Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class VS Infiniti Q60
- Quick pace
- Engaging dynamics
- Premium interior
- Harsh ride
- Limited rear-seat room
- Divisive styling
- Great looks
- AEB even on this base spec Q60
- Grunty engine
- Not as engaging to drive as the Red Sport
- Restricted head and legroom in back seat
- Confusing double decker screens and media system
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|
One day Nissan's luxury sub-brand Infiniti could grow up to be as popular as Toyota's Lexus, but it'll take more than just time and brand awareness to get there – it will have to build outstanding cars that impress us, as well.
When I drove the top-of-the-range Q60 Red Sport at its launch a few months ago I called it the breakthrough car for Infiniti. Now we're testing the entry point into the line-up – the GT, which likes to imagine itself as keeping the BMW 420i and Mercedes-Benz C200 Coupe awake at night, but really rivals the Lexus RC 200t.
So, is the Q60 GT outstanding or should you ignore it and go straight to the Red Sport with its bigger engine and Sport + driving mode if you want to be impressed? And what is it like to live with when you've taken your race face off and need to pick up the toddler from day care, then do a load of shopping on the way home?
We found out pretty quickly when we lived with the Q60 GT for a week.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
Beautiful looks, good handling, but the driving experience of the Q60 GT is let down by a numbness and disconnection relative to what's happening under you. Refinement isn't on the same level as its BMW and Benz rivals, but the GT is a perfect match for the RC 200t, while remaining good value for money. If you have your heart set on an Infiniti Q60 then I'd skip straight to the top and opt for the Red Sport.
Would you buy a Q60 GT or pay a few thousand more for a Mercedes-Benz C200 Coupe? Let us know 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.
The Q60 GT is a head turner – literally. Whenever I was driving slow enough to notice, people were rubbernecking to look at the long, low-slung coupe. I'm sure most had no idea what brand of car it was, but in its 'Iridium Blue' paint the Q60 looked amazing with its curvy, sleek profile.
There's only one small issue – the RC 200t and Q60 GT are way too similar looking, right down to their 'signature' shaped c-pillars. I prefer the grille of the Lexus but the rear of the Q60. While there might be a bit of copy-catting going on, both are prettier than their BMW or Benz rivals.
The Q60 GT feels fairly large to drive and the dimensions don't lie – 4690mm end-to-end, 2052mm across with the wing mirrors unfurled, but low at 1395mm.
The cabin treatment is just as emotional as the exterior, with its dual screens, swoopy dashboard and sectioned off driver and passenger cells.
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.
The short answer is not very practical - but then no two-door sports car really is. So while the front two seats are roomy (although the optional sunroof restricts headroom) the same can't be said for the back seats – at 191cm tall, not only can I not sit up straight (because of the sloping roofline), I can't fit my legs in behind my driving position.
While those large doors open wide the roofline and the lack of rear doors means trying to insert a toddler into his car seat was painful and involved kneeling in the street, there were days we took our much less fancy SUV just because it was easier.
This is a four seater – with two cupholders in between the rear seats and two more cupholders up front. Storage elsewhere is limited, with tiny pockets in the front doors and a small centre console bin to hide your phone and wallet.
The boot is also on the small side at 341 litres – don't compare this to the 423 litre of cargo capacity in the RC 200t which is measured in VDA litres. That said, there was more than enough room for our weekly shop which fitted in snugly, although you have to hoist your shopping bags high to clear that boot lip.
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 Q60 GT has a list price of $62,900, undercutting the Lexus RC 200t by $2000, but what you might find surprising is that the Benz C200 Coupe is only $3500 more than the Infiniti, while the BMW 420i in the Luxury grade lists for $69,900. Depending on how you look at it, either the Germans are affordable or the Japanese are expensive. Perhaps a bit of both.
What's for sure is that the Q60 GT's standard features list is substantial. There's 8.0-inch and 7.0-inch 'double-decker' screens, sat nav, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, six-speaker stereo, LED head- and fog lights, proximity unlocking, heated and power adjustable front seats and leather upholstery.
The Q60 Sport Premium is the next grade up from the GT and lists for $70,900, while the Red Sport is $88,900.
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.
The Q60 GT has a 155kW/350Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine with drive being sent to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission. The same engine is also in the Q60 Sport Premium, while the Red Sport packs a twin-turbo V6.
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.
An official combined fuel consumption figure of 7.7L/100km is fairly optimistic and our combination of urban, city and highway running saw the trip computer reporting back to us with 9.1L/100km. Still, that's not too bad considering how much time was spent in city traffic.
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.
I had a feeling this would happen - the GT was disappointing to drive after the Red Sport with the latter's twin-turbo V6, sports suspension, better steering and excellent Sport + drive mode. There's lots to like about the GT, though – the grip is great from the wide Dunlop SP rubber (235 40 R19 front and 255 40 R19 rear), the chassis feels taught, acceleration is good and it's a gorgeous looking car.
But there's a sense of disconnection from the driving experience I couldn't get past, such as the numb feeling in the steering which needed constant re-adjustment. I also think the suspension felt over sprung and lacked composure over small bumps in the road.
The GT and all Q60s don't have the same level of refinement as the C200 Coupe or 420i, evident from the clunky feel of the door handles to the road noise intruding into the cabin.
I'm not a fan of the cockpit. Sure it's brave and expressively designed, but the double-deck screens are confusing, there's one for nav, while the other's for media... I think. Then there are things you don't need, such as a digital compass – actually there are two, one on the display and another in the instrument cluster, but there's no digital speedo.
That 2.0-litre engine is great, but the transmission is a mood killer with it wanting to change up gears quickly to save fuel, even in 'Sport' mode.
Here's a curve ball call for you – I've just stepped out of a, Alfa Giulia Super. Close in price to the Infiniti, same sized engine, but infinitely more rewarding and fun to drive – plus you get an extra two doors.
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.
The Q60 is yet to be rated by ANCAP, although it's good to see AEB with pedestrian detection is standard, even on the base grade GT. That said, it would be good to see blind spot warning and lane keeping assistance fitted as standard (as you'll find on the Benz C200 Coupe). It's not a lot to ask considering these comes standard on higher grades of the Nissan X-Trail.
There are two ISOFIX mounts in the back and two top tether anchor points.
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.