BY SANDEEP GILL
At first glance, the “Sun Yellow” Mercedes AMG CLA 45 looks radical, unlike the usual Mercedes we have seen before. But this model brings a considerable amount of artillery to the compact sports sedan segment, packing the highest output 2.0L four-cylinder in the world, producing no less than 382 bhp and 354 lb-ft torque. The European spec engine, code-named M139, has an even more mind-blowing 416 bhp and 369 lb-ft of torque. That’s over 208 horsepower per liter, which translates as 0-60 time of 4.0 seconds. The engine is also not just an AMG massaged variant. It’s hand-built unique to every vehicle.
The CLA belongs to the Mercedes entry class of vehicles and is closely related to the A-Class series. Think mini C-Class, and you get a good idea of what the segment represents. It exists to attract younger buyers to the Mercedes family. Statistically speaking, once you own a Mercedes, you are 44.2% more likely to repurchase a Mercedes, and Mercedes ranks second highest in luxury brand loyalty. For this reason alone, the CLA-Class and A-Class hold a significant position in the Mercedes Family.
Now don’t get me wrong. By “entry level,” the CLA is not cheap by any definition. It provides, arguably, the best in the class interior of any car. It abounds with rich soft-touch materials. Switchgear is solid but not on par with its larger siblings, and build quality is stable. The interior’s crowning jewel has to be the Mercedes 10.25” dual panoramic display, which connects the center display with the digital instrument cluster into one widescreen. These display and infotainment systems are powered by Mercedes’s latest MBUX infotainment system. The screens have been AMG modified with Three AMG display styles—Classic, Sport, and Supersport for the instrument cluster. The center touchscreen display also features AMG displays such as visualization of the driving programs, race, track, and telemetry data.
The system can be controlled by voice, touch, a large center console touchpad, and finger controlled mini touchpads on the steering wheel. For the AMG CLA 45, you also get red and black contrast stitching on standard trim, which uses a black – Artico and Dinamica microfiber. Our test vehicle came with the optional sports seats, which hug you in that friendly way only heavily side bolstered seat can.
Now let me get back to that handcrafted 2.0L turbo. All its glorious power is routed through a dual-clutch 8-speed transmission, which feels like it is linked to your right foot. It has to be one of the most intuitive transmissions I have seen in a modern sports-inspired car. It reads and adapts to driving habits effortlessly and seems to always be in the correct gear no matter your driving habits or inputs. The system then routes this forward momentum via AMG’s modified 4Matic+ system to distribute power to the wheels with greater precision and control. The system also allows for a specific Race and Drift mode setting, optimizing the system for each type of hooliganism.
To enhance the driving dynamics, the AMG tweaks do not stop at the engine. The standard CLA chassis has been significantly stiffened with specific detail to the front end of the CLA 45. The result is a razor-sharp response to steering inputs. The body-strengthening also equates to a quieter interior as compared to lesser CLA’s. The suspension can be adjusted between comfort, sport, and sport+ modes. The latter results in bone-jarring suspension stiffness, with the slightest road imperfection equaling vertical undulations. Great for the track, not so much on the pothole and manhole cover infested streets of the lower mainland.
The reality of all these modifications is that the AMG CLA 45 is, for all purposes, a sports car dressed in sedan clothing. It is a sense built tool that executes its designated tasks with efficiency and precision. Will it fit everyone’s needs? I think that may be a difficult task. I believe the CLA 250 may actually be a better Swiss knife than the CLA 45 or even CLA 35. That stated, if you are willing to dish out the nearly $80,000.00 as the tested price, you will be rewarded with one of the most engaging driver’s cars that Mercedes has to offer and still be able to take the kids to the weekend soccer game.