2020 Mercedes AMG CLA vs. 2020 Audi S3

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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The AMG CLA offers an optional Surround View System to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The S3 only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.

The AMG CLA’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The S3 doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

The AMG CLA has standard Mercedes-Benz Emergency Call, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to remotely unlock your doors if you lock your keys in, help track down your vehicle if it’s stolen or send emergency personnel to the scene if any airbags deploy. The S3 doesn’t offer a GPS response system, only a navigation computer with no live response for emergencies, so if you’re involved in an accident and you’re incapacitated help may not come as quickly.

Both the AMG CLA and the S3 have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes, all wheel drive, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.

Warranty

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There are over 26 percent more Mercedes dealers than there are Audi dealers, which makes it easier should you ever need service under the AMG CLA’s warranty.

Reliability

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J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Mercedes vehicles are better in initial quality than Audi vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Mercedes 12th in initial quality. With 12 more problems per 100 vehicles, Audi is ranked 22nd.

Engine

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The AMG CLA 35’s standard 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder produces 14 more horsepower (302 vs. 288) and 15 lbs.-ft. more torque (295 vs. 280) than the S3’s 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder. The AMG CLA 45’s standard 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder produces 94 more horsepower (382 vs. 288) and 74 lbs.-ft. more torque (354 vs. 280) than the S3’s 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder.

Fuel Economy and Range

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On the EPA test cycle the AMG CLA 35 gets better fuel mileage than the S3 (23 city/29 hwy vs. 22 city/29 hwy).

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the AMG CLA’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The S3 doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

Environmental Friendliness

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In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Mercedes AMG CLA higher (5 out of 10) than the Audi S3 (3). This means the AMG CLA produces up to 16.5 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the S3 every 15,000 miles.

Transmission

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An eight-speed automatic (SMG) is standard on the Mercedes AMG CLA 45, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a seven-speed automatic is available for the S3.

Brakes and Stopping

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For better stopping power the AMG CLA’s brake rotors are larger than those on the S3:

AMG CLA

AMG CLA 45 opt.

S3

Front Rotors

13.8 inches

14.2 inches

13.4 inches

Rear Rotors

13 inches

13 inches

12.2 inches

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the AMG CLA has larger tires than the S3 (235/35R19 vs. 225/40R18).

Changing a flat tire near traffic can be dangerous and inconvenient. The run-flat tires available on the AMG CLA can be driven up to 50 miles without any air pressure, allowing you to drive to a service station for a repair. The S3 doesn’t offer run-flat tires.

Suspension and Handling

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The AMG CLA’s drift compensation steering can automatically compensate for road conditions which would cause the vehicle to drift from side to side, helping the driver to keep the vehicle straight more easily. The S3 doesn’t offer drift compensation steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the AMG CLA’s wheelbase is 3.8 inches longer than on the S3 (107.4 inches vs. 103.6 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the AMG CLA is 2.3 inches wider in the front and 3.3 inches wider in the rear than on the S3.

Passenger Space

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Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the EPA rates the AMG CLA a Compact car, while the S3 is rated a Subcompact.

The AMG CLA has 3 cubic feet more passenger volume than the S3 (89 vs. 86).

The AMG CLA has 2 inches more front headroom, .6 inches more front legroom, .3 inches more front shoulder room and 1 inch more rear shoulder room than the S3.

Cargo Capacity

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The AMG CLA has a much larger trunk than the S3 (11.6 vs. 10 cubic feet).

To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, just kicking your foot under the back bumper can open the AMG CLA’s available trunk, leaving your hands completely free. The S3 doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its trunk, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Servicing Ease

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J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Mercedes service is better than Audi. J.D. Power ranks Mercedes fifth in service department satisfaction. With a 13% lower rating, Audi is ranked 8th.

Ergonomics

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The AMG CLA has a standard remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The S3 doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

When three different drivers share the AMG CLA, the memory seats and mirrors make it convenient for all three. Each setting activates different, customized memories for the driver and front passenger’s seat positions and outside mirror angle. The S3 doesn’t offer a memory system.

The AMG CLA’s standard easy entry system glides the driver’s seat back, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The S3 doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

The AMG CLA offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The S3 doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

To help drivers avoid possible obstacles, the AMG CLA offers optional cornering lights to illuminate around corners when the turn signals are activated. The S3 doesn’t offer cornering lights. The AMG CLA also offers optional adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle.

When the AMG CLA is put in reverse, the passenger rearview mirror tilts from its original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirror into its original position. The S3’s mirror doesn’t automatically adjust for backing.

Optional air-conditioned seats in the AMG CLA keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in Summer. The S3 doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

The AMG CLA offers optional massaging front seats in order to maximize comfort and eliminate fatigue on long trips. Massaging seats aren’t available in the S3.

The AMG CLA’s optional Active Parking Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, starting, stopping and changing direction automatically. The S3 Premium Plus’ automatic parking system requires operating the brakes and transmission to safely park.

Recommendations

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/05/30

The Mercedes CLA outsold the Audi A3/S3/RS 3 by 19% during 2019.

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