Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG – Living up to expectations

When the CLA-Class was first launched in 2013, it raised a number of eyebrows, being one of the first four-door coupes around. Popularity soared shortly, and soon, it was touted as one of the best launches the German marque has ever seen.

The CLA was categorised as a luxury family coupe, ideal for couples with a small kid in tow. Yes, you couldn’t fit a tall adult at the rear without risking a knock on the head (as so aptly demonstrated by family and friends), but the rear sits a baby seat or a child booster just nice.

Now, as per Mercedes’ legacy, the choice for a power-hungry four-door coupe enthusiast is here. Throw in aggressiveness, the rumble of over 350 horses under the hood, as well as extreme handling – and you get the new Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG.

Exterior

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We felt that amongst the three continental giants, perhaps Mercedes-Benz’s AMG seemed the least attention-seeking, compared to Audi’s RS-series and BMW’s M. No doubt it boasts a bodykit fierce enough for you to think twice about messing with it, but to the common passer-by, it is still another Mercedes-Benz. That, we felt, was an excellent way of preserving Mercedes’ heritage of what they brand “first-class” luxury.

The CLA-Class itself is beautiful. Stunning, in fact. It ranks among one of the top few on our “Very Attractive Cars” list. With the AMG version out, it simply exemplifies and reinforces our love for the CLA.

You would soon realise that up front, the CLA 45’s enormous intakes contour the body’s curves right from the number plate up to its grille, and continuously trails the coupe all the way to the very end. It does look rather similar from its younger A-Class sibling from the front, but the side profile of the CLA 45 exudes nothing but aggressive sexiness.

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If you’re still unable to identify the CLA 45 from the CLA range based on its air intakes, the dual-stripped chrome-plated front grille (trademarked to AMG cars) would do the trick.

Across the side fenders, the TURBO-AMG badge sits proudly just to the side of the wheel arch. Look further downwards and the 19 inch black rims with the red-plated AMG calipers peeking out gives you ample notice of this beauty (and beast).

Interior

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Compared to the A-Class, the CLA 45 doesn’t differ much. It doesn’t appear as stylish as its exterior, and the infotainment system looks very much like a tablet plastered onto the dash.

But you would, and should, be impressed by the build quality of Mercedes’ interiors. From the seat linings to panels, and even the air-conditioning turbine-designed vents, Mercedes offers nothing but top notch materials, ensuring that you don’t experience the clattering and creaking of plastic dominating some of your lower-performance sedans.

If you ever forget that you’re seated in an AMG, the Recaro bucket seats once again firms up your senses (and rear). We found the seats a little too stiff for your day-to-day casual drive, but push the car and you’d be grateful for the seats that bucket you and prevent you from flying.

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Of course, Mercedes dispenses with its traditional steering wheel-mounted gear level stick, and provides you with the exclusive AMG knob, reminding you yet again that this is no ordinary three-pointed star.

Yes, this is Mercedes’ top-of-range CLA-Class, but it is also a very specific and dedicated one. The car lacks the convenience of keyless start/stop, and does not even come standard with Mercedes’ COMAND navigation. You might argue that BMW’s M and Audi’s RS offer an almost fully-spec-ed car, but we strongly believe that an AMG drive is perhaps one who knows exactly what he is in (and paying) for.

The Drive

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The CLA 45 is powered with the same 1,991 cc plant as the A 45 sibling. Instead of the bold and daring V8s  you’d find in the 63 series, the 45 range houses a more tamed inline-4 engine.

But a more docile engine doesn’t necessarily mean lesser ability to wow. Complimented with a massive turbocharger, the inline-4 plant puts out 360 horses with 450 Nm of torque, propelling you forward to the century mark in just 4.6 seconds.

In the driver’s seat, you would realise that acceleration is a breeze (though not so on your fuel expenses), and that the CLA 45 gets you to the narrowest space between cars in the event of swift overtaking. You could push the car a little harder if you pushed the C-S-M button to either Sports or Manual, but we thought that it performed extraordinarily well even on Comfort.

For the motoring enthusiasts who love hard driving, the CLA 45 delivers the much-anticipated engine crackling when pushed pedal-to-floor and driven hard between gear shifts. Otherwise, the low-rumble of the inline-4 pot would perhaps not be significant enough to give it away, besides its start-up roar.

Handling is impressive, and the car remains planted to the ground, thanks to its four-wheel drive ability. While Comfort mode may get you a little bit of respite from the usual bumps of hard suspension, Sports and Manual would leave your rear whining on a longer and rougher surfaced drive.

Conclusion

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This is perhaps not the car for your average family driver. Rather, we felt it was suited more for someone whom would be able to handle 360 horses with a massive torque curve under your feet, and yet at the same time, have a family in tow acclimatised to such driving potential.

With the launch of the A 45 AMG, many wondered if it would perform up to standard when compared against its bigger 63 series AMG. The CLA 45 faces the same issue at its initial launch, but taking into consideration its modular size and engine platforms, you would be surprised or even amazed that the CLA 45 could live up to expectations.

For us, it certainly did.

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We like:

The sleek design of the CLA captured us ever since its launch. Engine start-up tone sounds amazing, and the car handles fantastically at sharp corners.

We don’t like:

If you’re above 1.7 metres in height, be prepared for low headroom space at the rear.

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