Mercedes CLA 45 AMG review
The Mercedes CLA 45 AMG four-door coupe uses the same 355bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine as the A45 AMG
The new premium compact saloon boasts plenty of upmarket kerb appeal, and lurking under the Mercedes CLA 45 AMG's bonnet is the first four-cylinder engine AMG has ever built - and what an engine it is. The 2.0-litre turbocharged unit produces 355bhp - that's more power per litre than any other production car - and delivers devastating straight line speed, while permanent four-wheel drive looks after the grip in the bends.
Order the optional performance exhaust and upshifts are accompanied by ear-splitting pops, while downshifts are punctuated with crackles. Specific settings for the steering and seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox, plus bigger brakes and firmer suspension make sure the handling is rock solid, while an AMG-specific makeover ups the aggression, inside and out.
Our choice: CLA 45 AMG
Eye-catching looks are a key selling point of the CLA – and the AMG model is no exception. The sweeping side creases and tapered rear end ape those of the larger CLS, and the nose is taken directly from the A-Class hatchback on which the CLA is based.
The Mercedes CLA 45 AMG looks a little awkward from some angles, but there’s no doubt this car attracts more attention than the similarly powered, yet understated Audi S3. As expected there are a number of racy AMG additions, including 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels (these can be upgrade to 19-inches at a cost), deeper front and rear bumpers, gloss black trim for the side skirts and distinctive squared-off twin tailpipes.
The high-performance upgrades continue inside, where you’ll find a number of AMG logos, high-backed Recaro front bucket seats plus a sporty red finish for the trim stitching and seatbelts. However, it’s a bit cheeky that Mercedes charges £570 for the metal shift paddles and bespoke gearlever that are standard on other AMG models.
Elsewhere in the CLA 45 AMG, it’s all typical CLA - you get a smart design dominated by the SLS-inspired eyeball air vents, tablet-style screen and intuitive rotary controller for the COMAND infotainment system. On the face of things then, it can match the similar Audi for interior quality.
However, look closely and you’ll find a few hard plastics dotted around the cabin, so the overall finish isn’t quite up to the same high standard.
With a monstrous 355bhp output, rapid-fire twin-clutch gearbox and launch control, it’s no surprise that the Mercedes CLA 45 blitzed the 0-60mph sprint in 4.5 seconds.
However, this figure tells only half the story, because the CLA 45 AMG's tall gearing and surprising amount of turbo lag suffered by the CLA 45 AMG’s 2.0-litre engine weren't expected.
While the Mercedes CLA 45 AMG's four-cylinder engine isn’t as characterful as AMG’s trademark V8s, the exhaust emits a racy crackle with each upshift. Better still, the uprated chassis has no trouble harnessing the engine’s explosive performance. The lowered and stiffened suspension delivers rock-solid body control, and the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive transmission provides limpet-like traction, even in slippery conditions.
The steering doesn’t offer massive amounts of feedback, but it’s extremely precise and well weighted. As a result, the Mercedes can carry huge speed through a series of corners and continues to grip hard where the S3 eventually starts to suffer with understeer.
Unfortunately, the trade-off for this acrobatic agility is a very stiff ride. Unlike the S3, the AMG doesn’t have the option of adaptive dampers, and the standard units are firm at low speed and a little fidgety on motorways. Still, there’s very little wind noise, while a tall top gear keeps the engine revs at a relaxed 1,800rpm at 70mph.
On full-bore gearchanges the exhaust sounds great, but there isn't the same crackles and pops on downshifts that you get with the A45 - a deliberate move to give the CLA a marginally more laid-back character.
the A-Class, on which the CLA is based, has been in showrooms since 2012, so any early technical
issues should have been ironed out by now. As we’ve seen, Mercedes has also performed better than Audi in our Driver Power manufacturer and dealer charts.
Standard safety kit includes nine airbags and Isofix child seat fixings, plus a driver-fatigue sensor. Our car was fitted with an optional Lane Tracking Pack which costs around £770, but adds blind-spot monitoring and lane-keep assist.
The CLA 45 AMG brings further peace of mind courtesy of its uprated brakes. The grippy four-wheel-drive system also provides real all-weather confidence.
The low-slung driving position gives the Mercedes CLA 45 AMG a sporty feel, but anyone should be able to get comfortable as there’s plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment, plus the Recaros are supremely supportive.
It’s not such great news for rear passengers, though, as the coupe-style roofline restricts space, and it’s easy to bang your head on the low door frame as you get in and out. That’s not all - the small side windows and dark headlining material combine to make the cabin feel claustrophobic.
However, Mercedes provides plenty of luggage space, thanks to a 470-litre boot and standard split-
fold rear seats. A storage package for around £170 adds parcel nets, a 12V socket in the passenger footwell, stowage boxes under the front seats and a sunglasses holder in the overhead panel.
The £42,270 CLA 45 AMG is £9,025 more expensive than an Audi S3, and it costs more to run. Our experts predict a loss of 51.7 per cent over three years, so while it's not the best, it's still pretty good.
The CLA 45 AMG is also £4,000 more than the A45 AMG, despite having no extra kit. Add a few choice options to help your resale value and it could end up costing you close to £50,000 for what is essentially an A-Class.
Company car drivers will be hit hard when choosing the Mercedes, because the combination of that high price and 165g/km CO2 emissions results in some big Benefit in Kind bills. Owners will also have to budget for plenty of fuel, as the car returned 24.8mpg during its time on test, despite Mercedes claiming an official figure of 39.8mpg.