Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class VS Audi S6
- Quick pace
- Engaging dynamics
- Premium interior
- Harsh ride
- Limited rear-seat room
- Divisive styling
- Executive style
- Improved value
- Boy-racer performance
- Not SUV practical
- A touch thirsty
- Substandard warranty
Mercedes has long been the leader in niche filling, and we’d argue that no other model encapsulates that more than the CLA four-door coupe.
Now in its second-generation form, the CLA is based on Mercedes’ MFA2 small car platform that also underpins the A-Class small car range, B-Class tallboy hatchback and GLA crossover, but is actually dimensionally longer than the one-size up C-Class.
However, while the C-Class might offer more conventional styling, Mercedes says the CLA is targeted towards a younger demographic that puts more weight on design and aesthetics.
The previous generation CLA was topped by a hardcore 45 version, which makes a return here, but new this time around is the less-potent, but still AMG-badged, 35 variant to plug the gap between mainstream grades and the range-topper.
After living with the car for a week, here are our thoughts on the new baby AMG CLA.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Most buyers don’t care for sedans these days, but those in the premium market are still spoilt for choice, with new model after new model being launched.
The latest on offer is the new Audi S6, which once again attempts to mix executive style with boy-racer performance.
With its predecessor’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 succeeded by an engine that is 1.1 litres and two cylinders short, does it still serve up enough bang for your back?
Of course, the only way to find out is to put the new S6 sedan to test, so that’s exactly what we did. Read on.
|Engine Type||2.9L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
Is the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 the perfect choice in the sleek sedan’s line-up?
Well, if you are after outright performance, then the answer still clearly lies with the CLA 45. But for those that just want a little more pep compared to the standard CLA range, the 35 is undoubtedly the one to get.
It’s not without its flaws, though, commanding a $15,000 price premium over the CLA 250 and a tougher-than-we’d-like ride, but if you value a more engaging drive and a brisk 0-100km/h time, the CLA 35 should definitely be on your shopping list.
We adore the new S6 sedan. It looks great, feels comfortable and goes like stink all at the same time. What’s not to like?
It also helps that it is relatively good value, safe and practical by large-sedan standards, so it’s a bit of a no-brainer.
But will buyers be quick to dismiss the new S6 sedan because it’s not a more practical SUV? Time will tell, but we hope not.
Does the new Audi S6 sedan represent the best mix of executive style and boy-racer performance? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
From the front, the CLA 35 exterior oozes style and luxury.
Up front, the sleek and slender headlights emphasise the width of the fascia, while the large Mercedes logo sits proudly front and centre of the CLA’s nose.
There are subtle hints to the CLA 35’s sportiness too, with a slightly bulging bonnet and chiselled lower chin.
The grille is also unique on the 35, with a dual-horizontal slat design instead of the non-AMG CLA’s diamond pattern or the CLA 45’s Panamericana grille.
To my eye, the front of the CLA 35 is actually a bit too tame in styling for an AMG model. I prefer the in-your-face aggression of the CLA 45’s widened track and front grille, while the CLA 35 opts for more subtle styling cues. To each their own, though.
The silver paintwork of our test car probably doesn’t help, and if it was my choice I'd pick 'Sun Yellow' or 'Denim Blue' to stand out a bit more from the sea of black, grey and white German cars out there.
Move to the rear of the car though, and a large rear diffuser, big dual-exhaust outlets and a bootlid spoiler are much more befitting an AMG model.
Step inside the CLA and you will see it adopts the same dashboard design as all new-generation Mercedes vehicles built on the MFA2 platform, with the 'MBUX' dual-screen layout, large air-vents and central touchpad.
Our car was specced out with red-leather interior, which is a bit too loud for my tastes, but a two-tone black leather/titanium grey combo can also be had at no extra cost.
Sitting inside the CLA 35, you can tell it’s a modern car thanks to the clean layout of all the controls, while the screen-heavy dashboard definitely makes it feel tech-focused.
To these eyes, the new S6 sedan is very attractive, albeit not outlandish, in keeping with its executive focus.
Up front, the subtly aggressive S body kit immediately comes into frame, with the bumper sporting sinister-looking side air intakes.
And, of course, there’s Audi’s signature Singleframe, which is not only large and in charge, but also finished in gloss-black, like many of the S6 sedan’s exterior design elements.
Below the heavily creased bonnet, the HD Matrix LED headlights look both angry and sophisticated, with their integrated LED daytime running lights (DRLs) providing a crisp signature.
Around the side, the S6 sedan goes about its business quietly, but its blistered wheelarches do add some bulk and help to accentuate its strong shoulder line.
Speaking of which, the rear end is arguably the S6 sedan’s best angle thanks to its wicked LED tail-lights, which have a segmented signature.
The chunky bumper below incorporates a diffuser element that houses the quad exhaust tailpipes, while a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bootlid spoiler rounds out the look.
Inside, the S6 sedan is a technological tour de force, with 10.1- and 8.6-inch touchscreens dominating its centre stack. The former is responsible for most of Audi’s latest multimedia system’s functions, while the latter takes care of the climate controls.
This set-up works pretty well, although a few too many taps are required for certain functions, and then there’s the issue of the glass display coverings, which are absolute fingerprint magnets alongside the gloss-black accents used throughout.
That said, the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and windshield-projected head-up display on hand are brilliant. In fact, they set the standard for the entire industry thanks to their design and breadth of functionality.
The S6 sedan does, of course, feel a little bit more special than the regular A6 inside, with the obvious additions being the front sports seats, which are covered in supple Valcona leather alongside the armrests. They even have diamond-stitched inserts.
Then there’s the obligatory flat-bottom steering wheel (with paddle-shifters), which is trimmed in Nappa leather alongside the gear selector, upper dashboard, door shoulders and knee rests. Indeed, hard plastics are hard to find here.
Meanwhile, a black headliner adds to the sportiness alongside the black Alcantara door inserts, but the cabin is otherwise a familiar (read: classy) affair.
Measuring 4695mm long, 1834mm wide, 1399mm tall and with a 2729mm wheelbase, the CLA 35 is definitely a sizeable sedan in the metal.
This actually makes the CLA 35 slightly longer and wider than a non-AMG C-Class sedan that measures 4686 and 1810mm respectively, but don’t expect the same level of practical interior space.
With a heavily sloped roofline, rear-seat comfort takes a hit. My 183cm (6.0ft) frame could not sit upright behind my driving position without tilting my head, while legroom was also slightly lacking.
With such large C-pillars and a small rear window, the second-row can actually feel a little claustrophobic for full-sized adults, but will seat children quite comfortably.
Second-row amenities include air-vents, two USB-C ports, back-of-seat storage nets, bottle holders in the doors, and two cupholders in the fold-down arm rest.
Just like at a music concert though, the best seats in the CLA 35 are up front, with plenty of room for heads, shoulders and legs.
The cabin is also much more light-filled up front, making for a more pleasant experience.
The front seats are electronically adjustable, as is the steering column, but the headrests are fixed.
Storage options include sizeable door bins, a centre console cubby, glove box, two cupholders and a wireless smartphone charger.
Boot space is 460 litres, but can expand with the rear split-fold 40/20/40 rear seats stowed.
Though the boot looks small and shallow on the outside, the aperture is actually quite large, and can easily accommodate a large suitcase with plenty of room to spare.
Measuring 4954mm long, 1886mm wide and 1446mm tall, the new S6 sedan is a large sedan in every sense of the term, which is mostly good news when it comes to practicality.
Cargo capacity is decent, at 520L, but can be increased to an undisclosed amount with the 40/20/40 split-fold rear bench stowed.
Speaking of the boot, there are four tie-down points and a cargo net to help secure loose loads, while a bag hook and a side storage net are also on hand, alongside a 12V power outlet. Bulkier items will, however, be confronted by a decent load lip.
In-cabin storage options are numerous, but not all are effective. The glovebox is well-sized, while the driver-side cubby is surprisingly large, but the central bin is shallow, mostly taken up by the wireless smartphone charger, two USB-A ports and the SD and SIM card readers.
A pair of cupholders is located in the centre console, with a 12V power outlet found in between, while the front door bins can accommodate one regular bottle each, just like their rear counterparts.
In the second row, there’s a fold-down armrest with two more cupholders as well as a shallow storage tray, while cargo nets are affixed to the front seat backrests.
The rear bench is pretty comfortable, with four inches of legroom available behind my 184cm driving position alongside decent toe-room. Headroom is also good, with about two inches on offer.
That said, three adults sitting abreast won’t enjoy the experience, due to the large transmission tunnel, which makes for limited footwell space. At least they’ll have access to a couple of USB-A ports and a 12V power outlet, below the central air vents.
For reference, child seats can be fitted to the outboard seats via top-tether and ISOFIX anchorage points.
Price and features
Priced at $85,500 before on-road costs, the CLA 35 sits $15,300 upstream of the CLA 250 but is $25,700 cheaper than the $111,200 CLA 45.
Standard equipment includes leather interior, dual-zone climate control, electronically adjustable front seats with heating and memory function, keyless entry and push-button start, 64-colour ambient lighting, and a wireless smartphone charger.
AMG specific appointments include 19-inch wheels, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, sports exhaust, high-performance brakes with silver-painted calipers, blacked-out exterior highlights, sports suspension, a racy bodykit and speed-sensitive steering.
Instrumentation is displayed on a 10.25-inch screen, which can be customised and features AMG readouts.
The multimedia system, which includes satellite navigation, digital radio and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, is also outputted to a 10.25-inch screen, with inputs including touch, voice commands, centre touch pad or steering wheel controls.
Our test car also came with a ‘Mojave Silver Metallic’ paint finish and 'Vision Package', adding $1190 and $990 to the bottom line each.
The Vision Package adds LED headlights with adaptive high beams, a panoramic glass sunroof and surround-view monitor.
Though the CLA 35 features a long list of equipment, it is still a sizeable chunk of coin, costing more than the C300 sedan and Volvo S60 T8 PHEV, the latter boasting higher engine outputs.
The new S6 large sedan is priced from $149,900 plus on-road costs and is far better value than before, even if it does command a $33,900 premium over the regular A6's flagship variant.
Compared to its predecessor, the new S6 sedan is $21,480 cheaper, while Audi Australia claims it has also added $20,000 worth of kit.
Standard equipment not already mentioned includes metallic paintwork (our test vehicle was finished in Tango Red), dusk-sensing lights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, soft-close doors, auto-folding side mirrors with heating, rear privacy glass and a hands-free power-operated bootlid.
Inside, satellite navigation with live traffic, Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay support, digital radio, a 705W Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system with 16 speakers, a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and start, power-adjustable front seats with heating, a power-adjustable steering column, four-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and LED ambient lighting feature.
Of note, buyers can opt for the $7700 Dynamic Package that bundles in speed-sensitive electric power steering, a rear limited-slip differential and all-wheel steering. It was not fitted to our test vehicle.
In terms of rivals, the BMW M550i sedan is identically priced, while the Mercedes-AMG E53 sedan is much more expensive, at $173,800. The S6 sedan arguably has the former beat on value but loses the performance battle due to its 390kW/750Nm 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8.
Engine & trans
Powered by a 2.0-litre, turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, the CLA 35 punches out 225kW/400Nm.
Drive is sent through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions to the road via Mercedes’ '4Matic' all-wheel-drive system, enabling a 0-100km/h sprint in the 1603kg sedan in just 4.7 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h.
Though I didn’t get a chance to test the latter, the former certainly feels accurate when taking off from a freeway on ramp, however, there is some hesitation from the turbo in getting on boost.
Peak power comes in at 5800rpm, while maximum torque is available from 3000-4000rpm.
Compared to its aforementioned predecessor, power is unchanged, while torque has increased by 50Nm.
This unit is mated to a 48V mild-hybrid system that includes a trick Electric-Powered Compressor (EPC), which helps to reduce its turbo lag.
A reliable eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission is responsible for swapping gears, while drive is sent to all four wheels via Audi’s rear-biased quattro system.
This combination helps it sprint from a standstill to 100km/h in an impressive 4.5 seconds, while its top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h.
Officially, the CLA 35 sips 7.5 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, but we managed a 9.9L/100km figure in our week with the car.
The majority of our driving was done in inner-city environments, with the two trips down the freeway to seek out twisty country rounds.
Minimum fuel grade in the CLA 35 is 98 RON.
The new S6 sedan’s fuel consumption on the combined-cycle test (ADR 81/02) is 8.4 litres per 100 kilometres, while claimed carbon dioxide emissions are 197 grams per kilometre. Both figures are pretty keen given the level of performance on offer.
Audi says the aforementioned 48V mild-hybrid system reduces fuel consumption by 0.4L/100km thanks to its coasting ability, which sees the engine turn off for up to 40 seconds between 55km/h and 160km/h. It also engages idle-stop from 22km/h.
In our real-world testing, we averaged 14.4L/100km over 100km of driving skewed towards country roads over city traffic, with limited highway time. It’s worth noting that my spirited driving inflated this result. That said, while its fuel consumption is not as bad as it appears, this is still a thirsty sedan.
For reference, the S6 sedan’s 73L fuel tank takes 98RON petrol at minimum.
The CLA 35 might not offer the outright thrills or breadth of capability of the CLA 45, but don’t think the cut-price AMG offers up a cut-rate driving experience.
From the driver’s seat, one of the cool things about the CLA 35 is that it doesn’t actually look any different from its more expensive sibling.
The drive-mode selector that is now embedded on the steering wheel is fantastic, a feature first seen on the Mercedes-AMG GT 4-door, and makes changing the driving dynamics on the fly an absolute breeze.
In fact, we think all cars where you can select drive modes should have a selector on the steering wheel like this, which lets you quickly and easily dial it up or down while keeping your hands on the wheel.
'Comfort', 'Sport', 'Sport+' and 'Individual' modes are available, while the transmission can also be put into manual mode independently for those that prefer to use the flappy paddles.
Suspension settings can also be tweaked regardless of which drive mode you are in, and it’s this level of customisability that we appreciate.
You want loud exhaust pops and the engine in full attack with manual shifting and the softest suspension? Sure, that’s doable here in the CLA 35. And toning it down to its most comfortable settings is just a flick of the wrist away.
The steering feels a little numb on centre and at slower speeds, though feedback picks right up with speed and is communicative enough when the road starts to get twisty.
Fitted with wide and sticky Michelin rubber, as well as the aforementioned all-wheel drive system, the CLA 35 is certainly not lacking in grip.
The suspension does an okay job of absorbing bumps, but uneven surfaces, like Melbourne’s tram tracks, can send uncomfortable jolts into the cabin if travelling quickly.
In fact, we think the ride comfort of the CLA 35 is probably its weakest aspect, offering not enough variability in its Comfort and Sport settings, and instead settling somewhere in between, regardless of drive mode.
The CLA 35 is ultimately still a fun and engaging sports sedan, though there are some sacrifices made to get it there.
The S6 sedan has no right being this good in a straight line and around corners…
Much of its success is owed to the 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6, which is now one of my favourite engines being built today. Simply put, it absolutely hammers.
Punch the accelerator from a standing start and it doesn’t take long for 600Nm to be on tap all the way through, and just a little bit beyond, the mid-range.
Occupants are firmly pressed into their seats as the S6 sedan sprints towards the horizon with vigour. Soon enough, 331kW arrives and hangs around until just prior to the redline.
Needless to say, this acceleration is addictive, and the EPC deserves some of the credit, as it effectively mitigates any dreaded turbo lag and ensures the engine is always seemingly on boost.
But we also need to acknowledge the eight-speed torque-converter automatic, which is a real beauty. Gear changes are nice and smooth, which is great, but what’s even better is their relative quickness – dual-clutch transmissions be damned!
Of course, extra performance can be extracted by switching between the engine and transmissions’ settings but, rest assured, they both stand up, no matter what.
However, we’d suggest spending time in the former’s most aggressive setting, as it unleashes the sports exhaust system, which sounds unreal.
Upshift with intent and you’re met with a booming ‘brap’. Downshifts and the overrun will even gift you a series of pops. In fact, the S6 sedan soundtrack sounds strangely similar to that of the five-cylinder RS3, and we have absolutely no problem with that.
Better yet, the S6 sedan has an appetite for corners, with its neutral handling a standout, partly thanks to its hard-working rear-biased quattro all-wheel-drive system, which works in tandem with all the other electronics to ensure there is plenty of grip at any given time.
This controlled driving pleasure is enhanced by the electric power steering on hand, which has a variable ratio. At low speed, it’s nice and light, but those after more heft can always switch to another one of its settings, which become progressively heavier… arguably too heavy.
Feedback through the wheel is also good, while the steering itself is pretty direct, lending itself to sporty driving, which, of course, is half of the S6 sedan’s mantra.
Coming into corners, braking performance is solid, thanks to the massive 400mm front and 350mm rear discs with red callipers, so the driver is brimming with confidence at every turn, even though there’s an unladen weight (with 75kg driver and luggage) of 1985kg to manage.
But let’s not forget the S6 is an executive sedan, so it has to ride like one. Thankfully, it does. The independent five-link suspension has air springs and adaptive dampers, which serve up comfort in spades, especially at high speed.
Its firm tune does come into frame when travelling on unsealed or uneven roads, with this exacerbated by the large 21-inch alloy wheels, which have a penchant for catching sharp edges.
The CLA 35 has not been tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, but the standard CLA range was awarded a five-star rating in September 2019.
Standard safety equipment in the CLA 35 includes autonomous emergency braking, automatic high beams, nine airbags, drive attention alert, blind-spot monitoring with exit warning, lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition and tyre pressure monitoring.
The standard CLA also comes with these features, and was awarded 96 and 92 per cent respectively in ANCAP adult occupant and child occupant protection tests.
For the vulnerable road user and safety assist examinations, the standard CLA scored 91 and 76 per cent respectively.
ANCAP says the AEB system works from seven-200km/h.
Of note, adaptive cruise control is not standard in the CLA 35 like it is in the CLA 45. Instead, buyers will have to tick the 'Driving Assistance Package' box for the feature, which also comes bundled with cross-traffic alert and lane change assist.
Advanced driver-assist systems extend to autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keep and steering assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, high-beam assist, driver attention alert, hill-start assist, tyre pressure monitoring, surround-view cameras and front and rear parking sensors. Yep, buyers aren’t left wanting here.
Other standard safety equipment includes six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), electronic stability and traction control systems, anti-skid brakes (ABS), brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, among others.
As with all new Mercedes-Benz models, the CLA 35 comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is one of the best assurance periods offered by a premium carmaker.
It also comes with five years of roadside assist.
Scheduled service intervals are every 25,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first.
A three-year service plan is available for $2150 for new CLA 35 buyers, saving $500 when priced individually.
Four- and five-year plans are also available, and are priced at $4200 and $4950 respectively.
The S6 sedan comes with Audi Australia’s three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which falls short of the premium market’s relatively new five-year standard that was set by Genesis and followed by Mercedes-Benz.
Three years of roadside assistance is also bundled in, although this term can be extended up to nine years if the vehicle is serviced at an authorised dealership, which is great.
Speaking of which, service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Capped-price servicing plans are available, costing $2350 for three years/45,000km or $4110 for five years/75,000km. They’re pricey, but you weren’t expecting the opposite.