Don’t be fooled by the stylish and sensible four-door exterior, the 2017 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 is a cold-blooded tarmac assassin. Though it may be the smallest four-door coupe you can buy it’s certainly not lacking for punch, with a tremendous 280kW from just 2.0 litres of engine capacity.
The CLA 45 grants a new breed of buyer access to the AMG product range. Though it’s not as affordable as the hatchback A 45, it offers an interesting alternative to the bigger, brawnier C 63 range - just right for apartment-dwelling urban professionals who don’t want to miss out on the performance car fun.
Vehicle Style: Prestige medium sedan
Price: $88,798 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 280kW/475Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 7sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.4 l/100km | Tested: 10.7 l/100km
As the flagship of the CLA range, the Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 wears the biggest price tag - but still checks in cheaper than the recentlyintroduced C 43, which is slightly larger, produces less power, but more torque.
The CLA also comes loaded with just about everything Benz has to throw at its compact range, including 4Matic all wheel drive, adaptive suspension, bear-hugging front seats, and angry AMG styling that sees it dropped low over aggressive wheels, with a sporty styled exterior hinting at its performance potential.
It’s also rather unique in its market position - while Audi and BMW both offer performance cars of a similar level, Audi’s is a five-door hatch (for the time being at least) and BMW’s is a two door coupe, with neither trying to match Mercedes’ upscale aspirations with a four-door coupe.
- Standard Equipment: leather trimmed front sports seats with electric adjustment, dual-zone climate control, sports steering wheel with shift paddles, Keyless Go proximity key, LED headlights with adaptive highbeam assist, automatic lights and wipers, 19-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, DAB+ digital radio, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, twelve-speaker audio
- Cargo Volume: 470 litres
Scoff at the idea of a four-door coupe if you must, but once you lower yourself into the baseball glove-like grip of the CLA 45’s sports seats the feeling is 100 percent coupe-like.
Snugged in behind the wheel, all of the CLA’s controls fall easily to hand, however the infotainment system does start to show its age, with a full complement of buttons including a telephone dial pad, plus a console mounted rotary controller, but no touchscreen access making the system a little less friendly than it ought to be.
Rear seat passengers will also feel the confines of a coupe, though access through the rear doors is easier than having to clamber over folded front seats. Head and leg room are quite compact once you’re in - something adults will probably only wish to endure for short stints.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 280kW/475Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link independent rear, AMG-tuned adaptive sports suspension
- Brakes: Four-wheel vented disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted power steering, 11.0m turning circle
Monster. No, really - despite this engine having been around for a while, it’s almost untouched for performance from a 2.0 litre engine. It sounds grumpy, can show engines twice its size a clean set of heels, and is nothing short of a monster.
But, for all of that it isn’t monstrous in that old-fashioned, hard to trundle around in way. This might be a car with a serious performance pedigree, but the CLA 45 is almost sedate enough to pop down the shops in, without causing a disturbance.
I say “almost” because there’s still a hint of the beastliness under the bonnet - a throbby exhaust, and a throttle pedal that, when poked is like jamming your head into nest filled with cranky wasps.
Of course you could drive the CLA 45 sedately, but it’s far more enjoyable to pop it into Sport or Sport + mode and enjoy the crackling of a free-breathing exhaust, firmer steering and suspension, and an all-round racier attitude that just feels very right.
It may run a front-biased all-wheel drive system, but the CLA 45 is very generous when it comes to sending torque rearward, making the whole package incredibly stable, and free from uncomfortable and unexciting torque steer.
The whole package sits with absolute solidity on the road, offering the heft of a larger car, condensed into a much smaller footprint.
Of course, the CLA’s low-roofed design does mean that visibility is affected somewhat, and while forward vision is fine, keeping an eye on your blindspots takes a decent over-shoulder glance and a re-check of the blind spot monitoring system before committing to a lane-change.
It’s also not the world’s best-adapted long-distance hauler. Sure, the adaptive suspension does its best to deal with rough roads, but even in comfort mode it's still obviously very firm, and road noise tends to be an enemy of the CLA 45’s run-flat tyres too.
But all of that fades into the background once you arrive at the right stretch of demanding, technical, winding road, and ping the all-paw monster from corner to corner. It feel just like an excitable hot hatch from behind the wheel, but with the trimmings and style of a more sophisticated pallette.
ANCAP Rating: 5-Stars - The CLA range model scored 36.16 out of 37 possible points When tested in 2013.
Safety Features: The standard CLA features nine airbags (dual front, front side, rear side, curtain, and driver’s knee - front side airbags are deleted with Recaro seats), forward collision warning with autonomous braking (bundled under the Pre-Safe banner), blind spot assist, fatigue monitoring, pedestrian protection active bonnet, cruise control with speed limiter, front pretensioning seatbelts with load limiters.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Mercedes-Benz offers condition-based servicing, with intervals determined by vehicle usage and driving style. Pre-paid servicing packages are also available, contact your local Mercedes-Benz dealer for more information.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The CLA 45 is something of a niche product, with performance four-doors a bit of a rarity at this end of the market.
BMW tries to counter with the M2 coupe, but buyers sold on the idea of a sedan will need to move to something like a 340i
Audi offers the RS 3 Sportback - for the time being it’s a five-door only, but there’s a sedan on the way - and the irresistibly charming five-cylinder engine under the bonnet might be enough to sway some buyers.
Mercedes-Benz even comes up against its own Mercedes-AMG C 43 - a new addition to the range, larger and more expensive than the CLA, but good enough to sway some buyers on its practicality alone.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Mercedes-Benz has created a Subaru WRX for more discerning buyers. It’s demonically quick, brattishly noisy, and still offers the security of all-paw grip - but there’s a more carefully considered grace to the interior and exterior, added luxury features, and a higher level of available technology.
Of course, buying into the Mercedes-AMG ethos comes as a price, and while the CLA 45 might be considered expensive by some, it still represents a more realistic way of entering the AMG fray.
It’s a shame the snug interior and dated centre stack let the package down slightly - but the noise, power, and pin-sharp handling should be enough to distract you from the minor niggles the CLA presents.
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VISIT THE SHOWROOM: Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 - Prices, Features, and Specifications