Tested: Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 4Matic is the perfect starter AMG
PRETORIA - "I want that one, that specific one, same colour, same spec, everything."
And with that I was on the phone speaking to the people at Mercedes-Benz trying to organise a CLA AMG 35 4Matic for a bloke in his late twenties that had walked over to me after I had parked it in the complex where my partner lives.
Ironically he was on the verge of signing for a CLA 220d before he became all AMG 35 happy.
It's not difficult to understand why he went gaga having spent a couple of days behind the wheel and just prior to that around the track at Zwartkops Raceway along with it's lunatic sibling the AMG A 45S.
The Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 is the ideal introduction to Merc's performance vehicles with enough power, brilliant handling characteristics and a fully executive interior.
Under the hood you get a 2.0 litre four cylinder turbo-charged mill that manages to push out 225kW and 400Nm pared to a sublime seven-speed dual clutch transmission that powers all four wheels with its 4MATIC all-wheel drive and will push torque to wherever you need it depending on driving conditions. Mercedes claims a sprint time of 4.9 seconds to get to 100km/h for the CLA.
But it's more than just about the numbers.
The design unashamedly speaks AMG with its twin louvre grille, front apron with "flics" on the air intakes, chrome trim, front splitter and wide wheel arches, they not only look the part but are inherent to making it stand out and with its sweeping profile, the CLA, at least for me, is the ace in the pack.
Inside it's more of the same from the moment you slip into the AMG sport seats and grip the chunky steering wheel with its touch control buttons used to swipe between various settings and views on the instrument cluster and infotainment system.
Talking of which, The "Hey Mercedes" MBUX multimedia system works a treat once you've mastered it and with the large twin screens in front of you there's nary a thing you can't see about what's going on with the car. There are three display options and the Supersport mode is the most impressive, with a rev counter dominating the screen and information bars on the side moving up and down as you play with the engine and gears.
And believe me you'll want to play around once the start button has been pushed. Keep it in comfort mode while it warms up and then switch to sport mode for a ride that will keep a smile on your face.
The thing about the CLA 35 is how well it's balanced. Mercedes has managed to get an almost perfect power to weight ratio clearly on show as you head into and out of curves and sharp bends with delightful burps coming from the tail pipes.
It never feels as though things are about to get out of shape no matter how hard you push it. The 4Matic set-up keeps things well under control and while there are paddles, the dual-clutch transmission seems to pre-empt you anyway.
Launch control is thankfully as easy as pushing the brake hard with your left foot, flooring the accelerator and waiting for the digital read-out to tell you you're good to go.
While it doesn't slam you back into the seat like some of its bigger and more powerful siblings, you are acutely aware that it's the real deal as it quickly picks up speed.
Sure, there are quicker and bigger AMG derivatives out there, but the CLA 35 4Matic does the moniker proud and is a perfect introduction to the brand, with enough tech, power, handling characteristics, safety features and comfort to satisfy any petrolhead.
So, Henro, enjoy every moment behind the wheel.