of the power can be diverted to the rear. This control of torque is achieved through an electro-mechanical system that Mercedes says is better than an electro-hydraulic solution since it provides not only faster response, but also better refinement too.

The manufacturer says that the AMG CLA 35 Shooting Brake not only has stiffer, lower springs, but also motorsport-inspired, AMG-specific front steering knuckles with radially-bolted brake calipers that help stiffen the entire front suspension; from the driver’s perspective, this is perceived as improved sharpness and steering precision. There are also optional adaptive dampers which bestow the car with a cushier ride in Comfort mode or a very stiff ride in Sport and Sport+ modes.

Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 Shooting Brake Price

Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 4MATIC Shooting Brake
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Pricing has yet to be announced, but in Europe, the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 Shooting Brake will be just under €1,000 more expensive than its sedan counterpart. The three-box CLA 35 kicks off at €51,705 in Germany, so we predict that the starting price for the CLA 35 wagon will be no more than €52,705. No CLA wagon will be sold in North America, but it will be made available in select markets after it debuts on the Old Continent.

Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 Shooting Brake Competition

Nowadays most cars are made to compete with some other model from a rival manufacturer. Not the CLA 35 Shooting Brake, though. There is no other car of this size (premium or otherwise) to offer this level of performance, all-wheel drive and a coupé-esque experience (courtesy of the swooping side profile and frameless doors). With that being said, there are two models that (almost) directly compete with it, even though neither is really an exact match.

Audi S3 Sportback

Probably the closest thing the CLA 35 wagon has to a direct rival is the Audi S3 Sportback, a practical five-door hatch with similar power and performance numbers. Its 2.0-liter force-fed four-pot pumps out 306 horsepower (310 PS / 228 kW), so slightly more than the CLA 35, but the exact same torque, 400 Nm (295 pound-feet) available over a wider rev range, from 2,000 rpm all the way up to 5,400 rpm.

It is slightly slower to sprint to 100 km/h (62 mph), taking 5.3 seconds, but its top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h (155 mph), as is the case with the CLA 35. Since it is just a hatchback and not a wagon, though, its trunk isn’t as cavernous as that of the CLA Shooting Brake; the S3 Sportback can only muster 340 liters or 1,180 liters with the rear bench backrest folded flat.

Kia Proceed GT

From a design standpoint, the Kia Proceed GT is very similar to the CLA 35 Shooting Brake. It could almost be called similar, especially if you look at the two cars’ side profiles - the Kia clearly drew some inspiration from the Mercedes. And just like the Mercedes, it’s quite a pretty thing to behold, with good proportions and that interesting looking roofline that really tapers toward the rear.

It’s actually hard to fault from a visual standpoint and the interior is not bad either. It is very well screwed together, materials are really good for a non-premium vehicle and you can also jam-pack it with luxury car features such as a heated steering wheel, ventilated seats and plenty of other cool gadgets. Where it lags behind the CLA 35 is in terms of its powertrain - the most powerful version, the Proceed GT, is only motivated by a 1.6-liter engine with 201 horsepower (204 PS) and only front-wheel drive. But even if it’s around 30 percent less powerful than the CLA 35 wagon (and inherently slower), it does come with a very good seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that does help it feel quite sporty to drive.

Conclusion

Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 4MATIC Shooting Brake
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There is no other car from any manufacturer that blends all the many qualities that the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 Shooting Brake manages to blend into a single package. It is a design-centric vehicle, but one that’s also quite practical, it’s fast, fun to drive and packed with tech. Oh, and it has that hugely desirable Three Pointed Star adorning key areas thereby making it undeniably desirable.

It may be a bit expensive (even compared to the mechanically very similar A-Class), but Mercedes says it’s done enough to differentiate it (more so than it did with the previous generation of both cars) and that it now drives better than an equivalent A-Class. The AMG 35 model has a very strong engine that gives the car genuine hot hatch pace and with the all-wheel drive and automatic gearbox, it’s easy to manage and make the most of.

It’s undeniably a niche proposition, but since it has no direct rival and it has plenty of qualities to make it likeable, it will find fans. However, do keep in mind that this CLA 35 version looks almost identical from the outside to just about any CLA with the AMG Line pack fitted, so if you really want it to stand out, then you need to opt for the more expensive and exclusive CLA 45 Shooting Brake that looks far more distinctive (and is considerably faster too).

  • Leave it
    • It doesn’t shout about its performance enough
    • Interior is almost exactly the same as that of any CLA
    • It could easily be mistaken for a CLA Shooting Brake AMG Line
    • Exhaust note lacks rasp, even in Sport+
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