Volvo V60 VS Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class
- Stunning design inside and out
- Strong value for money across all grades
- Big on safety equipment
- Lower grades only have one powertrain option
- Ownership costs
- Climate controls through media screen
- Quick pace
- Engaging dynamics
- Premium interior
- Harsh ride
- Limited rear-seat room
- Divisive styling
The Volvo V60 is perhaps the best representation of how far Volvo has come in recent years. Why? Because it’s not an SUV - it’s a wagon. It’s a modern-day counter-argument to the XC40 and XC60 models that have impressed many over the past few years.
But is there a place for a mid-sized Volvo wagon? One that sits low to the ground and isn’t nearly as boxy as those of old?
Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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|
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.
Look at the V60 before you - you can’t tell me it isn’t one of the best looking cars on the road. Well, actually, you can tell me - do it in the comments section below.
The car we had on test was the mid-range T5 Inscription, and the colour is called Birch. It’s a beautiful colour, and helps the svelte lines of the V60 stand out and blend in, all at the same time.
All models have LED lighting across the range, and Volvo’s ‘Thor’s Hammer’ theme Volvo adds a little aggression, too.
The rear lives up to the boxy Volvo wagon look you’d expect, and in fact, it almost looks like the XC60 SUV at the back. I like it, and I like what it offers, too.
It carries its size well, being identical in most dimensions to the S60 sedan. It measures 4761mm long on a 2872mm wheelbase, it’s 1432mm tall (just 1mm taller than the sedan) and 1850mm wide. That makes it 126mm longer (96mm between the wheels), 52mm lower but 15mm narrower than the last model - and it’s built on the brand’s new Scalable Product Architecture - which is the same underpinnings from the range-topping XC90 to the entry-grade XC40.
The V60’s interior design is familiar to Volvos from the past three or four years. Take a look at the interior pictures 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 Swedish brand’s current interior design language is premium, plush, but not sporty. And that’s totally fine.
The cabin of the V60 is lovely to look at, and the materials used are all sumptuous - from the wood and metallic elements used on the dashboard and centre console to the leather on the steering wheel and seats. There are some lovely elements like the knurled finishes on the engine starter and other controls, too.
The 9.0-inch tablet-style vertical media display is familiar, and while it may take a week of driving to figure out how the menus work (you have to swipe side-to-side for detailed side menus, and there’s a home button down the bottom, just like a real tablet), I find it mostly very usable. However, I do think the fact you control the ventilation (air con, fan speed, temperature, air direction, seat heating/cooling, steering wheel heating etc) through the screen is a little annoying. However, the de-mister buttons are exactly that - buttons.
The volume knob below doubles as a play/pause trigger, and you get steering wheel-mounted controls as well.
Cabin storage is okay, with cup holders between the seats, a covered centre bin, bottle holders in all four doors, and a rear flip-down armrest with cupholders. But there isn’t as much in the way of smarts as, say, a Skoda wagon.
Now. The wagon bit. The best bit of all!
The V60 wagon is clearly a more practical pick than the S60 sedan, with 529 litres of cargo space (the S60 has a still decent 442L boot). The rear seats fold down flat for extra room, and there’s also a clever partition wall you can erect to stop things moving around in the boot. The opening is a good size, easily broad enough to make loading luggage or a pram in easy. The boot can cope with the bulky CarsGuide pram and a large suitcase side by side, with space to spare.
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.
Price and features
The V60 wagon line-up is attractively priced, with entry level variants undercutting some of the big name competitors.
The starting point is the V60 T5 Momentum, which is priced at $56,990 plus on-road costs (a $2000 premium over the equivalent S60 sedan). The Momentum has 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and tail-lights, a 9.0-inch multimedia touchscreen supporting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as DAB+ digital radio, keyless entry, auto dimming rear vision mirror, auto dimming and auto folding wing-mirrors, dual-zone climate control and real leather trim on the seats and steering wheel. It also gets a power tailgate as standard.
The next model up the range is the T5 Inscription, which lists at $62,990. It adds plenty of additional gear, with 19-inch alloy wheels, directional LED headlights, four-zone climate control, a head-up display, a 360-degree parking camera, auto-parking assist, wood interior highlights, ambient lighting, heated front seats with cushion extensions, and a 230-volt power outlet in the rear console.
Stepping up to the T5 R-Design gets you more grunt (info in the engine section below), and there are two options available - the T5 petrol ($66,990) or the T8 plug-in hybrid ($87,990).
Extra equipment for R-Design variants includes ‘Polestar optimisation’ (a bespoke suspension tune from Volvo’s performance division), 19-inch alloys with a unique look, a sporty exterior and interior design pack with R-Design sports leather seats, paddle-shifters on the steering wheel, and mesh metal interior finishes.
There are some packs available to add more to your V60 if you want it, including the Lifestyle Pack (with panoramic sunroof, tinted rear glass and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon stereo), the Premium Pack (panoramic sunroof, rear tinted glass and a 15-speaker Bowers and Wilkins stereo), and the Luxury Pack R-Design (nappa leather trim, blonde head-lining, power adjustable side bolsters, front massage seats, heated rear seat, heated steering wheel).
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.
Engine & trans
All Volvo V60 models are petrol-powered, but there’s one that adds electricity to the mix. There is no diesel this time around.
Three-quarters of the range are powered by the T5 engine, which is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo motor. However, there are two states of tune offered for the T5.
The Momentum and Inscription get the lower state of tune - with 187kW of power (at 5500pm) and 350Nm of torque (1800-4800rpm) - and it uses an eight-speed automatic with permanent all-wheel drive (AWD). This powertrain’s claimed 0-100km/h sprint time is 6.5 seconds.
The R-Design model takes a higher tune of T5 engine - with 192kW of power (at 5700rpm) and 400Nm of torque (1800-4800rpm). Still eight-speed auto, still AWD, and a little quicker - 0-100km/h in 6.4sec.
At the top of the range there’s the T8 plug-in hybrid drivetrain, which also uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine (246kW/430Nm) and pairs it to an electric motor with 65kW/240Nm. The combined outputs for this hybrid drivetrain equate to a phenomenal 311kW and 680Nm. Unsurprisingly, the 0-100km/h time for this grade is a startling 4.5sec!
And then there’s the fuel consumption…
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 official combined fuel consumption of the V60 varies depending on the powertrain.
The T5 models - Momentum, Inscription and R-Design - all use a claimed 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres, which on the surface appears a little high for a vehicle in this segment. On test in our V60 Inscription we saw 10.0L/100km - not terrific, but not terrible either.
But there’s a great evener in the T8 R-Design, which uses a claimed 2.0L/100km - now, that’s because it has an electric motor that can allow you to drive without petrol for up to 50 kilometres.
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.
It’s hard to find much to complain about in the Volvo V60 - if you approach it like a Volvo driver would.
If you’re an enthusiast who wants a sports wagon, then maybe it’s not quite the right car for you. But if you’re after a luxurious family conveyance with comfort and plushness on its side, then this could be just the thing for you.
At the time of writing we’ve only managed to get into the V60 Inscription, which is indeed the plushest of the pack. And despite not having tricky air suspension or even adaptive dampers, it manages to offer the luxurious ride you’d expect in most situations, even though its riding on big 19-inch alloy wheels.
I would say that the ride will almost certainly be even better in a Momentum grade version, which has 17s as standard, and for those who spend a lot of time on bad road surfaces or areas where pockmarks or potholes are prevalent, that could be a consideration.
That said, the 19-inch Continental tyres on the V60 Inscription - in combination with the car’s deftly tuned chassis and its handy all-wheel-drive system - means that there’s no issue with traction or body roll in the bends. It hangs on very well indeed.
Its steering doesn’t offer the level of enjoyment that some others in the segment do (like the BMW 3 Series), but it is easy to steer around town and at speed, with a light, accurate action and predictable response.
Although the Inscription variant doesn’t get the zestier T5 engine tune, the engine response is measured and still eager enough for everyday duties, without being overly urgent. If you plant your right foot it’ll apparently get you from 0-100km/h in 6.5 seconds, though the seat of the pants feel wasn’t quite that spectacular. The transmission is smart, shifting smoothly and cleverly and never really setting a foot wrong in terms of gear selection.
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.
Volvo’s V60 scored the maximum five star Euro NCAP crash test rating when tested in 2018. They haven’t been put through the ANCAP ringer yet, but a maximum five-star score is as good as a given, based on the equipment fitted to the entire model range.
Standard safety equipment for all V60 models includes auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, rear AEB, lane keeping assist with lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring with steering assist, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and a reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors (plus 360-degree surround view standard on all but Momentum grades).
There are six airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain), plus there are dual ISOFIX child seat anchor points and three top-tether restraints, too.
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.
Volvo offers a three year/unlimited kilometres warranty plan, and backs its cars with the same cover for roadside assist for the duration of the new car warranty.
Servicing is due every 12 months or 15,000km, and Volvo offers two different levels of pre-purchase servicing for customers to choose: SmartCare, which offers the basic maintenance cover, and SmartCare Plus, which includes consumables like brake pads/discs, wiper blades/inserts and wheel alignments.
And customers get the choice of a three-year/45,000km plan, a four-year/60,000km plan, or a five-year/75,000km plan.
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.