Mercedes-Benz: CLA 45 AMG 4Matic 2014 review

Mercedes-Benz: CLA 45 AMG 4Matic 2014 review

DSC_0068Theres always something quite special about an AMG fettled Mercedes-Benz and the new CLA-Class version is no exception.

The CLA 45 AMG 4Matic marries the elegant four-door coupe-styling from it’s bigger sibling the CLS-Class  with the performance of AMG’s motorsport heritage, gained through many years of racing in the German touring car championships known as the DTM.

When you fire up the CLA 45 AMG,  theres an instant bark image101430_bfrom the exhaust, it sounds like an angry little critter when idling, and even when driving relatively sedately through the city it makes the most wonderful growling noise from the exhaust. Almost wasp-like.

Inside the cabin, the motorsport heritage manifests itself in sporting luxury, and the compact CLA 45 AMG offers every possible feature and function that you would find in a larger premium car.

The AMG performance front seats in black red cut upholstery are snug, and can be adjusted to fit you even DSC_0048more snugly and with good reason, the zero to 100km/h dash is accomplished in 4.6 seconds, and if the panoramic roof is open while you are testing this particular feature of the CLA 45 AMG then might I suggest your headgear or hair is securely fastened.

As you would expect from an AMG vehicle the interior and dash looks and feels very special, the upper dashboard and belt line is upholstered in red stitched black leather complemented the same on the steering wheel and seat upholstery – our car was also fitted with the optional $990 DSC_0040carbon fibre trim and it was worth every cent.

The AMG fittings particular to this CLA include the drive unit, the instrument cluster with Race Timer, and the performance steering wheel which is covered in a very tactile blend of leather and suede-like Alcantara. Behind the wheel you find two chunky metallic “flappy paddles” which allow you to manually change gear through the AMG speed shift 7-speed dual clutch transmission.

You can use the manual paddle shifters to override the DSC_0049transmission when in automatic mode but then the car will revert back to automatic mode once you are finished.

The transmission offers three modes, comfort, sport and manual. Comfort naturally provides a more serene (and economic) driving experience, manual offers full manual control and pressing the sport button makes the CLA 45 AMG even livelier and more responsive to the pedal.

Actually engaging sport mode just unleashes the cars full acceleration potential which is mind blowing-ly ferocious, image101433_band really does pin you back into the seat on a full throttle take off from a standing start.

They weren’t kidding about that sub 5 second dash from zero to 100km/h.

Under the bonnet lies the heart and soul of the CLA 45 AMG which provides this thrust, its a 2-litre direct injection turbocharged four-cylinder engine which pumps of 265kW of engine power and 450Nm of torque, and it can purr like a kitten or snarl like a lion depending entirely on the driver’s mood.

image101427_bYou can also understand why the car is equipped as standard with the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, to harness all that power and torque to the road.

It wasn’t terribly long ago that such power and torque figures were the realm of V8 and V6 engines, admittedly naturally aspirated units, and its testament to Mercedes-Benz engineers that they have managed to extract such power and performance, yet equally be environmentally conscious.

If you still want an AMG V8, Mercedes-Benz will oblige and DSC_0044we will have a review on the C63 AMG 507 in the coming weeks.

In regards to the CLA 45 AMG,  Mercedes-Benz quote combined fuel consumption of 7L/100km and C02 emissions of 164g/km, which is pretty remarkable in comparison to the 6.6L/100km and 154g/km of the 155kW CLA 250 Sport 4Matic.

During our test week I’m ashamed to report that fuel consumption remained at a solid 10L/100km because I was image101424_benjoying the dynamics of the car far too much.

Ride quality is relatively good despite the performance orientated suspension, naturally theres a bit of harshness over low speed irregularities when driving around the city, but the trade off is handling that allows the CLA 45 AMG to corner at higher velocity as though it was on rails.

The car was also fitted with the optional 19-inch AMG multispoke wheels in black ($590) and I feel they really gave the car a more aggressive appearance.

Naturally being a Mercedes-Benz theres an armoury of DSC_0054active and passive safety features. The Distronic Plus cruise control system reacts very well to cars crossing into your path on the motorway and in heavy traffic the system will slow the car down and will bring you to a full stop if necessary.

When the vehicle in front moves off, a quick tap on the accelerator pedal is all that is needed to re-engage the system and the CLA 45 AMG will docilely follow the vehicle in front. The Lane keeping assist is also a good thing as is the Blind Spot monitoring system, should your mind IMG_0428wander off the job of the driving, the car will remind you about the dangers of drifting from your lane or changing lanes without looking behind you.

The rear view camera is a godsend as rear visibility is compromised by that svelte coupe-like roofline, and because you are seated quite low in the CLA AMG 45, the front and rear parking sensors are equally useful if not mandatory.

Its very easy to forget just how low that front air dam is on the CLA 45 AMG, curbs and those concrete wheel stops in car parking buildings will easily cause damage, but the sensors will scream at you before you get too close thankfully.

But despite having to be cautious when parking the snarling wee beastie, the most surprising thing about the CLA 45 AMG is how useful it is as an everyday car.

I managed to get myself and four (admittedly not All-Black size) rugby players and all their kit, plus a large sack of rugby balls into it one evening to go off to training, thankfully we didn’t have to go very far, and while they were a bit cosy (good for team bonding I guess), they all managed to get their seat belts on and there was reasonable head room despite the coupe roofline.

Thanks to the reclining rear seat backs, I also managed to take a travelling physiotherapist for the Black Sticks hockey team to the airport, with his folding massage table, suitcase, gear bag, and carry-on luggage.

There wasn’t any room left for rear passengers – but the point is that for a small sports sedan, the CLA 45 AMG does offer reasonable practicality when required – no doubt most owners won’t use the fold through for anything bigger than a set of golf clubs!

Another small but amusing detail (to my partner admittedly) was the Satellite navigation system, which not only pointed out the nearest brand of service station, it also pointed out where we could find the nearest KFC drive-through or Dominos pizzeria.

I would have thought the owners of a CLA 45 AMG would be on the look out for something a bit more classy (and healthy) than an American fast-food chain – but it is an egalitarian world according to the Comand system which has a 17.8 TFT colour display which makes its easily read in all lighting conditions.

And if you think the engine sounds amazing, I should also point out the standard Harman Kardon Logic 7 surround sound system with 12 speakers is an audiophiles dream. Clear, crisp sound and brilliant reproduction of everything from classic to contemporary music.

But to be honest, I much preferred to leave the panoramic roof open and enjoy the musical wasp-like snap, crackle, and thrum from that magnificent 2-Litre engine.

As I said at the beginning of the review, there is always something special about an AMG fettled Benz, and the CLA 45 is no exception. To those of you who can, and have the wherewithal, do enjoy.

Price as tested: $109,480

Pros:

  • Magnificent engine power and performance
  • Excellent handling
  • Beautifully appointed and executed interior

Cons:

  • Limited headroom for rear passengers
  • Seats may be too cosy for some
  • Low front spoiler easily damaged

Words

Pictures Robert Barry and Richard Edwards

 

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