2013 Mercedes CLA 45 AMG review and pictures
i really like that red color shown
What is it?
The Mercedes CLA45 is the new A45 AMG’s saloon sister, sharing the same powertrain and four-wheel drive system. That means – in a fairly radical departure for the AMG brand – a four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 355bhp.
Mercedes A45 AMG driven here
Mercedes claims identical kerbweights and 0-62mph times for both cars, with the CLA45 AMG capable of demolishing the acceleration benchmark in just 4.6sec, on its way to a top speed of 161mph. Pricing details haven’t been confirmed yet, but anticipate around £41,500 when the car goes on sale in the UK in October.
Definitely the engine. You sense that the decision to stick the AMG badge to a car powered by a four-cylinder turbo engine caused some sleepless nights to the engineers responsible for delivering on the promise implicit in the brand, but the new powerplant is a little cracker. It pulls strongly from the basement upwards, enjoys being revved through the 6000rpm point where most of its ilk give up, and even produces a crisp little exhaust pop on upchanges.
Despite being fed by a single, relatively large turbocharger, it feels lag-free – with lungs deep enough to deliver those mega performance figures. To do all this with an engine that’s also capable of meeting Euro 6 emissions figures, and to deliver 40.9mpg on the official economy test, has been a remarkable engineering achievement. The engine has a forged crank and pistons and a special cylinder wall coating to reduce frictional losses.
The transverse seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox uses the same software that controls the double-clutcher in the mighty SLS, with the four-wheel drive system using a clutch on the rear axle to divert up to 50 per cent of torque backwards when the need arises.
How does it drive?
Pretty much like the A45 AMG (Mercedes A45 AMG driven here), unsurprisingly. Like its hatchback sister the CLA feels relentlessly quick – with the massive mid-range torque, rapid-reacting gearbox and seemingly unbreachable grip limits giving instantaneous urge at almost any speed. In terms of outright backroad pace, little would come close – and we suspect it would probably be able to show most of AMG’s larger, rear-driven models a clean pair of heels.
Not that it can provide the sort of V8 soundtrack that we’ve come to associate with AMG over the last few years. The CLA’s four-cylinder soundtrack borders on the thrummy at constant revs, and although it sounds nicer when the engine gets extended – and especially when popping on the over-run – it’s closer to a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo than a C63 AMG.
The gearbox has two automatic modes, but it feels like it needs another. ‘Comfort’ is a bit too dull-witted, upchanging at the earliest possible point to boost fuel economy, while ‘Sport’ borders on being too aggressive for everyday use; feeling closer to the ‘Sport Plus’ setting on the more expensive models. Manual over-ride works well on upchanges, but as with the SLS the transmission can get confused with requests for multiple downchanges in short order.
Grip levels are enormous. On road, and on dry tarmac, you very rarely get near them – rendering the half-off ‘ESP Sport’ setting pretty pointless. Ultimately the front end will run wide, although the line tightens nicely on a lifted throttle. But you’ll search in vain for the sort of throttle steerability that defines AMG’s rear-drive offerings; the CLA can be persuaded into mild oversteer on the brakes, but its natural inclination is always to pull itself straight under power.
The steering is good – very accurate and with decent feel getting through its electric assistance. And the brakes are epic: unfazed by even an extreme workout on track. Ride quality is firm – possibly more so than the A45 AMG – and although we only drove the car in Germany it feels as if it might struggle in the UK.
How does it compare?
That depends on what you think of the CLA’s styling, and how much you think the extra exclusivity it brings over the A45 AMG is worth. The CLA’s nose-heavy proportions and relatively dinky wheelbase make it look ungainly from some angles; the taller and shorter A-Class is a more harmonious piece of design. Although prices aren’t confirmed yet, we’re told the CLA45 will cost around £3700 more than the A45 AMG, putting it over £10,000 more expensive than the BMW M135i.
Anything else I should know?
Carbonfibre trim for the cabin and a leather dashboard come as standard and look great – although the red stitching on the dash top can reflect in the windscreen.