2014 CLA45 AMG REVIEW
What’s hot: Slippery body, riotous power, and grip to make your nose bleed
What’s not: Exhaust has been ‘toned-down’; long, long waiting list
X-FACTOR: An almost-sensible family car for the dedicated ‘track head’? The CLA 45 AMG is a bad boy in a designer suit.
Vehicle style: Premium performance small sedan
Engine/transmission: 265kW/450Nm 2.0 turbo petrol | 7spd DCT auto
Fuel consumption listed: 7.0 l/100km | tested: 11.0 l/100km
Fast? Not even close... it’s blistering.
It’s also stuck like glue, really smart inside, fully kitted, and, at full noise, makes an intoxicating rapid-fire crackle when spearing through the shifts.
Mercedes Benz doesn’t do half-measures. Its new CLA 45 AMG is absolutely the full bottle.
Under the bonnet is the most powerful series-production four-cylinder turbo engine in the world. And that engine is itself cloaked in the panels of the world’s “most aerodynamic production vehicle”.
So, 4MATIC all-wheel-drive, 265kW and 450Nm waiting to be unleashed, launch control and a seven-speed twin-clutch transmission poised under the fingertips, what is there not to like about the CLA 45 AMG?
Quality: Even in a car as ‘out there’ as the CLA 45 AMG, there is a sense of understatement to a Mercedes interior.
It’s not burdened by fussy lines or extravagant detail, but there is no mistaking the feel of quality or of style and good taste.
There are some nice retro touches to the CLA – like the round air-vents and flat galvanised dash panel – and throughout the fit and finish is exactly as you’d expect.
The red-cut seats with red panel highlights look great; the leather is flawless and small touches like the solid metal AMG monogram in the seat-backs (and illuminated sill plates) add a sense of exclusivity.
Comfort: With deep sides and a beautifully sculpted back, the electrically-adjustable heated front seats are shaped and padded just right for press-on driving.
Similarly, the flat-bottomed reach and rake adjustable wheel is sized right and feels great in the hand.
The only compromise to comfort is the steeply-raked screen which sits a little too close to the forehead, and the rake of the rear roofline which compromises rear headroom.
The slope of the roof also impedes access to the rear for taller passengers (but legroom there is generous).
Equipment: There is no shortage of equipment and premium features with any in the CLA range. The 45 AMG adds a host of interior sports features like ‘racetimer’, AMG performance steering wheel in leather and Alcantara, striking red seat-belts and AMG instrument cluster, among others.
Standard features also include HDD navigation, Bluetooth with audio streaming, iPod and iPhone integration, Aux-in and USB interface, rain-sensing wipers, ‘thermotronic’ climate control and a host more.
Storage: The wide-opening boot reveals a deep, flat storage area with 341 litres of cargo space. The rear seats split-fold for longer items and there are tie-down rings and netted side-pockets for smaller luggage.
Inside, there are ample bottle-holders front and rear, a good-sized glovebox (mostly filled with the extensive owner’s manual and service books), and lidded console.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: There are scant few sedans that will even come close to matching the CLA 45 AMG around a mountain road.
You’ll also have go a long way – and spend a frightening amount of money – to find another ‘family sedan’ that will out-blast it away from the line.
With those 265kW and 450Nm in full-song, and ‘racestart’ launch control activated, it will spear to 100km/h in just 4.6 seconds. (Just like its hatch bro’.)
Under the long aquiline bonnet is a twin-scroll turbo hanging off the side of a remarkable 1991cc DOHC ‘four’.
Although undersquare (83mm bore and 92mm stroke), it’s perfectly happy to rev to the limiter, but does its best work from 4500rpm-5500rpm.
The turbo pumps a frightening 1.8bar (or 26.1psi) – figures like that worried race engineers not so long ago – but Mercedes is supremely confident of its durability and longevity.
At any speed, it pulls like a train with not the slightest suggestion of turbo lag.
With a seven-speed twin-clutch (AMG Speedshift DCT) under the fingertips, you don’t need to wring the turbo’s neck to find the fastest ‘get-outa-there’ times.
Better, in fact, to use the wall of torque and the lightning-quick shifts.
There are three primary selectable transmission modes, Comfort, Sport and Manual (and an eco mode, which activates the stop/start function, for city commuting).
I prefer Sport as the default setting, as it provides the bullet-fast shifts of Manual, but allows paddle shifting via ‘momentary M mode’ should you want to assist things along.
There is also RACESTART launch control (described in our earlier A45 AMG Track Review) if you really want to monster the neighbourhood in your daily departure to the desk.
Refinement: Though the exhaust note of the sedan lacks the fence-flattening whip-crack of the A45 AMG Hatch (it’s been toned-down in the sedan), it still clears its throat with a crackling bark on each upshift.
It’s also not as rorty on the over-run.
But, like the CLA 200, the most astonishing thing with any of the CLA models is the absence of wind-noise. A drag coefficient of just 0.23Cd is responsible – the lowest of any production vehicle.
This sports sedan, with a long nose, raked glasshouse and ‘duck-arse’ rear moves incredibly efficiently through the air. As far as wind-flutter is concerned, it’s as silent at high speeds as when noodling through town.
There is a little more tyre-noise in the AMG than the CLA 200 - the bigger AMG twin-spoke titanium grey alloys with meaty 235/35 R 19 tyres is responsible here.
Ride and Handling: In normal driving conditions, for optimum fuel economy, the CLA 45 AMG defaults to front-wheel-drive.
It’s only when you stretch it out that AWD comes into play, then the variable AMG 4MATIC all-wheel drive system splits the torque between the front and rear axles to a ratio of up to 50:50 percent.
The transition is completely transparent (and happens in milliseconds). This car is extraordinarily ‘stuck’ to the road and equally extraordinarily well-balanced.
The ESP can be left on, or turned off, or a ‘sport handling mode’ selected (that’s the sensible one).
When cornering aggressively in sport handling mode, the ESP applies light braking intervention on the rear inside wheel, creating increased yaw movement (rotation) to tighten the line.
The result is razor turn-in and eye-popping cornering grip.
Braking: Although the kerb weight tips the scales at 1585kg, heavy for a small car, the CLA 45 AMG hauls down effortlessly from track speeds.
The pedal is weighted just right for precision and feel. With four-piston callipers up front, single piston at the rear, and vented, cross-drilled and grooved discs (350mm front and 330mm rear), braking performance is prodigiously good.
ANCAP rating: Not tested.
Safety features: Mercedes is synonymous with passenger safety. Standard features include nine airbags, hill-start assist, ABS, attention assist (detecting driver drowsiness), belt tensioners, blind-spot alert, collision prevention assist (which, combined with Distronic Plus, can provide autonomous braking at speeds from as low as 7.0 km/h up to 200km/h), ESP with skid control, tyre-pressure warning, and lane keeping among a longer list of safety technologies.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres
Service costs: Mercedes Benz does not offer fixed-price servicing. Service intervals are 25,000km or 12 months, whichever occurs first. Service costs may vary, so consult your dealer.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
2014 Lancer Evolution TC-SST ($68,990 with $3000 Performance Pack) - Like the CLA 45 AMG, a four-door four-seat sedan.
The much-loved Evo holds a deserved place in the AWD sports sedan pantheon, but it is now ageing and bettered nearly everywhere by the much more expensive 45 AMG.
That said, the Evo’s 217kW and 366Nm of torque are not shabby figures, and, though a little raw and uncivilised, it’s still a great drive. (See Evo reviews)
Subaru WRX STI SPEC-R ($60,990) - The bargain buy in this lot, the rorty Sube punches out 221kW and 350Nm (auto), 407Nm (manual), for a 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.2 seconds (MT) and 6.0 seconds (AT).
Although also eclipsed in this company, it too is a superb performance sedan with a character all its own thanks to its sensational flat-four. (See WRX reviews)
BMW M135i ($64,900) - They don’t get much better than this cracking drive. A $20k+ saving over the CLA 45 AMG and performance figures that as near-as-damn match it.
With 235kW and 450Nm, the Bavarian missile matches the AMG’s torque and its 4.9 second 0-100km/h sprint is only marginally adrift.
Right now, we’re leaning to the AMG, but the savings in dollars might tilt us back if push came to shove in the showroom. (See M135i reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT I OVERALL
Drive this car, and you won’t be able to get it out of your head.
It’s ferociously fast and stuck like glue, but also offers a sensible four doors and equally sensible comfortable, premium accommodation.
The way the CLA 45 AMG hooks up and fires out of any hole, at any speed, will also have you hooked – if you can wrangle a test drive.
It’s those three letters on the boot and seat backs that hold the key to its character and capability: AMG. When it comes to sporting sedans, it’s not mucking around.
Through-and-through a driver’s car, the CLA 45 AMG is as much a smart four-door coupe as it is a balls-out tarmac warrior. Snarling, bad-to-the-bone, it’s all good.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- CLA 200 - $49,900
- CLA 200 CDI - $50,400 (due February)
- CLA 250 Sport - $63,400 (due April)
- CLA 45 AMG - $86,900