18/06/2013 08:45 | By CJ Hubbard, contributor, MSN Cars

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG review (2013 onwards)

A45 AMG too hardcore? The CLA45 AMG is its softer superpower junior coupe sister


Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG 2013 in pictures (© Mercedes-Benz)
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  • Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG 2013 in pictures (© Mercedes-Benz)
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Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG: summary

360hp CLA45 AMG four-door coupe is as fast as the A45 AMG hot hatch - but more refined with it. Make your choice…

 

What: Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG
Where: Hannover – Bilster Berg Drive Resort, Germany
Date: June 2013
Price: £TBC
Available: On sale now, first deliveries in August 2013
Key rivals: Audi S3 saloon, Skoda Octavia vRS

We like: slightly softer and svelter alternative to A45 AMG but just as ballistic
We don’t like: loses a little agility, unlikely to be cheap

On Bing: see pictures of the Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG
Find out how much a used Mercedes-Benz costs on Auto Trader
Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG stars at the New York Motor Show 2013
Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG review (2013 onwards)
Read another Mercedes-Benz review on MSN Cars

 

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG, first impressions (© Mercedes-Benz)


 

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG: first impressions

If you’re taken by the idea of a slightly smaller, slightly more affordable AMG-Mercedes, but can’t quite reconcile yourself to the oikiness of the new A45 AMG hot hatch, this equally new CLA45 AMG could well be the car for you.

It combines the CLA’s swooping four-door coupe bodystyle with the same 360hp 2.0-litre turbo motor and 4Matic four-wheel drive as the A-Class-based ASBO candidate. It’s just as fast and just as ridiculously efficient, but less brutal.

And we aren’t only talking about appearances here. As with the regular CLA, the AMG version is engineered to be a little more polished, a little more laid back than the hatchback, despite being based on fundamentally the same platform.

It’s far closer in feel to its bigger AMG brothers as a result. Distances disappear beneath its wheels with all the big-hearted ease we’ve come to anticipate from the brand; rarely has a four-cylinder engine felt so indomitably immense…
 

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG performance (© Mercedes-Benz)


 

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG: performance

But that’s not really surprising. As we’ve already covered in some detail during our A45 AMG first drive, Mercedes’ in-house tuner has done quite a number on this all-new 2.0-litre turbo petrol.

There’s a richness to the CLA45’s chassis tuning that’s absent from the edgier, rawer A45 hot hatch

It is the most powerful four-cylinder ‘series production’ engine in the world, and with a specific output of 181hp per litre, its power density is second only to the 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 attached to the McLaren P1.

In long-standing AMG tradition, each unit is assembled by a single engineer – there’s a signed plaque on every one – and helping it cope with the pressure of 360 ponies, it even borrows cooling technology from the SLS AMG supercar.

Like the A45, the CLA45 sees off 0-62mph in just 4.6 seconds and is electronically limited to 155mph. Yes. This is a proper AMG, no doubt. Not a bodykit and badges job.

The calibration for the engine and the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is identical for both models, which means the coupe picks up speed like an elephant falling off a cliff – without any of that tiresome waiting around for the turbo to spool up, as you might expect.

The noise is different, however. Well, not so much different, as less obvious. Even with the optional Performance Exhaust, AMG has adjusted the volume levels – so although it still sounds awesome on a charge, you won’t leave stunned animals and wailing children in your wake.
 

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG, ride and handling (© Mercedes-Benz)


 

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG: ride and handling

It’s a similar story with the ride and handlin. There’s a richness to the CLA45’s chassis tuning that’s absent from the edgier, rawer A45. The suspension is that bit more supple – no bad thing for the UK we strongly suspect – yet there seems to be little given away in terms of cornering performance and grip.

Specific AMG interior elements include the flat-bottomed steering wheel and stubby drive selector in the centre console

If anything, the CLA45 feels more composed and better balanced, the front and back of the car operating in greater harmony. If this sacrifices some of the agility present in the A45, there are surely still plenty of buyers who will appreciate the CLA’s added sense of maturity.

You can tweak this balance to a certain extent by playing with the stability control system – as the more you relax the three-stage ESP, the more of the engine’s 332lb ft of torque is pushed to the rear axle, though the maximum split remains set at 50%.

As a result you get plenty of the engine-led road domination we’ve come to know and love from AMG, without any of the potentially intimidating oversteer fireworks associated with the brand’s truly rear-wheel driven hardware. This is a surefooted and extremely rapid way to cover ground.

While some might argue it also lacks truly absorbing involvement – there’s not much feedback through the steering, and even with the ESP-based ‘Curve Dynamic Assist’ using "imperceptible" braking touches to sharpen the turn-in, the front end isn’t overly incisive – it’s still a very satisfying car to drive fast.
 

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG interior (© Mercedes-Benz)


 

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG: interior

Theoretically, the CLA45 gets most of the same extra-red interior adornments as the AMG A-Class – including decidedly Wall Street red seat belts. These were strangely absent from the test cars we sampled, and if we’re any judge, probably the better for it.

We do like the sports seats, however, while the brushed aluminium trim and real metal finish to the paddleshifters adds a touch of extra class to what is an already artfully sculpted interior.

Specific AMG elements include the flat-bottomed steering wheel, stubby drive selector in the centre console – replacing the column shifter that’s far too easy to mistake for a windscreen wiper stalk in the standard CLA – and the AMG instrument cluster.

A special valve in the exhaust system also means you won’t be bothered by excessive noise on the motorway. So overall it’s an agreeable place to spend some serious driving time.
 

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG, economy, safety, verdict (© Mercedes-Benz)


 

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG: economy and safety

As an introduction to AMG, the CLA45 is every bit as mighty as you’d hope and expect

The CLA45 is rather bereft of competitors at this point – no-one else makes a premium four-door coupe this small, though we suppose the forthcoming Audi S3 saloon may provide a counterpoint very shortly. But even sans rivals, there’s no disputing how hard Mercedes has tried when it comes to efficiency.

Somehow, this 360hp engine has been coaxed through the usual EU economy-testing regime to achieve 40.9mpg while emitting just 161g/km CO2. Truly remarkable. You won’t see anything like this if you’re at all indulgent with the loud pedal in real life, but at least it keeps annual tax costs down to £175.

As for safety, the CLA45 has all the electronic bells and whistles of every other CLA. Plus the added assurance of massive AMG brakes.

 

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG: the MSN Cars verdict

4 stars

While there are differences – the CLA45 is slightly softer, and perhaps easier to live with day-to-day – we strongly suspect most buyers will decide between this car and the A45 AMG hot hatch on the basis of looks and lifestyle alone.

Price may also be a factor, but we won’t know that until Mercedes officially releases the cost of the coupe; given all the other vital statistics are identical, the chances are this will be much the same as the £37,845 demanded for the hatchback.

It’s not cheap. But as an introduction to AMG, the CLA45 is every bit as mighty as you’d hope and expect. And since AMG was already the fastest growing performance brand in the UK before these two new models showed up, BMW and Audi really do have something to think about.
 

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG spec, engine, power, hp, torque, acceleration, performance, 0-62mph, top speed, mpg, CO2, price


 

Scorecard

             

Performance

5

Handling

4

Interior

4

Safety

4

Price

 

Practicality

4

Economy

4

Overall

4

On Bing: see pictures of the Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG
Find out how much a used Mercedes-Benz costs on Auto Trader
Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG stars at the New York Motor Show 2013
Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG review (2013 onwards)
Read another Mercedes-Benz review on MSN Cars

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