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  • Subtle dynamic differences with A45 AMG further improve dynamic cohesion; brilliant performance and great exhaust note; well-equipped; large boot
  • Poor rear headroom; some interior plastics betray price; borderline too-firm ride quality; $12K more expensive than near-identical A45 AMG

OUR RATING
8 / 10



Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Review
Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Review
Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Review
by Daniel DeGasperi

It is claimed the Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG feels, sounds and drives differently to the hatchback it shares its fundamentals with.

Essentially the CLA45 AMG packs everything we’ve seen in the A45 AMG into a slinky four-door ‘coupe’ bodystyle, and its $86,900 price tag means an extra $12,000 – including $2660 for luxury-car tax, where the A45 ducks under the $75K threshold for sub-7.0L/100km cars and therefore pays none – for what Mercedes-Benz freely admits is a styling change.

The CLA45 AMG is, however, 332mm longer than the A45 AMG, and most of that length extends past the back wheels. It’s also 30kg heavier, at 1585kg, with that weight lumped primarily in the same place.

Thanks to the enhanced aerodynamic performance of the sedan – 0.23 Cd versus 0.27 Cd – it also means it can claim an identical 4.6 second 0-100km/h to the hatchback, although with a 7.0L/100km claimed combined consumption sticker it is 0.1L thirstier.

Although the CLA45 AMG loses some of the loading practicality of the A45 AMG, because its sedan opening is much smaller than that of a hatchback, more cargo will fit in its rear compartment; the sedan claims 470 litres to its hatchback sibling’s 341L.

Because the CLA45 AMG is as wide and tall as the A45 AMG, and shares its cabin layout, the view from the driver’s seat is identical. There’s the same high level of standard equipment, too, including front Recaro bucket seats with electric adjustment and heating, satellite navigation with 10Gb hard drive, digital radio and voice control, Harman Kardon 12-speaker audio, panoramic electric sunroof, reversing camera, and auto parking, blind spot assistance, active cruise control and lane keeping assistance.

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Review
Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Review
Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Review
Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Review

The dashboard looks and feels premium-grade, save for some hard lower dash plastics borrowed from the 45 AMG’s A-Class and CLA-Class donor cars that sell from $35-50K.

The seats are supremely comfortable and gripping, the five circular air vents rotate with precision, the stubby Affalterbach-embossed gearlever is cool, and the ‘floating’ screen, while to some looking like an afterthought, boasts excellent graphics and an easy interface. By far the highlight, though, is the leather and Alcantara steering wheel with magnesium shift paddles mounted behind them, which look and feel a million bucks – or at least a quarter-million, because they’re pinched from the E63 AMG S and others.

Further back and the picture is not the same as the A45 AMG, nor as rosy. Thanks to that sloping coupe-like roofline, this sedan delivers poor rear headroom. The head of this 175cm-tall male was wedged firmly into the rooflining, and kept clear of the fixed headrest.

Only last week CarAdvice pressed the A45 AMG into a comparison test with the BMW M135i – results in the next CarAdvice Magazine for iPad, free to download soon – so we can say with certainty that the hatchback affords rear passengers much more headroom, and about the same – decent, average – legroom.

With plenty of kays racked up in the A45 AMG last week, we were also keen to test Mercedes-Benz’s claim that the CLA45 AMG drives differently.

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Review
Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Review
Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Review
Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Review

The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine still delivers the 265kW at 6000rpm that maintains its post as the world’s most powerful production four-cylinder in the world, in addition to 450Nm between 2250 and 5000rpm – the same torque as the 3.0-litre turbo six BMW.

The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is too lazy and economy-focused in the Comfort mode it defaults to on start-up, but a press of the transmission tunnel-mounted button to Sport mode keeps gears longer and sharpens both throttle response and shift times.

Press the button again and Manual mode denotes usage of the paddles, but although the gearbox won’t auto-upshift at redline, the gap between second and third gear is sizeable enough to be annoying on hilly mountain terrain.

In combination with the dual-clutcher’s reluctance to deliver aggressive downshifts and the engine’s relatively soft 6600rpm cut-out, it can be difficult to extract the best out of the CLA45 AMG.

The engine itself seems quieter than in its hatchback sibling, and the sweeter for it. It still doesn’t make the nicest noise, being a bit grainy and growly, but thankfully the standard-for-Oz sports exhaust still pops and crackles like a champion.

That said, though, Mercedes-Benz confirmed the different exhaust plumbing and enclosed boot of the CLA45 AMG means it is quieter than the A45 AMG, though it still isn’t what you’d call quiet.

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Review
Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Review
Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Review
Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Review

That shut-off boot area and slippery aero of the CLA-Class certainly makes for reduced wind and road noise compared with the A-Class, however.

And so the differences with the two begin – and there are clear dynamic differences.

Where the A45 AMG can deliver a menagerie of cornering attitudes – it will understeer, lift-off oversteer, power oversteer, or sit flat, depending on the situation and driver input – the CLA45 AMG is so much more malleable.

You could swear the sedan runs a longer wheelbase to the hatchback, which typically would enhance on-limit stability, but both bodystyles stretch the same 2699mm between front and rear wheels.

Where in the A45 AMG holding the brake long into a corner to tame understeer results in the rear-end quickly unhinging itself, the CLA45 AMG simply hints at rolling onto its outer boots, allowing the nose to point without hysterics and urging the driver to quickly get back on the throttle.

Big mid-corner throttle lifts don’t provoke the same attitude either, and as fast as the A45 AMG is point-to-point, the CLA45 AMG feels even quicker. The way it points, changes direction and powers out of bends makes it feel more mature, sophisticated, yet no less fun than the A45 AMG.

The CLA45 AMG otherwise shares the same ride quality as its sibling, which on the standard 19-inch wheels can be too firm and occasionally abrupt. The steering, too, is quite tactile and consistent, but also a bit too slow at 2.75 turns lock-to-lock, while the all-wheel-drive system feels largely front-driven except for a noticeable lack of torque steer and occasional rear steer exiting really tight bends.

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Review
Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Review

Minus the government’s absurd car taxing, and the difference between A45 AMG and CLA45 AMG is still $9340, for which buyers get a bigger boot, less rear headroom, and a subjectively a more stylish car, but not much else. It’s difficult to make a value case for this high-performance small sedan, but it’s easy to say that the extra stability has only enhanced its dynamics.

The Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG is a better car than the A45 AMG, but converting nuances of driving improvement into a dollar value is perhaps the toughest call of all. Either way, both are excellent high-performance cars.


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Mercedes-Benz CLA Specs

45 AMG : 117 MY15 : 2.0L TURBO MPFI - 7 SP AUTOMATIC - PREMIUM UNLEADED PETROL - 4D COUPE
Car Details
Make
MERCEDES-BENZ
Model
CLA
Variant
45 AMG
Series
117 MY15
Year
2014
Body Type
4D COUPE
Seats
5
Pricing
New Price
N/A
Private Sale
$73,260 - $83,250
Dealer Retail
$70,760 - $84,150
Dealer Trade
$56,300 - $66,600
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
TURBO MPFI
Engine Size
2.0L
Cylinders
TURBO 4
Max. Torque
450Nm @  1500rpm
Max. Power
265kW @  6000rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
167.2W/kg
Bore & Stroke
83x92mm
Compression Ratio
9.8
Valve Gear
VARIABLE DOUBLE OVERHEAD CAM
Drivetrain Specifications
Transmission
7 SP AUTOMATIC
Drive Type
ALL WHEEL DRIVE
Final Drive Ratio
0
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
PREMIUM UNLEADED PETROL
Fuel Tank Capacity
50Litres
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
7L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
1585
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Height
1436mm
Length
4781mm
Width
1777mm
Ground Clearance
117mm
Towing Capacity
Brake:0  Unbrake:0
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
RACK & PINION - POWER ASSISTED
Turning Circle
11
Front Rim Size
8.0x19
Rear Rim Size
8.0x19
Front Tyres
235/35 R19
Rear Tyres
235/35 R19
Wheel Base
2699
Front Track
1548
Rear Track
1548
Front Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Rear Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
Multi-link system, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Standard Features
Comfort
Auto Climate Control with Dual Temp Zones, Heated Front Seats, Power front seats, Racing Sports Seats, Sunroof
Control & Handling
19 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronic Stability Program, Hill Holder, Performance Brake Package, Sports Suspension, Traction Control System
Driver
Cruise Control Intelligent/Active, Leather Steering Wheel, Multi Function Steering Wheel, Mobile Phone Connectivity, Parking Distance Control, Power Steering, Reversing Camera, Satellite Navigation, Trip Computer, Voice Recognition System
Entertainment
Radio Compact Disc Player, Sound System with 12 Speakers
Exterior
Body Kit, Metallic Paint, Xenon Headlights
Interior
Leather Upholstery, Power Windows, Tinted Windows
Safety
Dual Front Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, PreSafe, Side Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats
Security
Alarm System/Remote Anti Theft, Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Other
Service Interval
12 months /  25,000 kms
Warranty
36 months /  999,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Driver Side Front Floor
Country of Origin
Germany